Doritos & Open Innovation

Joanna Pena-Bickley authors a great blog called ON:Digital+Marketing. I met her through MyBlogLog where she asked me to comment on one of her recent posts. The post is about how Doritos is really adopting the customer co-creation model. Following last year’s customer-created commercials, they are now involving customers in product innovation. Moreover, the way they are doing this is creating an entertaining and engaging story that will get retold.

You can read Joanna’s post and my comment here.

Entertainment Remixed

head-trauma.jpgEntertainment experiences are increasingly becoming multi-channel. If you are addicted (like me) to ABC’s Lost, know that there is much more to the show than the weekly episode.

From the show itself to its official website, fan message boards, fake commercials, mini-sites that detail the lives of the characters, text-message updates, podcasts, newsletters, print magazines and more, Lost is a useful example of engagement, fan involvement and how to leverage new media for an integrated campaign.

Recently, industrial rockers, Nine Inch Nails released “Year Zero”. An alternate reality game has emerged to promote the album’s concept. Clues hidden on tour merchandise have led fans to discover websites that continue the story started on the album. Year Zero songs were reportedly found on thumb drivesin the bathroom stalls of NIN concerts in Europe, which the band itself covertly distributed ahead of the music’s official release. Fan participation in this alternate reality game has garnered a high level of media attention and led to the creation of fan-sites & clubs, Forums, and Wikis as sources for new discoveries.

Yesterday, I read about Director Lance Weiler’s “remix” presentation of his cult indie horror flick Head Trauma.

First shown in Philadelphia, the show combines film with live music, theatre, and gaming, resulting in a cinematic ARG (alternate reality game). While the film is shown, a live soundtrack is performed (past performers have included Marshal Allen (Sun Ra), Espers, and Bardo Pond) on top of the film’s dialog and sound effects; meanwhile, props and sets from the movie are strewn throughout the theatre and characters from the movie emerge through the audience for live action shows throughout the film.

Extending the experience beyond the theatre, the film also projects a phone number intermittently through the film. Viewers are encouraged to call the number to start a game that last through the film’s duration and even follows them home. Participants receive clues to solve a set of riddles, and interact with Head Traumacharacters through phone calls and text messages that lead players to more clues online.

The competition for your entertainment dollars is fiercer than ever. To win your attention, entertainment marketers are finding ways to turn what used to be a TV show or an album or a movie into an interactive, multi-channel entertainment experience.

<via TrendCentral>

Jott This Down

logo130×55.pngJust when Twittering seems to be all the rage, a new player hits the stage. It’s called and its one of the coolest innovations I’ve seen in a while. Here is the basic idea:

You call Jott on your mobile phone. You speak the name of the person or group you want to send a message to. You speak for 30 seconds. Those sentences get transcribed and e-mailed. It could be a “note to self”, or a client, or an employee, or your team, or your spouse who never seems to have either of their two cell phones turned on (that’s another story).

Instant speech to text conversion with messaging. Kinda like a 30 second Twitter version of a podcast.

I often judge the coolness of something by using my 13-year old daughter as a barometer. She thinks Twitter is “totally geeky”, but when I showed Jott to her, she was instantly hooked. She immediately started playing with it; not for anything productive mind you, just wanted to see how much abuse it could take (singing, laughing, nonsensical jibberish). She also told her friends about it and they started Jotting each other. The hyper-connected youth have yet another way to communicate.

I have to agree with Drew McLellan who predicts that Jott “is going to be the breakout of 2007”. Drew suggests several ways he is going to use it:

  • Dictate notes from meetings and send them to myself for a record. Jott it.
  • I’m pulling out of a client’s parking lot and send a note to our Project Manager about opening a new job. Jott him.
  • Forget milk? Never again. Jott me.
  • Have a breakthrough idea while waiting to board a plane — jott my entire staff before I forget said idea. Jott the team.
  • Want to remind my daughter to do XYZ but she’s going to get home before I do. Jott her.
  • See someone across the way at Panera and want to remember to call them in a week or so. Jott me.
  • Have forgotten to grab a book from the office 3 times. Jott me.
  • All the stuff that I try to write down before I forget it. Jott me. Jott me. Jott me.

The other reason this may be big is that it is potentially disruptive to the wireless carriers. Think about it. Text Messaging is hot.  Over 80 Million US subscribers sent over 100 Billion text messages last year (Pew Research). Teenagers have made it a routine way to communicate. Most individual subscriber plans charge $.02 per message sent and received. With Jott, you never have to pay to send a message, so you can send more messages under you current plan, or reduce your monthly costs by switching to a plan that allows fewer messages.

Now if someone will just build a simple interface to allow me to Jott to my Twitter account, I’ll be in lifelogging heaven.

Sense & Respond: Is Your Ear to the Ground

ear-to-the-ground.jpgGreg Verdino has a great post up today that deals with one of my favorite topics: The importance of using Sense & Respond techniques to allow your business to be more agile and adaptive to customer wants & needs. Simply stated, Sense & Respond means knowing things earlier and being organized to respond quickly. To know things earlier, businesses need to establish sensing networks which feed information in from all over the place. It may include customer comments on your discussion forums, blog posts, input from vendors, and insights culled from data-mining you transactional databases. Much of it may appear to be noise, but with the right filtering, you can gain competitive advantages through these insights.

In his post, Greg talks about agencies tracking what potential influencers are saying about their client’s products:

These agencies seem to be doing what they can to keep abreast of what potential influentials have to say about their clients’ products. If listening to what consumers (in general) and social media content creators (in particular) are saying about your company, brand and products is the first step toward a smart social media strategy (trust me, it is), I’d say McCann and Ogilvy are certainly heading in the right direction.

Social Media is an increasingly important sensing target for organizations looking to be more adaptive. The highly publicized “Dell Hell” story and Dell’s eventual response in the form of IdeaStorm is a great example of the importance of having a social media strategy.

Greg closes his post with the following:

How about you? Do you have your ear to the ground? Or is your head just buried in the sand?


Where Does The Customer Experience Begin and End?

Back in Virginia after a chilly spring break in NYC. The bad weather yesterday morning cause the usual air traffic delays, so the family got to spend 4 hours in JetBlue’s JFK terminal. I wrote earlier this week about my JetBlue experience at the start of the vacation and the time spent waiting to come home provided additional fodder for a continued discussion (sorry Jet Blue).

At 1:30 pm, just prior to leaving the hotel, I checked JetBlue’s website to see if our 4:40 flight was delayed.  The site said it was on-time, but upon arrival at JFK, I learned we were delayed until 6:00pm. No problem, other than the fact that I never received a notification of delay from JetBlue as promised in their “Customer Bill of Rights“.  JetBlue is building a new terminal at JFK, but until then, they are in an older, temporary facility. Nevertheless, JetBlue needs to keep this area maintained. We experienced broken tables, poorly maintained restrooms, very limited seating, and there was apparently no heat at our gate.

Point 1: Your customer’s experience with you starts well before the actual service that you provide.

One of JetBlue’s “reasons why you’ll like us” is their free Wireless HotSpot service Unfortunately, it hardly ever works at JFK. You can see it as an available network, but your computer rarely connects. So there I sat along with hundreds of others, for 4 hours, trying to get my computer to connect to their network.

Point 2: When you advertise something and set an expectation with your customers, failure to deliver damages your brand.

This was our second spring break trip to NYC. We usually go to warmer, more Southern destinations for spring break as well as other vacations, and we are certified Walt Disney World junkies. As I was sitting at the Jet Blue gate following 5 days of chilly vacation, I thought a lot about how a Disney vacation would have been different.

If you have experienced Disney World, and especially if you have stayed in one of their better resorts, you know that they really focus on delivering a “magical experience”. For many years, the worst part about going to Disney was getting to and from the resort. You could take a group shuttle, which would cost our family about $60 round trip and, if you were the last stop, could take about 2 hours. Alternatively, you could hire a limo for $80-$100 plus tip. You still had to claim and lug your luggage both to and from the airport and if you were coming in before check-in time, you had to go to the hotel and arrange for your luggage to be stored before going to the parks.

Last year, Disney started a new service called Disney’s Magical Express. It gives guests staying at Disney resorts complimentary, round trip transportation and luggage handling. When the customer reserves a pass on the Magical Express, they are sent special tags to attach to their luggage. When you arrive at the Orlando airport, you bypass baggage claim and head straight for the Magical Express bus destined for your hotel. Most airlines participate in the program and they, along with Disney take care of getting you bags to your hotel room. You don’t have to lug you luggage, the buses are really nice touring-style vehicles and on the trip, the kids get to see Disney videos. Oh yeah, you also get a liberal dose of advertising for Disney’s Vacation Club. Using this service also allows you to get to the parks (where you will spend money) sooner.

Departure is just as easy as you check your bags in to your airline and also get your boarding passes at the hotel. The next time you see them is at your home airport. You just get on the bus with your carry-on bags and when you get to the airport, you go straight to the gate. This makes it easier to carry all those things you purchased while on vacation. With addition of this service, Disney has extended the beginning and endpoints of the Disney World experience all the way out to your home town!

The way Disney approaches the customer experience problem is a great example for other companies to follow.  They don’t see the experience happening just on their property.  They look at the entire vacation from the customer’s perspective and find ways to integrate the Disney brand into as many touchpoints as possible.  Then, they ensure that the experience delivered consistently exceeds expectations.  These are two elements for my prescription for building loyalty and Disney delivers these at every turn.  Companies like JetBlue should take note.

Jet Blues



Recent well-publicized screw-ups put Jet Blue in the hot seat.  The airline that that bills itself as “a customer service company that happens to fly airplanes”, had to explain and apologize for some really poor customer service problems.  In anticipation of possible government legislation to address industry-wide problems, Jet Blue announced and heavily publicized it “Bill of Rights”.  That’s a great response but unfortunately, doesn’t necessarily fix problems that continue to diminish the brand. 

About a year ago, Jet Blue began running service Richmond, VA to New York and
Boston.  As a native Richmonder, having a new low-cost carrier meant that I no longer had to pay outrageous fares or travel to larger airports.  Since that time, I have traveled many times to Boston & NY and always take Jet Blue.  Not only do they offer a fantastic deal (fares as low as $29), but I value the extras they offer (DirecTV, XM, more legroom).  These are in fact key components of their value proposition and are promoted heavily in their marketing.  Up to this point, I have loved every Jet Blue flight I’ve been on and have been a real advocate for them; often recommending them to other travelers.

Two weeks ago, I flew to NYC for the Virtual Worlds conference.  When I got to the airport, I discovered that my seat was changed and that I was not flying on a Jet Blue plane.  Instead, I was being carried by the relatively unknown “ExpressJet”.  The pilot identified it as a Jet Blue flight, but nothing about it was Jet Blue.  The plane was small and dirty.  The extra legroom touted by Jet Blue – not there.  Neither was the in-flight entertainment.   I understand that equipment problems happen and got over it.  I got to NY just fine, but I wanted the Jet Blue experience.  A little digging revealed that Jet Blue is systematically taking all of its E190s offline for 1-2 days to get a software upgrade and has contracted ExpressJets to take up the slack. 

My wife does not like to fly and prefers to use an airline she is familiar with.  When my family decided to spend spring break in NYC, I convinced them to fly on Jet Blue. After my recent experience, I was a little nervous, but since the software upgrade was to take only 1-2 days, I assumed that all of my cheerleading for Jet Blue would pay off.  Easter Sunday, I went to check in on-line and encountered a problem.  I was able to check my wife and I in, but the system wouldn’t let my check my daughter in.  We went to the airport and the check-in kiosk gave us a similar problem.  After several minutes with a desk attendant, we discovered the cause of the problem.  Once again, Jet Blue was substituting ExpressJet for our plane and my daughter had been reassigned a seat in a different part of the plane.

We were told that the flight was full but that the gate attendant could check with other passengers to facilitate a seat swap.  We arrived at the gate at 7:30am and there was not attendant at the gate.  The plane was to leave at 8:20 am.  Finally, at 8:10 we were told that we would be leaving out of another gate because another ExpressJet plane had mistakenly parked at out gate.  More over, we would be delayed because our luggage had been loaded on that plane and now had to be unloaded so the wrong plane could be moved out.  Only then could our plane come in.

Needless to say, the morning was a wreck and I received significant grief from the family for “making them fly on Jet Blue”

The bottom line is that this was not an unplanned equipment outage.  I was told by the attendant that I would get a $25 credit for a future flight.  Thanks, Jet Blue, but what you should have notified travelers as soon as you knew the subsitution was going to happen so that you could set expectations in advance. 

That would have allowed people like me to decide whether we wanted to change our plans.

This story reminds me of my recent post about outsourcing key part of your business.  Granted, this is a temporary issue, but the recent ExpressJets substitutions have further diminished Jet Blue’s brand and I will not be an advocate for them again until they have proved themselves worthy.

The Little Stuff Redux

Earlier this week, I wrote about the opportunities in addressing the sources of customer dissatisfaction. On Friday, APs Technology Writer, May Wong, published a report citing difference in the service levels between Circuit City and Best Buy. The report was insightful and absolutely reinforced the points I was making earlier in the week. I’m including some quotes and commentary below.

This customer’s past experiences have let him to solid opinions of the two retailers. Who do you think he recommends to his friends and family?

Ralph Devoe’s hunt for a new computer monitor didn’t include a stop at Circuit City, even though one of its stores was only a few doors down from the Best Buy where he went shopping this week. “They often don’t have what I want,” the retired physicist said. “And Best Buy just seems a little better. The salespeople actually know what they’re doing.”

Having a large inventory selection and “knowledgeable associates” are really important, but they are big and potentially costly things from an operational stand point. In my earlier post, I focused on the smaller sources of dissatisfaction, like how the customer is treated in the store. The following really drives that point home:

For sure, bargains and good rebates could be found at the stores of either chain — an important draw for the price-conscious American public.

But other times, it’s as basic as how a store feels, how the products and aisles are laid out, how the workers there treat you.

A friendly greeter is stationed just inside Best Buy’s front door.

“How’s it going? Welcome to Best Buy,” he repeats.

Within a minute of browsing in a section, a Best Buy associate swings by to offer assistance. The staffer casually dispenses product info or comparisons, and just as quickly lays back if you decline the help.

A visit to Palo Alto’s Best Buy and Circuit City to pick up a component-video cable illustrates the differences.

At the Circuit City, it took some effort to find a store employee to ask where to find the cables — and the red-shirted employee who was tracked down misdirected this shopper to cables for TVs.

At Best Buy, the greeter at the door quickly responded with a more specific question, “What kind of component video?” By asking, he learned the cable’s purpose was for a game console and pointed to the video game section.

The desired Sony-branded cables were sold out, but the Best Buy associate did double check the store inventory.

That kind of attention to detail goes a long way in a shopper’s experience.

I also talked about ensuring that your interactive displays are always functioning. Ms. Wong points out this difference between the two retailers:

At another Best Buy in Sunnyvale, for instance, the music MP3 players on display were in good working order, and a patron could test the controls and use headphones to listen to them. By contrast, the Palo Alto Circuit City’s portable players — with the exception of a separate display for Microsoft Corp.’s Zune player — were not powered and lacked headphones so a shopper couldn’t get a good test run of the devices. Product information placards were also missing from some models.

The bad news for Circuit City is that this “little stuff” is rampant throughout its stores and it all adds up to a pretty crappy experience for customers. Both companies recently reported results for the previous year and the differences were like night and day. I am not an analyst and I can’t tell you to what degree Circuit City’s continued lagging performance is attributable to the sources of dissatisfaction in their stores, but my gut tells me that it is a significant cause.

The good news is that these problems can be overcome and for the most part, the solution doesn’t involve a big capital investment. What it does require is much more valuable, and perhaps more scarce, than money. It requires people that care. Store associates that take the time to look for things that aren’t right with their store and fix them. Support associates that are not only responsive to the needs of the people in the store, but are proactively looking for ways to improve the operation so that the store associates can focus on the customer and not the infrastucture.

Remove the Sources of Dissatisfaction. That’s the fourth item in my Prescription for Building Loyalty but after Listening to your Customers, it’s the next most important thing that retailers must do.

Blogs and Dell


Great post on Buzzmachine about Dell’s blog Ideastorm.  It’s a great story about how being open, honest and responsive to a problem has helped to earn back the trust of its user base. If any company needs to do that, Dell is a poster boy.

The customer in question, Jeff Jarvis, was very unhappy, very loud and unfortunately for Dell a very influential blogger. They ignored his complaint, he blogged about it and thousands piled on after him. Dell is under new management, well actually old new management, as Michael Dell is back in charge. Part of the turnaround seems to be a mission to reconnect with their customers.

This post tells the story about how they are using their blog to do it.  It’s also a story about overturning orthodoxies (blogs really do matter; the customer now has a very loud voice and you better listen), the need to be adaptive (Sense & Respond), and most importantly, the benefits of listening to and collaborating directly with your customers.

It’s a long post, but well worth the read.  Here is the moneyquote:

So what fascinates me so much about Dell is that it can rise from worst to first. Precisely because it got hammered by customers now empowered to talk back to the wall, it had to get smarter faster. Whether Dell can fix the rest of its problems, I don’t know. But if it keeps on the road it’s now on, it could well end up being the smartest company in the age of customer control. That would be one helluva turnaround.

<via Three Minds>

It’s Important to Sweat the Little Stuff

In an age where a single consumer can have amazing reach through social media, and where customers generally expect perfection, it is critical for retailers to understand that the first order of business should be to get the little stuff right. As pointed out in a recent story from

There is a line between brand reputation and common sense customer service that is becoming wider by the minute. While brands may aspire to having customers identify with that brand, it may be just as important to get the service basics right to close the gap between what the brand promises and what the customer actually experiences.

In January, 2006, the Verde Group and the Baker Retail School at Wharton released the results of a US study designed to better understand the effect of problem experience and negative word-of-mouth on the retail shopping experience. The study revealed ten key findings. Some of the big ones are:

  • Chances of a smooth shopping experience are only 50:50.
    • Half of shoppers encounter at least one problem when purchasing items – in fact, they encounter 2.7 problems on average.
  • The retailer may be the last to know.
    • Shoppers experiencing problems are more than five times as likely to tell a friend or colleague about it than to contact the company.
  • When they talk, they talk.
    • One in three disgruntled shoppers will complain to a friend or colleague but each one will tell an average of 4.1 people about their bad experience.
  • Their word does carry weight.
    • Almost half of shoppers have avoided a particular store in the past because of someone else’s negative experience. A similar proportion say they will avoid buying a similar item at the store, or visiting the store altogether, in the future.
  • Bad shopping experiences are not easily forgotten.
    • Almost half feel that a return visit to a store where a problem occurred would likely result in a repeat of the problem. And, one in five reveal some hesitancy – the problem may or may not occur again.
  • Bad shopping experiences erode loyalty.
    • Shoppers encountering one or more problems are less likely to continue shopping at the store, to recommend the product or item purchased to others, and are particularly less inclined to recommend the store.
  • ‘Disloyal’ attitudes can have wide spread consequences.
    • Customers revealing the lowest levels of loyalty will talk to the largest number of friends or colleagues about the problems they encountered.

Retailers spend significant time and money coming up with new and innovative ways to get their customer to Engage with them. Innovation programs to come up with that new winning idea have been all the rage over the last few years. But when was the last time you put yourself in the customer’s shoes and took a good, hard look at the little things that diminish the experience? That peg hook that has been empty for weeks (is the product “in the back”?); the interactive displays that aren’t working; or even something as simple as acknowledging the customer as they are coming in and out of the store. These little things, more than anything else, define a brand to the customer, yet some retailers never seem to be able to focus their resources there. Why is that?

It boils down to trust, reputation and word of mouth. Customers satisfied with the way they have been treated become the best ambassadors for a company, sharing their experience with friends, family and colleagues. Big, new ideas are great, but they will gain you nothing in the customer’s eyes if you don’t get the little stuff right first.

What are the little things that detract from your customer’s experience. What can you do about them?