No Bars in More Places Than Any Other Network

Make a claim which is true only because of a small disclaimer. Then, repeated it to the point that people take it on face value. Its one of the oldest marketing ploys in the book and it’s what AT&T is doing with their “More Bars in More Places” campaign. You’ve seen them. TV ads that present a humorous situation, often based in the US, where someone isn’t receiving an important call because they don’t have AT&T. The disclaimer at the bottom clarifies that “More Bars in More Places than any other Network” is based on Global coverage. So yes, technically AT&T has more bars in more places, but does the target domestic audience really care that I can get AT&T Wireless coverage outside of the US. I don’t think so. Without the disclaimer, their domestic coverage does not live up to the claim. From Ad Age:

Consumers ‘equate bars with satisfaction and quality. It might work if people believe it.’ “Consumer Reports doesn’t. In its 2006 telecommunications survey, which was conducted last September and tallied the surveys of 42,000 readers, AT&T, formerly Cingular, had average or worse scores for dropped calls in the 20 cities it surveyed. As for ‘more bars’ or, as the Consumer Reports survey put it, no service,’ Cingular also was rated as average or worse in each city with the exception of Dallas, where it was rated better than average.

This campaign replaced the “Fewest Dropped Calls” campaign which ended last year. AT&T was unable to support that claim, even with a disclaimer. It seems AT&T has a history of using deceptive marketing tactics to make their product sound better than it really is.

As a customer of less than a year, I am constantly frustrated by seeing “No Service” on my phone in places that should (and according to AT&T’s coverage map, do) have coverage. Perhaps they should have another disclaimer that says “as long as you are not inside a building, like your house”! It’s bad enough that their service does not live up to expectations. What irks me the most is the frequent running of those TV spots which are clearly meant to put lipstick on a pig. Every time I see one of those ads, I feel compelled to requote the tagline, “No Bars in More Places than any other Network”.

Who Are You Twittering For?

I really like Twitter.  It has connected me with many more great people in the last two years than any of the other Social Media channels I participate in.  A while back, I started using Twitterfeed to send a tweet whenever I posted a new blog entry.  Shortly after setting that up, I noticed that Greg Verdino had a separate Twitter account for his blog feeds.  I asked him why and he told me that it allowed his followers to decide whether or not they wanted that information.  I considered doing the same, but figured that posting a new blog entry qualified for “what are you doing”, so I left the feed as it was.

Recently, I loaded Mobile Scrobbler on my iPhone and set up a new Twitterfeed that listed the most recent song that I had listened to every 30 minutes.  As a music lover, listening to new music is “what I am doing” a lot of the time, so this seemed a natural thing to post to Twitter.  It generated some great conversations about music and connected me with a lot of new friends who also introduced me to some other great artists.

It also had a downside.  Several people whose friendships I value, stopped following me.   I didn’t know why, so I half-kidding, I asked “was it something I said?”.  The answer I got was that the frequent tweets about what I was listening to was just adding to the noise in their Twitter streams.  In other words, the music feeds were not adding value to these followers.  Curious, I publicly asked my friends in Twitterville whether they liked or disliked the music feeds.  I got about a dozen replies with the opinion split about 50/50.  OK, some some people find it to be of value, some do not, and some of those find it annoying enough to stop following me altogether.

That got me thinking about what I wanted to be using Twitter for.  Before I follow someone, I check out their blog or website and look at their recent tweets.  If I see something that looks interesting I follow them.  Usually, the people I follow are saying much more than just what they are doing.  Meaningful interaction is more important to me than reading a bunch of 140 character status updates. Following over 700 people, it’s easy to miss the valuable tweets because of the noise, so If someone I am following stops being interesting or never interacts with me, I stop following them.

Which brings me to my dilemma.  At the end of the day, it’s important to give your audience something of value or they will just a soon take their eyes and ears somewhere else.  Posting music feeds is clearly a “what are you doing” thing and some of my audience has found it to be valuable.  On the other hand, I can see how it can be noise to someone else and I don’t want to drive away friends who I otherwise have interesting conversations with.   The solution it seems is to follow Greg Verdino’s lead and create a second Twitter account for my music, photo and blog feeds; which I have just done.  I have turned off all Twitterfeeds into my main Twitter account (which you can follow here).  If you want to keep up with the other stuff, by all means follow me here.

Do You Know Your Customers’ Technographics?

I’ve been a passionate proponent for business adoption of emerging social technologies . In my previous role at a major US retailer, I led the charge into Second Life and set up blogs for insight sharing between employees. Spending time in the the Social Media echo chamber can lead to the belief that Social Media’s time is now, but the truth is, the majority of US consumers don’t get Social Media.

Forrester’s Sr. Analyst Jeremiah Owyang shared their Groundswell tool this evening on his blog. The tool allows you to look at the Social Technographics (how people use social technologies) for different segments of the population. This is valuable information to consider when creating a social media strategy. Creating a blog may be of little value if your core customer segments don’t read them. Looking at the different levels of participation across age groups, I’m struck by two things:

  1. Just over 10% of the US Boomer population (45-54) are “Creators” or “Joiners” Over half of the Boomer population falls into the “Inactive” category. This may explain the blank stares I get from friends and business associates when I talk about Twitter or blogging. It also says a lot about the unwillingness of business executives, many of whom fall into this demographic, to allocate funding to social media.
  2. The level of participation by US Millenials (18 24) is off the charts. 62% of this group are “Joiners” and 39% are creating social media content. These people are totally engaged with social media. It’s often their primary means of communication and creating relationships. In a way, their are defined by their online identities.

Owyang asks if this a generational thing. Will Gen Y continue to communicate this way for the rest of their lives? Or is this a life stage experience where only the young participate online. I agree with Owyang that it is the former. This demographic is quickly becoming the target market for most companies making it more important than ever for companies to begin a regular evaluation of their social media strategy. It may not seem important today. The ROI case may not be obvious, but in time it will be. Getting involved now better positions you to compete for these customers later.

Data from Forrester Research Technographics® surveys, 2007. For further details on the Social Technographics profile, see

The Digital Playground

Last year, agency execs Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton organized 100 influential bloggers from around the world and produced “The Age of Conversation“. The individual essays taken as a group describe how conversations, enabled by social media technology, are transforming the business marketing landscape and how the various marketing disciplines have to change the way they talk to their consumers to be heard.

This year, McLellan and Heaton decided to do it all aver again with The Age of Conversation 2008 – Why Don’t They Get It? Once again the proceeds from the book go to Variety – the Children’s Charity — which serves children across the entire globe, but unlike last year’s book, this one has more than twice the number of authors, each focusing on one of eight sub-topics:

  • Manifestos
  • Keeping Secrets in the Age of Conversation
  • Moving from Conversation to Action
  • The Accidental Marketer
  • A New Brand of Creative
  • My Marketing Tragedy
  • Business Model Evolution
  • Life in the Conversation Lane

I contributed a page to Life in the Conversation Lane. Here’s a snippet:

“It’s amazing to watch young children on a playground. They interact and develop friendships with kids they don’t know, share new ideas, expand their imaginations, learn new things through conversation and interaction, experiment, innovate, collaborate to build things and to accomplish goals as a team.”

The new book should be out later this summer. In the meantime, check out the individual blogs of the other contributers:

Adam Crowe
, Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob Carlton, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Bradley Spitzer, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Clay Parker Jones, Chris Brown, Colin McKay, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Cord Silverstein, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Goldstein, Dan Schawbel, Dana VanDen Heuvel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Darryl Patterson, Dave Davison, Dave Origano, David Armano, David Bausola, David Berkowitz, David Brazeal, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Emily Reed, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, G. Kofi Annan, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Graham Hill, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, J.C. Hutchins, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeremy Middleton, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, Joe Talbott, John Herrington, John Jantsch, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Flowers, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kris Hoet, Krishna De, Kristin Gorski, Laura Fitton, Laurence Helene Borei, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Barnes-Johnston, Louise Mangan, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Marcus Brown, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Mark McSpadden, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Hawkins, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Monica Wright, Nathan Gilliatt, Nathan Snell, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul Marobella, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Beeker Northam, Rob Mortimer, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Cribbett, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tiffany Kenyon, Tim Brunelle, Tim Buesing, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Longhurst, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

Thank You Customers

There is a small, award-winning burger franchise call Five Guys Burgers & Fries. Their menu consists of basically four things: burgers, fries, hot dogs and soft drinks. No breakfast, no salads, no chicken and no wait staff. Their products don’t have names like “Whopper” or “Big Mac”. They’re call “hamburger” and “bacon cheeseburger”. Everything is cooked to order so it’s fresh and hot and the team behind the counter operate like a well-oiled machine with a clear focus on delivering a great product. They know that you come in hungry so while you are waiting for your meal, they have cases of roasted peanuts to crack open and munch on.

I went to Five Guys tonight to pick up dinner for the family. While I was chowing down on peanuts by the cash register, one of the employees was sweeping the area of spent shells. As she approached me, I started to move away to give her room, but she stopped me and said, ” You stay right there. You’re the customer”. So I did for a minute, but then moved over to the pickup counter. That’s when I saw this sign:

As customers, we interact with lots of organizations every day. Some of those experiences are bad and most are unremarkable, but occasionally you have a really great experience. I suspect that the organizations that really deliver have at their foundation, something like this baked into their cultural DNA.

Organizations can make all kinds of operational adjustments in the quest to deliver a better experience, but without a culture that gets this simple idea, they will not succeed.

What do you think? Think about some of your best customer experiences. Do those organizations get it?