taco bell routine republic goes up against mcdonalds

This “Routine Republic” ad campaign by Deutsch for Taco Bell is amazing. Ad types love it because they love dystopian ads reminiscent of the ad they all worship. But the Taco Bell ad actually works too. It takes the value propositions of Taco Bell’s breakfast menu against McDonalds and hits the nail on the head. It’s not subtle or hard to get.

Too bad my local Taco Bell doesn’t open until 7am and the clown dictator lets me in the door as early as 5:30a. I’ve stood outside the door at 7:05am at Taco Bell while the employees inside stared at me.

I guess the ad campaign is a waste if customers can’t get inside to buy.

I’ve said it time and time again. Operations, logistics, and customer service have a bigger impact (positive or negative) on branding and marketing than most ad campaigns do.

It is a good ad though. Reminds me of 1984.

living by the sword

A little over two years ago, Morton’s steakhouse pulled off a promotional stunt that generated tons of publicity by meeting a rabid Morton’s fan (who is also a social media celebrity) at the airport with a steak dinner after he tweeted he was hungry. It was talked about on social media for weeks and the story got picked up by national traditional media outlets.

This past weekend, the Morton’s in Nashville threw a cancer patient out of the restaurant for wearing a cap to cover his hair loss from chemotherapy. They are getting destroyed across all social media platforms and are in major crisis management control mode.

If you live by the sword, you’ll die by the sword.

I’ve said several times that the underlying key to social media success is simple. Invest less in the social media message and invest more in your people who are on the ground providing customer service. Customers will post both the good and the bad experiences they have. (TIP: You want the good to outnumber the bad.)

tainted

I’m seeing it happen more and more.

As the cashier hands me a receipt, she draws a circle on it and says, “Please visit this link and take the online survey about your experience. Please make sure to give me all 5s.”

I was staying in a hotel in Cincinnati the other night (in the “quiet zone”). On the desk in the room, there was a high quality printed piece that had instructions on how to complete the e-mail survey I would receive from the corporate parent of the hotel. The manager had written on these instructions to “give the hotel all 10s or your response won’t count”.

And I could go on with real-life examples as I’m sure you could as well.

This is either dumb or crooked or both.

Why even conduct the customer response if you or your employees are tainting the results? Customer surveys are shaky enough without meddling interference.

If you’re doing it to avoid hearing bad feedback, then grow a thicker skin before you run yourself out of business.

If your employees are scared of how you treat them because of surveys, try having them improve actual customer service instead of numbers on a spreadsheet.

By the way, these attempts to influence the election could backfire.

united loses daughters

Forget guitars. Dave Carroll should write a song called United loses 10-year-old girls. Apparently, United didn’t learn anything from the United Breaks Guitars fiasco.

While that story is deeply disturbing, Peter Shankman makes a good point. Your employees have to care to provide decent (or even minimally acceptable) customer service:

Customer service has to start at caring. No matter what employee of the company is approached first, that employee has to be trained to care. Because if the first person doesn’t care, the company doesn’t care.

How do you train someone to care? How do you instill empathy on the assembly line? I don’t think you can. It has to be central in the company culture and you have to beware of it in the hiring process. United and the other airlines will never have it.

autopilot

According to the press release from American Airlines, their customers should see “no change in service” related to their bankruptcy filing today.

That’s a shame.

Might be a good time to start delivering better service so they don’t have to file for bankruptcy in the future.

Most airlines are living in customer service bankruptcy.

(From the archives: My favorite post about American Airlines – Eliminating the last olive)

the cart and the horse

We’re now on the other side of the curve. If your organization doesn’t already have a toe in the social media waters, you’re late to the game.

But just as “everybody” threw up an online brochure and said they had a website a few years ago, most businesses are just on a social media land grab without a real strategy on how to make it win.

Just because you have a Facebook page and a Twitter handle, it doesn’t mean you’re doing social media marketing.

True social media marketing success will not directly come just from creating your social media channels. Success will come from your customers and fans creating / spreading messages about the customer experience you provided.

If you get the cart before the horse and establish a social media marketing campaign before you are providing a customer experience that you want people to talk about, you may be putting bullets in the gun that kills you. Don’t help create your social media disaster.

Get your customer service house in order, establish the platforms, provide the marketing talking points, and your social media marketing success will happen on its own.

A positive customer experience is the true key to spreading your message in social media. (and offline IRL too)

the part of marketing that marketing people forget

Starbucks hopped on the Foursquare marketing train early and came out with a great promotion. But Starbucks’ bold move flopped.

Why did they fail? The answer is simple. They forgot (or failed) to communicate their marketing plan with a very important group in the marketing experience — their employees. (It’s the same reason I get stiffed on free syrups when I use my Starbucks card.)

You can spend gobs of money, time, and attention on marketing to get people in the door — but the promises you’ve made with your marketing have to happen when those people come through the door.

Most of your brand is NOT built through advertising, PR, or any marketing message. The brand is mostly built through mundane daily customer experiences. It’s not sexy, but it’s true.

And the customer experience is almost totally controlled by the operational side of the business. If the marketers need/want to build a brand, they need to share their vision and brand strategy with the parts of the company who actually interact with customers.

This is true all the way from the master overall marketing strategy down to individual marketing initiatives. It’s important on all levels, but it becomes even more important when you’re using new and emerging marketing platforms like Foursquare or other forms of digital media. Innovators and Early Adopters are important groups. You want to make sure that employees are delivering superior customer experiences to people who will heavily influence WOM.

For example — The other day, a local sandwich shop tweeted that I could get 10% off if I mentioned Twitter when I ordered. I went there for lunch and mentioned it to the cashier who didn’t even know what Twitter was.

It comes down to the fact if you’re delivering messages to potential markets, you need to share the content of those messages with ALL the people in your organization. They are the ones who will make it work.

united trilogy ends

Last July, I wrote a post about United Breaks Guitars.

Dave Carroll had promised to write a trilogy of songs about the sub par customer experience he had with United Airlines. The first song was an internet sensation. Currently, it’s nearing over 8 million views on YouTube and it was heavily downloaded on iTunes. The second song wasn’t as much of a hit but still did well with about 900,000 views.

Carroll is releasing the third and final song tonight. I doubt if it will be as hot as the first one, but these three songs make a great point about how companies need to act in this digital age. In fact, the United Breaks Guitars case study was a last minute addition to my book Brand Zeitgeist as an example of how one unhappy customer can use the power of social media to move the image of the brand in the zeitgeist.

As Dave says

I had hoped that creating these videos might make a big corporation rethink how they think of each and every customer but could never have imagined the potential hidden inside a music video and a few social media tools. Corporations of all kinds around the world now feel compelled, in part because of United Breaks Guitars, to build in a better model for customer care into their businesses. I’m proud to have been a part of it but the real credit goes to the millions of people around the world who took the time to laugh and tell a friend. The power behind the United Breaks Guitars Trilogy lies in the numbers of people from countries far and wide who are laughing with me.

Companies are worried about the effects of social media are having on their brands. Social media is not the danger. Businesses need to be concerned with customer service. People will tell their friends.

Update: The third song…

my God, they’re throwing guitars out there

So over the course of about two weeks, a Canadian folk singer has brought United Airlines to its knees with over 3 million views (and growing) of this viral video:

There’s been lots of talk online and in the MSM about how this is a great customer service lesson in the new economy. And it is. United has even said they will be using it in their internal training.

The customer service angle is the most important, but I think there are four other big lessons here:

Presentation counts.

There are thousands of consumer gripes at this very moment on twitter, facebook, youtube, individual blogs, and every other web thingy you can think of. What made this one stick and go national?

It’s because it’s well done.

The first time I watched the video, I watched the entire 4:36 (and then watched it again) and you probably did too. By comparison, see how long you can make it through another United Airlines consumer complaint video.

Unless they have no life and unlimited time, people will choose to spend their time with engaging online content instead of stuff they have to struggle to digest.

And the important part for online virility: they won’t pass it on unless it’s really good. Think about your other WOM recommendations to friends. “That restaurant is awful. You should go!”

You still need big media to make a big impact

The video got a response from United within a short time of being posted, but it didn’t really take off into the stratosphere until several new and old media like the Consumerist, LA Times, NY Times, CNN, and other “big guys” featured the video. It might have taken off itself, but these Digg/Oprah-type spotlights amplified the user-level passalong effect to make it go viral. It also helped that Sons of Maxwell already had a fanbase that could help spread the message.

You have to have a base to push off of — if you’re going to jump high.

Don’t back down

United has offered Dave compensation for his guitar and he refused, requesting that United give the money to charity (United is donating $3,000 to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz). And he is going ahead with the other two songs of his promised United trilogy.

In the end, he is going to come out way ahead. Taylor guitars has offered him some new guitars, other airlines are offering seats, and he and his band now have tremendous publicity.

Learn from your mistakes

It seems that United has no choice except to assume the Duck and Cover position for now. They’ve made the donation. The other songs are coming. (I hope one of them explains the sombreros.) At the minimum, the upcoming second one will get publicity. And United has said they are going to learn from the experience

Rob Bradford, managing director of customer solutions at United, called Carroll Wednesday to apologize for the foul-up and to ask if the carrier could use the video internally to help change its culture.

(My first suggestion: eliminate stupid titles like “managing director of customer solutions”)

I’d love to see a case study or something come out of United on how they handled this. I think they actually have an opportunity to shine here if they don’t mess it up. The best thing they could do? Offer to help Dave to make the third video a happy ending.

UPDATE (7/17/09): I have thought of a fifth point. From my perspective, Dave Carroll seems like a nice, decent genuine guy. Being a good guy counts probably more than anything.

rebranding the hut

hutIn one of the worst “re-branding” moves that I’ve ever seen, Pizza Hut is dropping pizza from its name and will now be known in some locations as just ‘The Hut‘.

What a great move. Trash over 50 years of brand equity for something that makes me think of a dark dank dwelling in the Third World. Of course, it’s been coming for awhile. They’ve brand-extended themselves to oblivion instead of doing the core product (pizza!) well.

What makes it even more sad/funny is the delusion they’ve sold themselves and are now sending out in media relations…

…characterized the name change as an attempt to transform its stores into hip hangouts…..The new “hut” stores will be more than a place to simply pick up some take-out…they will include televisions that broadcast CBS programs such as “Wheel of Fortune” and “Entertainment Tonight.”

Because we all know the kids think that nothing can be more “hip” than Wheel of Fortune. Maybe they could reach back into the CBS archives and air old episodes of ‘Murder She Wrote’ to be even more hip.

They just may have a bad case of self-loathing with their name. They’ve tried to “rebrand” the Pizza Hut name on several previous occasions like “Pizza Hut Pizza & Pasta Cafe”, “Pizza Hut Italian Bistro”, “Pizza Hut WingStreet”, and the half-joking April Fools’ prank, “Pasta Hut”. A smart guy once said “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity”

Hey Yum!, listen up. The problem is not the Pizza Hut name. The problem is the customer experience. Even though your spokesperson, Christopher Fuller, gave a cheesy non-answer to real issues, the facts are clear in the public’s mind: Your employees don’t care. Your stores are dirty. Your service is horrible. (In one of my local Pizza Huts, there’s a sign above the lunch buffet that says not to even bother requesting any type of pizza because they aren’t going to do it.) And as I previously said in this post, you have forgotten your core product.

In kneejerk fashion, other chains may follow the move:

  • Dominos will become “Backgammon”
  • Papa Johns will become “Papa Smurfs”
  • McDonalds will become “Mick”
  • Taco Bell will become “The Bell”
  • KFC will become “Sammy Nellas”
  • Burger King will become “CP+B”