Here are some interesting XM and online marketing news items and links for your perusal:
- Chrysler Guarantees Customers' Gas Prices: During an economic downturn, how can you give customers an experience that impacts their purchase decisions? Chrysler could've offered just another low interest loan or cash back, but instead they've come up with something innovative and attention-getting. According to CNN Money, Chrysler announced an offer that caps the price of gasoline at $2.99 a gallon for three years for people who buy or lease new vehicles through June 2. Customers will get a card for buying gas that is linked to their own charge account. The customer will be billed $2.99 a gallon, and Chrysler will pay the rest. This promotion is brilliant because it focuses its attention where consumers' attention is focused; moreover, it probably won't be that costly--based on the $3.61 a gallon average price reported Monday by AAA, someone buying a 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser would cost Chrysler $355 a year.
- Absolut Owns Its Own Experience: Alcohol brands are always trying to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd. In March, Fullhouse launched a March Hoops program for Miller Brewing; this successful advergaming program was deployed in bars and featured motion-sensing controllers that consumers used to make virtual free throws via a custom and branded game.
Another great example of a bar program comes from Australia, where Absolut shunned their typical print approach for a very experiential program. Rather than visiting bars and trying to get noticed above the clutter of neon and other advertising for alcohol brands, Absolut took out short-term leases on two pubs and fully branded them as Absolut Cut bars. It then transformed the bars into three-dimensional representations of the Absolut Cut brand. The bars were open on and off for two weeks over the course of two months, and the “open today, closed tomorrow” approach added to the underground, “in the know” tone that drove the campaign’s cool factor. Check out the lengthy but fascinating case study at ExhibitorOnline.com.
- Royal Caribbean Launches Own Social Network: For the most part, I think it's dicey for brands to create their own online social networks. A social network requires a great deal of traffic and diversity, so isolated islands rarely succeed. (I am reminded of a recent episode of the office where Ryan pitches the new Dunder Mifflin site: "Say you’re chatting with your friends. You’re talking about the latest music, the election…All of it happening in our virtual paper store.”)
That said, Royal Caribbean may be on to something; the new social network they're launching, RoyalConnect, is a way for previous Royal Caribbean customers to get in touch with company staff and other cruisers with similar interests. Considering the lasting offline/online connections that cruisers often create, this site has the potential to foster strong consumer relations that encourage a strong positive brand impression. Another smart move is that the cruise line is embracing transparency: The Miami Herald reports that 70 executives, captains, cruise directors and other select ship staff will be among the first employees to create profiles so that customers can engage with them. This sounds like branded Social Media done right.
- The Importance of Knowing Who You Are: Jeffrey Housenbold, CEO of Shutterfly, reinforces the importance of knowing what business you're in on CIO.com. While some in the photo business have stumbled because they thought they were in the printed picture business, Shutterfly is succeeding by focusing more broadly on what consumers want. The writer, Jim Champy, was reminded of a prior job at Hallmark, which "was not a greeting-card company, but a social-expressions company." Housenbold recognized his organization is not really about prints, so he created "a new frame of reference (that) stretched beyond consumer goods to include the concept of an online community."
His complete makeover of Shutterfly is yielding amazing results: Revenues are projected to increase 45 to 50 percent in one year, and more amazingly, "These days, photo printing isn't even the company's main revenue source." The article is a worthwhile reminder of the importance of innovation and focusing on what your customers need and where your brand fits.
- The Importance of Knowing What Your Consumers Want: In a brilliant article on Adweek, David Armano, vp of creative at Crtitcal Mass, sheds light on the importance of "brand utility." He tells how unenthused he was when his agency landed WW Grainger, a large B2B supplies distribution company. (His lament is a common one among agency creatives who perceive a client as "boring": "Seemed like unglamorous work for someone lured to a digital agency that boasted clients such as Coke.")
But David found there was fascinating work to be done, even though the work "had nothing to do with 'branding,' at least in the traditional sense." And by that, he means his work was focused on providing a great consumer experience and not on pretty pictures or elaborate strategies. But providing a great online consumer experience will always enhance the brand, as David found out. Says he: "Many advertisers aren't focused on building the digital applications that people want to use; they're focused on somehow cramming marketing into them." Check out David's "Three U's of Advertising in the Application Economy."