Wednesday, 31 July 2013

What if your firm closed its doors on customer service?

What do you usually expect to receive while ordering something online? Hopefully exactly what you ordered, even though there is always a risk of getting something completely different. It could be the wrong colour or the apparel doesn’t fit you well. When such annoying things happen, you hope the company will want to help you resolve your issue.

In our Internal Marketing class, and in a way through our entire last semester at the University of Sydney Business School, I have learned that at the end of any marketing strategy, CRM, big data and many other hidden weapons of the marketing industry, there is a customer. For the firm, to satisfy his or her needs is the objective of their company.

Banana Republic, with its recent online ordering slip-up, seems definitely falling far short of their customer expectation. An American couple were bowled over when they got the parcel from Banana Republic. As Huffington Post reports instead of a tie and pocket square they expected, the package from Banana Republic instead contained sensitive “employee documents: Social Security numbers, tax forms, resignation letters, legal notices, doctors' notes and performance reviews.”

What a shame, but honestly this stuff happens with any firm. The only difference between truly consumer-oriented and others is how the company deals with such situations. You would think from such mature companies like Gap Inc, which Banana Republic is a part of, customers, even those of us who are students of marketing, expect a certain level of customer service.

But what surprised me even more is how much efforts those customers had put in force to reach the attention of Gap’s customer service. They tried to get at the company through regular customer channels, but there were no responses from the firm. The couple only got a serious response when they had employed their social media, communicating their issue through Twitter and Tumblr accounts.

Although a Gap representative finally apologised by saying: “We take the confidentiality of personal information very seriously and we strive to deliver a perfect customer experience, every time… Regrettably, human mistakes happen and this was one of them,” there is still one question for the company: has the company expressed the same apology to its employees whose personal data and information could have been compromised?

I am wondering if Gap has dealt with this situation wisely. This recent Gap case is a vibrant example of how important is to take customer request and complaints seriously and keep your customer service door opened. If Gap has promptly dealt with this particular complaint, we would not be scrutinising them in the media, proving the importance of good customer service for any company.

Elena Sveshnikova
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Welcome Semester 2 with open arms!

I cannot believe that for most of our cohort, we are halfway through our Masters of Marketing degree! It’s been such an eventful six months, and I anticipate just as much excitement and learning in the next semester. For the first time, mid-year intake has been available for the Master of Marketing at the University of Sydney Business School. This means some new students will join us this week. I’d like to take the time to welcome everyone who will be a part of our marketing family! And to current students, let’s get right back in to learning together!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Google’s Deepak Ramanathan tells us what kind of people Google like to hire

I’ve mentioned this on many occasions, but one of the benefits I enjoy the most from being a student at the University of Sydney Business School is all the opportunities for interaction with industry gurus. I can honestly say that most of us a probably pretty ga-ga for Google. So I, along with many other students from the Masters of Marketing and the MBA cohort, jumped at the chance for a Q&A session with the Head of Marketing of Search at Google. Deepak Ramanathan, alumni of University of Sydney Business School, is based in Mountain View, USA, and sat down with us on Saturday 20th July to chat about what it’s like at Google.

The talk was a fantastic back and forth between students and Deepak, gaining great insight not only into Google, but many pearls of wisdom from Deepak’s meritorious career. One major take-away Deepak gave was about how to be a global company. Google, while spanning oceans and continents, is still an international company based primarily in one location. Just like many other companies. Deepak spoke about the importance of first and foremost setting up your company to be global. At Mountain View a range of people from around the world, just like Deepak, work together on the grand strategy of Google. This is not just about fulfilling a diversity requirement. Your company must be set up with different regions, and different thinking in mind in order to gain perspective from all areas.

Deepak gave the example of Google Korea. As a very successful product, Google Search had no doubt that adoption of the new would be high. However, results were not as expected. When Google looked into the matter, it was found that many Koreans thought that the website was still under construction. In comparison with existing websites, such as, which had images, weather, links and news, the Google Korea search page seemed ‘incomplete,’ and people thought, “Oh, well I’ll come back and give it a try once it’s finished!” As well as this, it is extremely difficult to type in Korean. This is why users prefer pages with links already there – because it saves them the time and hassle.

Although Google gained great insight into the Korean market, they also learned a lesson on the importance of perspective.

And of course, being Google, we were all eager to hear how to go about getting a job. Although Deepak didn’t walk us through the step-by-step process of sweet-talking our way into the heart of the tech giant, he did explain the three types of people Google likes:
  1. People who get stuff done. People who want to do things fast, experiment, and test. This is often what drives those ‘Google stories’ – the mentality of their worker’s motivation to make change happen.
  2. Be flexible. Expect things to be different, to change. While many of us get caught up on long term plans, Google likes people who don’t plan too far ahead. Especially in an ever-changing industry, you can’t expect all your plans to work out.
  3. Although echoed over and over, one word can’t be beat: Passion. It shows when people have are passionate. And Google is looking for it!
So with this in mind, go forth! Be spontaneous! Have passion! And perhaps Google will spot you a mile away from their newly refurbished Maps app, and hand you a delicious tech job on a silver platter!

Hongi Luo
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

What’s behind that package you ordered online?

I am constantly telling myself that I need to pay more attention to marketing areas outside of this little screen and keyboard that forms my laptop – and a portal to the world. Recently however, I read on a 2013 Deloitte report that spoke of the changing nature of consumer behaviour. The rapid adoption of portable devices, like smart phones and tablets, has changed not only where we can check our email, but our whole system of behaviour. Deloitte predicts that mobile sales, currently 5.1% of total retail sales, will increase exponentially to reach 17–21% ($628-$752 billion) of total sales by 2016.

So how are companies going to cope with all this fast paced change?

In my research, I came across an article by The Business of Fashion, going backstage at a growing company providing solutions for the fast growing e-commerce industry. Although just ONE aspect in the chain of events involved in online retailing, the article talks about an extremely important element: how do we get our product to our customer?

While many companies have dedicated distribution centers that are already efficient and cost-effective, many start-ups cannot afford this luxury if they are to stay competitive. This is where Quiet Logistics come in. Quiet Logistics, based in Devens, Massachusetts, is unlike any traditional shipping warehouse. Although the 275,000 square-foot facility is packed with approximately 1.5 million units of inventory, the whole place is surprisingly calm and quiet. This is because the whole operation is run predominately by robots. Catering to growing apparel companies like Bonobos and Nasty Gal, the robots diligently fulfill orders with accuracy and efficiency.

The marketing cherry on top of this e-commerce cupcake is the personal touch at the end of the process. You may never know that your package has not come directly from the company you purchased it from. Once the robot fulfills its duties, the package is then passed onto a human to be examined, wrapped – sometimes with a personalized note - with the care likened to a birthday present from your grandma. And this is what makes Quiet Logistics different to other shipping companies.

As we all know, the points of contact with customers are changing, and companies need to take every opportunity to make a good impression. In an age where the retail experience is being challenged, small companies rely on the personal touch Quiet Logistics offers to build and maintain their relationships with their customers.

Although this definitely is not the end of the conversation when it comes to the growing e-commerce industry, it’s an interesting aspect think about and understand. As marketers, mapping journeys, like the one of your product, from website to doorstep, can provide opportunities for innovation and moments for you to make another connection with your customer.

You can read more about Quiet Logistics.

Hongi Luo
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Animal rights – marketing to just get a reaction?

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Although this age old saying can be disputed, and it’s validity questioned from situation to situation, when it comes to the protection of animals, perhaps this quote rings true.

Last week the Queensland RSPCA launched a repositioning campaign with the help of creative agency, Engine Group. ‘WE are all creatures great & small’ aims to create empathy in people toward animals by sharing some of the elements and aspects that make humans and animals to closely interconnected. With a little help from the photo-retouching department, the similarities between humans and animals are not only written, but also shown.

Does it work?

Some of the pictures are definitely a bit eerie, dipping into the uncanny valley with a pussycat looking pensive with human-like eyes reminding us that 90% of a cat’s DNA sequence is identical or ours. Perhaps this discomfort is what makes the campaign successful.

The toolbox of marketing for non-profit organisations with ecological agendas is a small one. Often you can reach for the cutesy ‘please pity us’ approach, using small children, puppy dogs, and sad drought laden landscapes. Or in contrast to that, you can use the ‘shame and guilt’ approach, creating pressure by pointing the finger at potential supporters. This second approach is more aggressive. It’s saying, ‘it’s your fault these chickens are caged’ ‘it’s your fault our oceans are filled with plastic,’ and it brings blame, but also defence.

In our Contemporary Consumer Insight class last semester at the University of Sydney Business School, I looked into how non-profits conducted marketing in ways that were effective or ineffective. The more aggressive approach often uses real facts and data to appeal to a sense of reason within people. However, overwhelmingly the insight learned is that people are defensive and respond negatively. It is because they do not want to be blamed and automatically try and stand up for our actions. The prime example is the argument of vegetarianism and meat consumption. Although there are many facts out there that accuse meat-eaters of ruining the planet, it is just as easy to turn around and say, “eating meat is natural and I can do what I like!”

Often ecological agendas come from a passionate place. This is why it is so easy for marketing activity to fall into an accusatory tune. By knowing that this is ineffective, marketers can look at other strategies to communicate.

The campaign by Queensland RSPCA reaches a place in between cute and creepy. It aims not to guilt us into caring, but rather reminding us to be more aware. And whether or not this campaign has actually invoked empathy in people, it’s definitely been successful in grabbing attention. We feed our sense of curiosity to the weird and bizarre by sharing and talking with others, as I have done here. In the case of animal rights, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” and the RSPCA have done a great job in getting people’s attention.

Hongi Luo
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Why we become a brand liker on Facebook?

I have just become a Red Bull Facebook fan. Honestly I don’t know what compelled me to sign up. Yes, I do like all extreme sport images they post. But being a Master of Marketing student, I query about if there is something more than simply being a Facebook fan of particular brand, or whether or not it actually affects my purchasing habits of Red Bull?

Why do consumers sign up for brand pages in social networks? This question has become the focal interest in many marketers when trying to calculate ROI and find out the real value in brand social media subscribers. And do we, as marketers, actually understand what the reason why people ‘like’ particular brand on Facebook?

New research “The Value of a Facebook Fan 2013” conducted by Syncapse shows that 78 per cent of brand Facebook fans are already existing product or services customers. As a rule, it is primarily for restaurants, large retailers, FMCG-sector. However, there are exceptions - brands whose products are desired by many, but not available to everyone. For example, subscribers of BMW are only 36% of its clients.

The study focused on the Facebook communities of top the 20 brands in key consumer categories and involved over 2,080 people through evaluating some key factors like spending, loyalty, willingness to recommend, acquisition cost, and brand empathy.

Syncapse found that 49 per cent have become brand fans because they truly like the specific brand and thus use Facebook to support beloved brand. Other 31 per cent consider brand Facebook page as place where they can share their personal good experiences.

While real brand fans and supporters dominate Facebook pages, there is still 42 per cent those who primarily subscribe to brand pages “to get a coupon or discount.” Research shows that in some cases showed in popular retail brands like Zara, H&M and Wal-Mart – people have become brand Facebook likers while hunting for valued benefits such as coupons and discounts rather than aiming to support the brand.

Going through the research paper, I found myself between those 41 per cent who simply want to be updated with the brand news, and those 35 per cent willing “to participate in contests”. In this case, the question is whether or not my particular “like” could bring any value to Red Bull.

Seriously, it has become pretty obvious from the research that with the goal to multiply our social media efforts and investments, we as marketers need to clearly understand and tap into the motivation of our brand fans. Instead of wasting our marketing budget on fan-hunters looking for a bargain, we should further build the emotional ties and relationships with the 49 per cent of loyal brand likers.

Elena Sveshnikova
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Dear Google, From Melbourne.

Moving to a new country can be extremely daunting. In fact, travelling any where outside of your locality can be a major pain, and major brain drain. Once the sparkle and wander of your new surroundings wear off, and the overwhelming sense of confusion and exhaustion sets in, we all have that moment – “where am I?”

When I moved to Sydney to attend the Master of Marketing, at the University of Sydney, I arrived bright eyed and enthusiastic. Granted, I was terrified of public transport for the first few days, and I think I must have worn a hole in my sneakers from walking everywhere. I eventually warmed up to confidently catching buses, trains and ferries, fearlessly making transfers and crossing the entire city of Sydney. And without a doubt, I owe my public transport skills to my iPhone, Google Maps, and that little blue GPS dot.

Let’s not get into Apple Maps. That’s a whole other conversation.

In July of 2012 Google added live public transport directions to Sydney on Maps. This wasn’t just the location of bus stops, train stations or major public transport hubs – this was an app that could plan your journey from beginning to end, transfers and street crossings included. When embarking on a new bus journey for the first time, you could follow your little blue GPS dot, counting down the stops before yours, and confidently press the “BUS STOP” button without fear you are miles from your intended destination.

I know this all sounds very trivial. But I am an advocate for public transport, especially for travellers in a new city. Not only is it convenient and cheap, it gives a sense that the city is welcoming you in, letting you feel right at home, and allowing you to know which train station to get off at. And I think that’s good marketing.

After being sheltered in my public transport bubble in Sydney, Google shocked me back down to earth when I recently visited Melbourne for the weekend. “Public Transport coverage may not be available in this area.” Why not?! Apparently this topic is greatly debated over on the Internet. There are forums, petitions, websites, articles that all call for the collaboration of Public Transport Victoria to work with Google Maps to provide journey planning for Melbourne. For a city with one of the world’s largest rail systems, and the biggest tram system in the English-speaking world, a consumer demand is definitely not being met. In comparison, it seems embarrassing that Perth, Adelaide and Canberra have long had their Google Maps working with public transport.

I’m not sure to whom I am complaining to, but from a marketing perspective, when there is an overwhelming demand, such as this, from your customer – you deliver! The benefits are endless. As a tourist destination, as an ecologically minded city, and while you’ve already got all these trains, buses and trams laying around anyway – Google and PTV, you need to sort it out!

Hongi Luo
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Australia at Cannes Lions

Australian Ads have had the most successful campaign in the history of the Cannes Lion.

The 60th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has become a proud part of Australian advertising history. Never before has Australian creative talent fully dominated the list of Cannes Lions winners. In my opinion, the Cannes festival is highly conservative – a kind of bourgeois event where you, as an advertiser, needs to prove your creativity, rather than being simply recognised for your talent. With this in mind, just it is impressive to see the performance of by Melbourne’s McCann for their advertisement for Metro Trains entitled "Dumb Ways to Die". As well as reaching viral status, the cute and slightly morbid cartoon scored five Grand Prix: film, PR, direct, radio and integrated.

It was a truly massive event in Cannes this year, more than 12,000 advertisers with about 35,000 ad works out lion hunting. A numbers of creative icons held inspiring speeches guiding the audience on the future of advertising. Speakers such as Apple ad-man Lee Clown, Chuck Porter - whose provocative anti-tobacco “Truth” campaign is already cutting down the number of school smokers, fashion guru Vivienne Westwood, and many others talked about two popular trends that’s going to modify the advertising world.

The first aspect is the real social impact that ads create. It doesn’t matter whether you serve not-for-profit campaigns or are creating commercial advertisements; it is time to take greater social responsibility behind you commercials. Nearly all the cases and communications at Cannes gave the impression of this idea. From public campaigns like Metro Trains’ to Coca-Cola’s “Small World Machine,” the trend of taking social responsibility when marketing a message is growing.

Technology is the other buzz topic at Cannes. This can’t be communicated better than Lee Clown, the “Think Different” creator, when he stressed:

“When the camera was invented, artists didn't just throw away their brushes and start taking pictures. It was technology for many years before artists discovered what they could do with it. I think the artist still hasn't discovered the possibilities in new media and the Internet and how you use this technology to beautifully and intelligently express brands. Technologists have had the lead for a while, but the artist will take over.”

From the 60th Cannes Lions, one simple idea can be the most valuable take-away. The capacity of technology, utilised by creative minds may be the way forward to finally support our daily life and brand experiences.

You can see a list of all winners and nominates on the Cannes Lions website.

Elena Sveshnikova
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Is social media really a worthy marketing tool?

No one would deny that social media is the major marketing buzzword nowadays. And it’s definitely going to generate buzz for a while. Nearly all companies are already on the way to become even more digital and “social”. It seems so exciting we can achieve cost effective direct collaboration and communication with a customer that was never achievable before.

But the question is whether social media, like many other innovations before it, is good or evil. While we are getting more social with our marketing, the risks involved with reputation management should not be underestimated. Only one online post by a dissatisfied customer or unhappy employee may profoundly affect a brand or company’s reputation. One can recall McDonald’s ‘social’ failure when an online campaign was hijacked by consumer’s complaints, along with many other examples of social media disasters.

Recent research from The Chartered Institute of Marketing discloses that only 44% of conducted firms not only identify the possible reputational issues but also have already applied guidelines and polices to regulate their presence in social space. 60% of those surveyed companies introduced such policies only in 2011-2012.

As marketers we all want to generate attention for our brands. And social media brings enormous opportunities for this. Every single post may be a great channel for storytelling and engaging with customers. But we also need to keep in mind the risks related to social media. You can never really estimate what trends will catch on, how people will react, or predict the success of social media endeavors. It is all about how you estimate the risks you take.

Elena Sveshnikova
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School