Source material: groundswell by Li C., Bernoff, J
This was probably my favourite chapter so far because it relates so well to all the mistakes that pretty well every company make. Here are a few key points that really stood out to me but get screwed up.
1. “Your brand is what your customer says it is.”
“The value of the brand belongs to the market, not the company.”
The company believes they are, or wants to be, one thing, while the market/consumers believe they are something else. You can tell yourself that you’re “B” all you want but if people just see a “13” then you’re a “13”.
A good example would be Blackberry. They believed for the longest time that they were the premier business phone, which they were for a long while. But they did not adapt to the new smartphones being released and a shift in the market and became synonymous with “old persons” phone. The smartphone market is won or lost in the 20-35ish demographic, especially at the time of the Blackberry and iPhone going head to head in 2008 – 2009. College aged people accounted for just shy of 50% of smartphone users in 2011. They saw the Blackberry as “dads” phone or the stuffy business person phone. It is what sunk Blackberry. They were not able to shake that stigma. Why? Well, after years of generally ignoring the needs, aka not listening, of younger people with phones they found it impossible to catch back up. Meanwhile, Android and Apple have focused almost the entirety of their marketing efforts on people aged 18-35 and the market clamoured that they were “cool” phones and they’re alive and well. They listened to the market and built their product for it while Blackberry built their product and told the market how to use it.
2. What is listening?
If you’re listening efforts are not revealing new insight then you are doing it wrong. Plain and simple. If you are any gaming company at all and you are not constantly finding input from your community on how to tweak things to better the experience then you are a failing gaming company. Times have changed from the 90s where you made a game and people played it. Now you make your game in the mould of the customer.
If you’re XBOX and all the internet chatter is “Boo DRM! Boo always online! Boo Kinect! Boo!” and you come right out and say “DRM. Always online. Kinect. Deal with it!” well you weren’t listening at all. At all. In fact, you’re competitor who said “…” on all the issues above had their stock jump 8% because of you.
What XBOX tried to do was make their service into Steam. Fantastic idea. Everyone loves Steam. But instead of telling people “This is XBOX Steam” which people would have loved to hear, all that was said was the dirty, dirty engineering words and none of the benefits.
3. Set up a community
This is simple enough and should be your primary listening plan. It can be as simple as having a Facebook page or a Twitter account which can be really effective if you run them well. Read all the action happening on your Facebook wall. Check all your mentions on Twitter and search hashtags that are directly or indirectly related to your company. Find where your audience’s Social Technographic Profile is and start interacting. Don’t just listen or read, reply. Have a conversation. You don’t need to reply to everyone but you should be conversing to some extent in a proper two-way manner. If you’re in technology or games, you probably have your own forums. Great. Also be aware of all the other forums on other websites that are more neutral ground than yours. For instance, there is the Bioware Social Network and then there are people talking Bioware games on Gamefaqs and other sites. You can find just as much valuable information among the trash there as you can anywhere else.
4. Closing thoughts
None of this is exactly difficult. Not for tech companies and video game makers and developers and whatever else. Your entire market is online people. This is why you have community managers. To listen at the ground floor what the audience wants, let your development team know and give that to market.
Listening well can change the power structure of your company. Listening poorly can send you up the river without a paddle.
This is a great video from Steve Jobs where he talks about tailoring your messaging.