Thursday, May 3, 2007

Project Learnings

I really feel that doing this project helped me understand customer experiences a little bit more, particularly the Strategic Experiential Modules (SEMs). In Bernd Schmitt’s article, “A Framework for Managing Customer Experiences,” he mentions the 5 Strategic Experiential Modules used to develop customer experiences toward a product/service: Sense, Feel, Think, Act, and Relate. I think this strategy was the framework that helped us decide what type of product to build for our target market. Working on this project really enabled us to apply those learnings in the real world toward real target segments. Since we were targeting couples who were newly cohabitating together, we wanted to first understand how they felt in general about their living rooms (our assigned room in the house). In terms of “Sense,” we said that our couples generally viewed the living room as an aesthetically pleasing place where there are always sounds of TV and music playing. They also tend to “Feel” at-home and secure in the living room because this is a place for them to be comfortable with each other. Moving on to “Think,” the living room for the young couple is actually a place not to think in. It’s a place for them to unwind after a long day at work. Similarly, our target couples tend to “Act” relaxing in this particular room. They also spend more time with each other here just hanging out and having fun. Lastly, for “Relate,” the living room is a place that emphasizes couple togetherness. It’s a place for intimateness, interaction, and general compromise between them. By using the SEM strategy, our group was able to narrow down on certain product ideas to address the couples’ need for fun and interaction in the living room.

Another concept that this project really helped me understand was the idea of creativity. As Michael Luchs mentioned, creative ideas are simply new combinations of existing elements. By actually applying Michael’s technique of Lateral Marketing, our group was able to create the ultimate new product for young couples’ living rooms. Through his lecture we learned how to think outside the box and pick a specific product in the living room first. Then, decide which lateral marketing technique to use. This was different than our traditional way of directly jumping to ideas for a final product. I felt that this working “backwards” aided us tremendously in the final product idea. We applied the “Combination” technique of Lateral Marketing to come up with our product. By adding more components onto the classic flat-screen TV- such as wireless capabilities, instant messaging, PDA features- we came up with the ultimate interactive device for young couples in their living rooms. Now couples would have a multi-functional product in their living rooms that enables them to have more fun with each other, yet have a practical communication function. In this sense, the product is creative in a way that is both “novel” and “useful”.

Lastly, I really enjoyed working with my team members. The really great thing was that our team was comprised of a very diverse group of people, coming from all sorts of backgrounds. This enabled us to use our different skillsets, ideas, and perceptions to come up with such a great product. Fortunately, our different cultures did not clash, and we were able to put each person’s strengths to their best potential. I also learned how to take different team member’s ideas into consideration. Even though we all came up with many very different ideas, I learned the true value of compromise. I really enjoyed getting to the final product because I learned so much along the way. Lastly, I feel like our instructor Professor Walls did a great job in aiding us toward the final product because he was very helpful and always giving us comments and suggestions. Furthermore, I feel that the milestones for each individual stage in our product were very helpful in keeping us on track and making sure we were consistently working on the project the entire semester.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Consumer Cynicism Paper Outline

I. Introduction

II. Background
a. History of cynicism towards marketing/advertising campaigns
b. Generation X vs. Generation Y

i. Differences in technology preferences, reception to the media, preferred channels, etc.

III. How Consumers Respond to Different Distribution Channels
a. Internet
i. Spam
ii. Cookies
iii. Pop-ups
iv. Banners
b. TV/print media
i. Overplayed ads
c. Catalogs/mail
i. Spam
d. Telephone
i. Consumers’ distaste for telemarketers

IV. Unethical Marketing
a. Exaggerations/deception on labels and displays
b. Fine print & hidden charges
c. Loyalty cards pricing/privacy issues
d. “Switch and bait” selling
e. Marketing to children

V. Solutions to Breaching Consumer Cynicism
a. Don’t make a spectacle
i. The more aggressive/shrill the marketing tactics, the more desperate you seem to consumers
b. Deliver relevant messages that connect with consumers
i. Personalization
ii. Build relationships
iii. Understand their emotions & employ SEMs
c. Study consumer psychoanalysis
i. Certain brain neurons trigger memory and decision-making
ii. Human psyche & what really makes consumers “tick”
d. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
i. Encourages trust for brand

VI. Conclusion

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Gaming Experience to the Max: The Nintendo Wii

One company who I think is paving the way for creativity and innovation is Nintendo. In November 2006, Nintendo hit its peak in innovation when it launched its break-through gaming console- the Wii. Michael Luchs defined creativity as “an idea that is both ‘useful’ and ‘novel’.” He stated that ideas are simply new combinations of existing elements made through understanding relationships. I think that is exactly what Nintendo has done to successfully launch Wii. Video games are nothing new, and they have been around for decades. But what makes Wii so innovative is that it is the first at-home gaming console with a wireless remote that detects motion and rotation in three dimensions. USA Today’s article, “Nintendo Hopes Wii Spells Winner” states that it “enables consumers to experience a new way to play.” The name itself is creative as well. The two lower-case “i” characters are meant to resemble two people standing side by side (players), as well as to represent the console's controllers. The article also mentions that the purpose behind the name was to ensure that it could be easily remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. I personally think that is a very creative branding strategy because it fosters understanding customer relationships everywhere.

Nintendo most likely developed this new system to satisfy an unmet desire for gamers to be more actively involved when playing video games. The movements that you make while playing are attached to the feeling that you are actually a part of the game and it makes the whole gaming experience more realistic and engaging. Another reason may be to encourage a different form of exercise. Many games that complement the Wii require a lot of movement on the player’s part (i.e. tennis, racing, etc.) This results in extra calories burnt and weight loss with consistent play. Obsese countries such as the U.S. make a great target for Wii. The product satisfies parents because they want their kids to be healthy and fit, and it satisfies kids as well because they think videogaming is fun. Lastly, I think Wii was developed as an ongoing process in the technological advancement movement. Technology is improving at such a rapid pace; a technology industry such as Nintendo must continuously come up with new, innovative products in order to keep up with their competitors.

In an article called “Controller Showdown: Playstation 3 vs. Wii,” the author establishes the primary difference between the two gaming consoles: Nintendo designed their controller from the ground up with the intention to play with movement, while Sony merely tacked the ability onto their own already-classic design. A lot of consumers feel that Sony’s PS3 copied Nintendo on the controller’s motion-sensitive design, but I feel that the two companies target different segments in the market. The Nintendo Wii is designed more for the non-gamer who wants to enjoy non-typical games with the whole family or with their friends. Sony PS3’s classic controller, however, is targeted more towards the serious gamer who engages in long-term, skilled playing. For me personally, I feel that the PS, PS2, PS3, XBox, and XBox 360 are all about the same, and I’ve never taken much interest in gaming before. But what I'm hearing about the Nintendo Wii makes me actually want to start playing video games! This is the true power of innovation- changing people’s attitudes and allowing a new approach and experience to doing the common, everyday thing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Gaining Insight The Prada Way

The segment Prada seems to be targeting is the upper-class female who likes to be on the forefront of fashion and has plenty of disposable income. In terms of this particular segment, I think Prada’s use of technology is appropriate. Because these women are considerably wealthy, they usually are used to getting spectacular customer service. And Prada definitely delivers it. In the article, “Prada Gets Personal,” it is noted that Prada spent $20 million on technology, installing video cameras and “Staff Devices” to further personalize each customer’s shopping experience. These new technological devices allow their segment to find exactly what they have in mind, without even having their favorite sales associates leave their side. In addition, Prada has surpassed traditional use of RFID tags to install them onto virtually every item in the store according to the “Prada Case Study” article. Unlike Walmart’s use of RFIDs mostly for inventory purposes, Prada uses them predominantly to build relationships and gain customer loyalty. For example, the RFIDs installed inside their “magic dressing room mirrors” allow women to see themselves twirling with chosen clothes on and enables them to save all the items they brought in into a “digital closet” that can be viewed online at a later time. For women who are a part of the elite society, this type of new innovation establishes an instant connection because it makes them feel special and understood. The Prada stores seem to know everything about their segment just by scanning a simple customer card.

I think that Prada’s use of technology can be useful for other companies and retailers as well. Regardless of what company it is, the main goal (besides earning profit) is to enhance customer experience. And sometimes that can only be done through the use of technology, since humans may not have the necessary means to perform certain functions. Other retailers do not have to be as extravagant as Prada, but they can definitely learn something. The underlying concept is to make the customer feel like you understand them- their needs, preferences, and even their motives for buying certain products. With the advanced RFIDs, sales associates are in sense able to gain greater understanding into each of their customers, personalizing their browsing and purchasing behavior step-by-step. Using similar technology will also allow customers to save time. Real-time inventory capabilities may allow customers know exactly what is in stock currently, what items are offered in different store locations, and what may be in stock a week later. This makes shopping so much easier and convenient. In a world where consumers demand instant and top-notch service, other companies should definitely consider following in Prada’s tracks.

Overall I think Prada is doing a wonderful job at using technology, in terms of really personalizing the customer shopping experience. They are clearly stirring creative juices in the technology sector! The concept of being able to scan an item and learn more about it is such a simple concept, but Prada has taken that idea to the next level. I really think they will benefit from increased customer loyalty and image branding in the market. Customers want to feel unique, and Prada delivers exactly that service. Many times, it is not about the actual product they purchase, but the way they feel when shopping. Customer experience is more than just going into a store and purchasing an item; it encompasses all the sights, sounds, and emotions attached with the experience as well.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Process Mapping: Is It Worth It?

In class we talked about process maps, a tool for analyzing and presenting an activity- such as a consumer shopping experience- in a sequence of chronological steps. The main point of process mapping is to place the marketer in the shoes of a consumer. This allows us to gain insight into their perspectives and decision-making patterns. However, I think one of the biggest problems with process mapping is its tendency to make simple activities more complicated than they really are.

When we made our own process maps in class about going to the movies, a seemingly simple activity gave birth to a whole slew of decisions, each branching into multiple tangent points. The paper became really crowded and at first glance all the symbols seemed confusing and overwhelming. By the time we got to buying the actual movie tickets, we were already almost out of room on the paper, and we had not even covered whether or not to buy snacks! I think our biggest problem was figuring out the level of detail we wanted to incorporate and maintain it throughout the entire process map. The best way is to decide on the level of detail you want before starting the actual mapping. The different types of process maps- ranging from macro to micro- each offer a unique style to limit or expand on the level of detail depending on the specific activity.

I think one of the greatest advantages of process mapping is that it shows processes that may be redundant so you can keep cutting down until the process becomes very efficient. For example, in our process map, we ended up with two different scenarios- one where the couple wanted to rent a movie and watch it at home and another where they wanted to go to a theater. However, both scenarios required the couple to make similar decisions afterwards- for example, which movie to watch, what time to watch the movie, invite others or watch it with only each other, etc. So instead of making two sets of similar choices, the process map allowed us to connect the same decisions to each scenario, thus eliminating any redundancy. Many times, the most efficient process map is the simplest and most concise one.

Despite some minor drawbacks, I believe the benefits of process maps as a whole outweigh the cons. In addition to looking at things from the customers’ point of view and reducing redundancy, process maps also stress unanticipated difficulties that customers may encounter when faced with a decision. Thus, marketers can zone in on problematic areas of a shopping experience and try to make it more customer-friendly.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Breaching Consumer Cynicism

Because of the vastly technology-oriented society consumers live in today, it is harder and harder to create successful marketing campaigns and target consumers effectively. In Peter DeLegge’s article, “The Marketing Relevance Imperative,” this exact issue is speculated upon. Delegge mentions that consumers are getting tired of receiving ads that are mass-targeted to them in general. In this day and age, they have unprecedented access to information and have learned how to become “more adept in tuning out predatory messages.” Delegge argues that the only way for marketers to make sure their messages are heard is to make them relevant to consumers. Only by creating campaigns that means something to consumers, can marketers effectively connect with them; and vice-versa.

If there is one thing that all marketers have in common, it is that they all want in on the secrets of making consumers more receptive to their messages. But the problem today is that most consumers are raised to be more cynical of marketing messages in general. As part of Generation Y myself, I grew up being exposed to floods of marketing and advertising from a young age. Many promotional efforts and marketing schemes have been a nuisance to me since my teenage years. The article states that consumers have evolved under these circumstances. They have learned to recognize “a shark fin and steer clear.” For example, so many consumers have Tivo and watch pre-recorded television shows. They are able to skip over 90% of the commercials with a click of a button. Likewise, internet programs such as pop-up blockers and adware also filter out spam. With the technology boom at its peak, how can marketers find more innovative ways to market and channel their products?

That is the question I would like to address in my paper. I’m sure all the other marketers would like to know how to penetrate the cynicism consumers have today and connect with what they really want/need. One of the ways I think this can be accomplished also relates to DeLegge’s concept of relevancy. I think the best way to connect with someone is through their emotions. Marketers have to go beyond the surface needs/desires and really engage consumers’ hearts. Personalization may be an answer. Google has been doing pretty good on that aspect. They now allow you to personalize your Google homepage and place all your favorite links on one convenient webpage. Another way to better understand consumers may be to study psychoanalysis. Certain neurons and transmitters in the brain deal with memory and decision-making. If we understand the physical process in which the brain takes in information, perhaps marketers can project messages more successfully. By tapping into the human psyche and researching what really makes consumers tick, marketers will have a stronger foundation for understanding consumers and their buying behaviors.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Customer Experiences: The VW Phaeton

The new Volkswagen Phaeton commercial titled “What Hands Can Do” (watch it at consisted of numerous hand shadows on a wall to create realistic silhouettes of animals, people, and nature scenes. In Bernd Schmitt’s article, “A Framework for Managing Customer Experiences,” he mentions the 5 Strategic Experiential Modules used to develop customer experiences toward a product/service: Sense, Feel, Think, Act, and Relate. The VW commercial intends to make an impact on consumers by using most of these elements.

First, the commercial employs the sensory experience. According to Bernd, “sense” creates experiences appealing to the sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell. In the ad, the hands were very visual in creating scenes that were expressive and vivid. The fact that they were black and white in shadow form did nothing to detract from the visual stimulation consumers received. The music was also very uplifting and mystical. Furthermore, the shadow puppets adhere to an almost sublime/fantasy theme, appealing to the “feel” experience. Nature and fantasy scenes in general inspire feelings of wonder and peace, both of which are employed artlessly in the ad. Next, Bernd states that the “think” experience “engages customers’ convergent & divergent thinking through surprise, intrigue, & provocation.” At first glance, one would not think to associate the shadow puppets to the Phaeton. It is not until the end of the ad, that viewers realize the meaning behind the motto VW Phaeton: hand-made perfection. Lastly, the ad attempted to affect customers’ bodily experiences and show them an alternative lifestyle through the “act” experience. The selling point of the Phaeton is that it is completely hand-assembled, as opposed to the usual machine-made cars of rivals. VW implies that customers should experience the wonder and perfection of what pure hands can make- in this case, a vehicle like no other.

Volkswagen has always used touchpoints to better relate with customers. In order to improve their customer service, VW adopted 60 Nextel phones equipped with 4-in-1 technology tools with a digital walkie talkie feature and wireless data to help them establish more solid relationships with their customers. Furthermore, they have tapped into the mySAP Relationship Management solution to deliver an integrated, holistic view of their customers, enabling customers to communicate directly with manufacturers via phone rather than go through a dealership. Another touchpoint was VW’s branding technique. They predefined automobile advertising by moving away from convincing consumers that a car will provide a new and better lifestyle but that it would instead improve the lifestyle they already had. For example, the Beetle became a living entity and an extension of the family itself. Throughout its multiple campaigns and ads, Volkswagen touches customers by portraying itself as quirky, unique, likable, fun to drive, and affordable. The only critique I have is that the most recent Phaeton does not live up to the expectations portrayed by its commercials. It seems that the wonderful ad ends with a photo of a rather pedestrian car… not at all like the innovative advertising campaign.

The VW ad was very enjoyable and easy to evaluate, mainly because it fit most of the SEM categories and was relatively straight-forward in its appeal. However, because I’m a very visual and receptive to emotional appeals, I may have been more influenced than someone who is more fact-oriented and practical. Because different customers respond differently to the same ads, it takes great skill to be able to find a common ground that appeals to the majority. However, I think most people would agree that the Volkswagen’s campaign for the Phaeton was indeed unique and refreshing.