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With Rhonda Hooper
President and CEO
RH: No. Times of economic downturn create opportunities to exceed customer expectations while maximizing your advertising dollars.
Many companies will make the decision to cut advertising spending. Less advertising noise in the marketplace can mean greater visibility for companies.
Costs for ad space are reliant on supply and demand. During a downturn, you can get more for your money and better media placement.
Consumers don’t stop purchasing during a recession — they just look harder for better deals. Adjusting product mix, pricing and messaging to appeal to value-conscious buyers lets them know you recognize their needs and care enough to accommodate them.
In today’s world, is meeting customer expectations enough?
RH: Henry Ford once stated, shortly after creating the Model T, “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said, ‘a faster horse.’” The key to success is differentiation. Differentiating often requires meeting unrecognized needs. In 1998, FedEx opened its doors with the concept of overnight delivery, service previously thought to be logistically impossible.
The shipping industry took notice and replicated. FedEx lost its point of difference until it changed the game even further by innovating the ability to track packages.
Today’s consumers have an infinite number of product choices, which means product satisfaction no longer equals profitability and success. To succeed, a company must now surpass customer expectations.
So bottom line, if you find yourself at the top of the pyramid, don’t stop to admire the view. Immediately start looking for new ways to meet your customers’ unrecognized needs.
Some of the most admired brands attribute some of their success to “brand ambassadors.” How do ambassadors differ from customers?
RH: Apple, Harley-Davidson and Toms Shoes are great examples of companies that achieved cult status through brand ambassadorship. Cult brands go beyond “product” by promoting self-actualization, our very highest need.
Cult brands want to improve the lives of others. They want to make people feel good and they dare to be different.
For Apple consumers, their products represent self empowerment, self-fulfillment and creative thinking. By delivering a steady stream of new and innovative products, supported by messaging that cleverly portrayed Mac users as more intelligent and creative, they provided emotional fulfillment, which resulted in their customers being their most effective advertising vehicle.
It wasn’t how people felt about the products; it was how the products made people feel about themselves.
One of Harley-Davidson’s executives said, “We’re selling a 44-year-old accountant the right to dress up in leather and ride down the street making everyone in his town afraid of him.”
Harley-Davidson is not selling motorcycles; it’s selling a way of life, one that affords confidence, inclusion and the freedom of the open road.
Toms Shoes is a little different.
It’s selling the opportunity to feel good. Beautifully simplistic, yet incredibly powerful, Toms Shoes promises. For every pair of shoes one buys, Toms donates a pair to someone in need.
Customers walk away feeling good about their purchase, proud of the role they’re playing in making the world a better place and are more likely to become repeat purchasers.
In Oklahoma, I think you can find brand ambassadorship among the employees of some of our more successful energy companies.
So, how do you know if you have brand ambassadors? Your conversation with customers will increase substantially, and if people are tattooing your logo on their body parts, you’ve definitely succeeded in building a cult following.
Is social media the same thing as social media marketing?
RH: No. Social media is using Facebook to communicate with friends and family, using Twitter to vent your frustrations about the weather, or using Google+ to post links to articles you enjoy.
The concept of social-media marketing is using social media platforms to initiate dialogue with your customers for the purpose of improving company visibility, providing immediate response to consumer questions or problems, and communicating time-sensitive event and product updates.
It’s all about having a conversation with your customers — not one-way advertising to them.
And remember that silence is deadlier than dissatisfaction. It is far better to respond to a customer and risk disappointing him, than it is to ignore his complaint.
Are there any Oklahoma-centric advertising trends you want to address?
RH: Two primary ones come to mind. First, bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to advertising agencies. Yet, some of our larger Oklahoma companies have gone out of state to bigger markets for their advertising agency relationships.
One of the things that makes Oklahoma so special, regardless of industry, is the enthusiasm and sheer partisanship of its residents. Nowhere else will you find people as passionate about Oklahoma businesses as Oklahomans.
As a result, we’re losing great talent to bigger markets because our growth is stunted by lost or unrealized market share.
Oklahoma students graduating from our universities in the fields of advertising, marketing and public relations are exceptionally gifted — just look at the awards they’re winning.
Despite the fact that now more than ever, they would prefer to stay in state, we’re losing this talent to larger markets because we don’t have the jobs when they graduate.