Why Brand Love Is Just Not True Love for Marketers

Just like in our personal relationships , we cannot take brand love and loyalty for granted among our customers. We need to find ways to keep them “enchanted” enough to tell their friends about us, share our incentives and offers to their circles, and stay positive when it comes to conversations about our brand.

The movies I remember most from my childhood all centered around finding that “true love” and living happily ever after, as devoted, loyal spouses that forever tingle at the thought of each other. You know those movies, like “The Princess Diaries,” “Enchanted,” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”

Years later, it became forever clear that “true love” was really just another Hollywood notion to keep people dreaming, and watching more romance movies. Not because true love cannot be found, but because there really is not just one person for every person here on earth. At least, that’s not often the case.

Yet somehow, brands jumped onto the trend of forming brand love with customers, believing they could achieve lifelong loyalty and happily ever after fans. Not.

No, I am not a skeptic that love does not exist and cannot last. But I am a realist when it comes to the ethereal goals of marketers today. The reality of forever and true brand love is right up there with the likelihood that my favorite love flick, “Enchanted” is based on a true story.


Think about it. Is there a brand you love so so so much that you would never ever stray? And you would take a vow to remain loyal “until death do you part” and even “in sickness and health?” which in the business world is failed expectations, higher prices, faulty products, and such. Not likely.

In every category and in every  market, customers have many options of suitors vying for their attention, time, money, affection, and loyalty. And choosing a brand based on what you valued at a given time in the purchase process or phase of your life is not something you consider as permanent, no matter what the future brings. It’s just a purchase that works then and now, kind of like high school dating works for teenagers, and most often those relationships change over time.

While love for brands is certainly fleeting, it does not mean marketers should not be focused on generating as much affection for as long as we can among every customer we are fortunate enough to have.  It means we need to look at things a little differently.

For example:

  1. Look at the customers’ lifetime value differently. Don’t just focus on securing sales for as long as they are viable in your category. Look at their referral value as that is where their exponential potential comes from.
  2. Engage in referral campaigns not just loyalty campaigns. Reward customers for the value they bring you from new customers, not just their own transactions. This way you are preserving your revenue stream as they slow down and eventually move on.
  3. Pay attention. Monitor offers and incentives offered by other suitors. What new appeal do they have that you don’t offer?  Find ways to offer the same but in your own style.

Just like in our personal relationships , we cannot take brand love and loyalty for granted among our customers. We need to find ways to keep them “enchanted” enough to tell their friends about us, share our incentives and offers to their circles, and stay positive socially online and offline when it comes to conversations about our brand. Reputations last longer than most customers ever will so communications, nurturing, and keeping respect and admiration at the top of each customers’ minds will set us up to secure the next generation of customers.

How to Make Actionable Sense of Customer Sentiment Analysis

Creating a better customer experience is a top priority for most businesses, with 72% of companies saying improving CX is their No. 1 goal, according to data from Forrester. However, figuring out what drives a better user experience is a total guessing game, unless you take a deep dive into customer sentiment analysis.

Creating a better customer experience is a top priority for most businesses, with 72% of companies saying improving CX is their No. 1 goal, according to data from Forrester. However, figuring out what drives a better user experience is a total guessing game, unless you take a deep dive into customer sentiment analysis.

Understanding the responses and reactions that customers give out after using your products can help your brand immensely. Of course, conducting market research and surveys, and gathering feedback from customers are all small but essential steps toward improving your product or service, as well as its user experience. However, these reports are mostly a whole lot of confusing numbers and statistics; they offer no action plan or recommendations, or even insights on what to do next.

Making actionable sense of the numbers can be tricky, especially if there are no clear problems or opportunities that were identified through your research.

So, what should you do? Let’s go step-by-step.

Pinpoint Common Threads in Customer Reviews

While it’s typically a company’s first reaction to try to remove negative reviews that could deter future customers, these actually may be your best resource for fixing hidden issues.

About 25% of consumers have left a review for a local business because of a bad experience, but this doesn’t mean that 100% of these reviews are helpful to either companies or other customers. It’s best to turn to a reliable system here that can sift through emotionally exaggerated (and practically useless) or downright fake reviews and uncover valuable information that could point you toward better solutions.

A review platform, such as Bazaarvoice, allows brands to collect genuine ratings and reviews from customers, respond to their questions and concerns about their products, display moderated content created by customers on social media, and even implement a product sampling program based on the reviews you’ve collected.

Similarly, an interaction management tool, like Podium, gets you in the game earlier, helping you connect and interact with prospects on multiple channels. It enables team collaboration on lead generation and nurturing, as well as solving customer problems, leading to a consistent customer experience.

Customer Sentiment Analysis image
Credit: Podium.com

More customers tend to leave reviews with brands that use customer review management tools. This results in more data for your sentiment research, eventually ensuring better targeting and success of your product marketing campaigns.

Watch out for repeated keywords throughout these reviews, such as issues with customer service, packaging, delivery, or pricing. Looking for patterns in your customer reviews lies at the core of identifying the problems and coming up with solutions.

Use Smart Segmentation

Customers never fit into the one-size-fits-all category. Even if you cater to a small niche or if your product has a very specific use, there will be subsets, segments, and cohorts, all influenced by varying demographics and regulations, who could affect opinions of your business. This is why smart segmentation is important when reviewing customer sentiment analysis.

Again, these segments may need different targeting strategies, depending on whether your company is a B2C or B2B entity.


B2C marketers need to look at the:

  • age:
  • location:
  • income: and
  • in-the-moment needs of their customers.


B2B marketers, on the other hand, need to address non-personal variances, such as:

  • company size:
  • budget; or
  • objectives.

By pairing demographic and quantitative data, customer sentiment may make more sense and provide even deeper insight than before. For instance, customers who are motivated by finding the best deal may say that your shipping costs are too high; whereas, customers with FOMO may be ready to pay extra for next-day delivery. When you have multiple datasets of behavioral data that you can compare against one another, your team can understand how to cater to various customer segments by understanding their motivations.

Note that customer “segments” vary from “profiles” or “personas.” They are not as specific, and typically only focus on one or two variables rather than a list of unique qualities. There are countless ways to segment your audience, so be sure to find the segmentation model that best fits your business.

Customer Sentiment Analysis photo
Credit: MeaningCloud.com

Identify Engagement Intent

Understanding the “why” behind your customer’s actions will shed some light on their sentiment reactions. Your expectations always influence your experience, so a customer’s engagement intent could play a part in their response.

The rise of search as a marketing channel has made it clear that there are essentially four engagement intent categories that consumers fall into today:

  • informational;
  • navigational;
  • commercial; and
  • transactional.

Each of these steps correlates well with the traditional AIDA sales funnel model.


The first is searching for information on a particular subject that may or may not be a problem for them. These are typically prospects who are just entering the marketing funnel. They simply want to know more, so if your website does not offer the information they are looking for, their interest in your brand or product will not develop at all.


People in the navigational category are looking for a specific product, service, or piece of content. This group knows what they want, and they will be easily frustrated if they can’t find it.


The commercial investigation intent group is interested in buying, but they just aren’t quite ready yet or aren’t convinced that your product offers the best solution for them. They fall just above the action segment of the sales funnel and are often looking for the last bits of information before they make a purchase.


And finally, the transactional group has the intent to buy. They have already made their decision to buy a specific product; however, any hiccups in the buying or checkout process could deter them.

Identifying Engagement Intent

Of course, identifying their engagement intent is a little tricky, especially after the interaction has been completed. But with some digging and martech tools, there are ways to figure out the motivations behind every brand-customer engagement.

One of the clearest ways to identify engagement intent is through carrying out intent research, attribution modeling, and analyzing their behavior on your digital property. If they just read a post on your blog, chances are they were looking for more information on a topic related to your industry. If they clicked an ad and filled up a form on your landing page, they are probably interested in availing themselves of your service.

Once their intent has been identified and understood, it will be much easier to understand their sentiment post brand engagement or product usage.

Experiment With Changes

Finally, the only way to make customer analysis actionable is to, well, take action. However, just switching things up without constantly analyzing the results will only put you back at Square One.

Many marketers rely on A/B/n or multivariate testing strategies to compare different changes, whether it be in the design or layout to an entire product or service experience. However, A/B testing can be a long and arduous process that yields murky results. It may even mislead you, if you over-rely on seasonal or contextual variables. Unsurprisingly, AI technology has been a huge help in the A/B testing realm by improving the accuracy and reliability of the process, resulting in few conversion opportunities lost.

AI-based algorithms are able to gather and analyze massive amounts of data at a time. They can compare results of multiple tests against each other simultaneously at various interaction points along the buyer journey.

Tools like Evolv use machine learning (ML) to find which experiences and customer journey paths work best (make profits) for you and nudge customers down those paths accordingly. You can set up experiments on your landing pages with goals and KPIs, and let the algorithm tweak the UX for each customer by presenting various combinations. The data from these experiments help you understand how satisfied the customer is with the interaction, and also develop new hypotheses to keep testing further or make decisions related to product development or service delivery.

The Way Ahead

By understanding the root causes behind your customer’s reactions and feelings, you can go as far as to influence sentiment, improve brand loyalty ,and encourage advocacy. Always be looking for overlaps and commonalities among complaints. This will help you avert PR disasters, deliver exceptional customer service, and stay ahead of the competition.

Use sentiment analysis to understand where your customers are coming from by segmenting them and uncovering their intents at every interaction. Finally, track the effects of all your initiatives and take action responsibly to ensure they stay delighted at all times.

The Secrets Behind 3 Great Optichannel Experiences

How can any business build a positive brand relationship with its consumers? The only way to do that in 2020 is to create awesome optichannel customer experiences. People don’t remember your marketing; they remember how it feels to do business with you.

In 2020, every consumer will be interacting with marketing content across a thousand channels all the time — by some estimates, they already see as many as 5,000 ads each day. It’s a cacophony of impersonal, untargeted media that barely makes an impact. But if everyone is bombarded by marketing media constantly, how can any business build a positive brand relationship with its consumers? The only way to do that in 2020 is to create awesome optichannel customer experiences. People don’t remember your marketing; they remember how it feels to do business with you. And the optichannel experience is what leaves them with a positive or negative feeling.

Here are three companies that have made a science of optichannel customer experiences, and what your brand can learn from them.

Leverage Identity Like Neiman Marcus

Customer identity crosses into the retail-online threshold, but not enough brands use it to improve the customer experience. Neiman Marcus does.

It starts as soon as customers enter the store. Interactive directories and “Memory Mirror” smart monitors allow them to have a digitally enhanced fitting room experience. Meanwhile, the retailer’s app enables users to take pictures of outfits in the real world and then use augmented reality to match them with similar looks from its catalog. This comes together to create an award-winning omnichannel retail experience that empowers consumers and removes barriers along the buying journey.

Neiman Marcus also leverages that information to personalize the e-commerce, email and direct mail experience of every customer. “Identity is the core of personalization,” says VP of Customer Insight and Analytics Jeff Rosenfield, “and if you don’t get it right, you’re not talking to the entirety of that customer.”

The retailer put these ideas into practice with several CX features. For example, when you search for specific sizes on the Neiman Marcus website, your visits will start using those sizes by default. Email and printed direct mail pieces then feature items you looked at, and sales offers are tied to your user data.

What Makes Neiman Marcus’s Optichannel Strategy Successful

Identifying visitors and targeting them with optichannel marketing across social networks, online ads, direct mail, and email is within every business’s reach. You just need to dive into the data to make it happen.

The first step is to resolve customer identity. Ideally, you should have a way for them to log-in to the website and a good incentive for them to stay logged in. Loyalty programs and member discounts are great ways to do this. The insights you glean from logged-in user sessions should be collected and used to optimize your overarching strategy as well as that individual’s user experience.

Cookies and user session data will allow you to note where they went and what they did on your website. Even in a retail store, you can still note what customers bought or what they asked your salespeople about and add it to a customer profile. When that customer interacted with your brand, what did they do? Did they focus on one product category? One set of sizes? Are they moved by certain discounts or occasions?

Identifying these kinds of user behaviors and supplementing them with demographic data creates a predictive-marketing tool you can use to improve your campaigns. Follow-up emails can feature products in their favorite categories and discounts on the things they looked at most. Instead of sending the same mail piece to every address on your file, you can use customer segmentation based on demographics and behavior to create targeted mailings for each segment that specifically leverage their buying factors.

These tactics are viable in industries with more complex sales cycles than retail, too.

Bring the Magic to Life Like Disney World

Walt Disney World gives its customers the automated equivalent of white-glove concierge service across every touchpoint of the optichannel journey. Families move from booking on a mobile-responsive website to planning trip details on the My Disney Experience app to a next-generation resort stay powered by “magic band” technology. The magic bands use NFC tech to act as tickets, wallets, line-cut free passes and more.

Each step is personal and empowering. Disney recognizes its customers from the first touch to the last and uses everything it knows to deliver an ultra-convenient vacation experience. The resort truly creates optichannel magic by empowering its customers across every channel.

What Makes Disney World’s Optichannel Strategy Successful

You may not be able to give every customer a piece of technology as cool as magic bands, but you can connect the dots of their activities across channels and use the data to deliver white-glove concierge experiences of your own.

Try to remove as much frustration from the buyer’s journey as possible. Whether a “visit” happens on a website, phone or face-to-face, try to capture where they came from and what they did. Use that data to identify what they want and to make every future experience with your brand easier and more magical.

What that looks like will vary by brand, but the key is to understand the customer journey and smooth out the steps that cause friction. Is it hard for customers to find items they looked at previously? Try to bring them back up if they revisit the site, or perhaps promote them via targeted web and social media ads. Can you position follow-up emails so they speak to the products they looked at and remove buying obstacles? Can you identify special offers based on user behavior that will make it easier for them to say yes? Are there come customer behaviors that indicate a sales phone call would be welcome?

Make Local Personal Like MB Financial

There are more than 430,000 small businesses in Chicago, where MB Financial had 86 local branches. However, MB was not connecting with any of those businesses. To these prospects, the bank was just another old, faceless institution. So it set out to put the real managers from those branches on its  “MB Is Me” optichannel campaign to create personal connections and generate leads.

The campaign ran print, radio and digital media ads throughout the area featuring four messages: MB Financial delivers the personal attention you want, the banking services you need, business advice you can use, and business connections you wouldn’t expect.

Those ads set the stage, but the real conversion piece was a localized direct mail campaign that featured the local branch managers talking directly to the small business owners they served. Using customer propensity models — like response lift modeling — the bank identified 30,000 small businesses that were likely prospects and sent postcards to each of those businesses from the manager of the closest branch.

The postcards were versioned for each branch’s business area. They featured professional photos of the branch manager, a personal message, and an invitation to call their direct phone numbers. There was also an offer to get up to $550 in bonus cash for opening an account and/or line of credit.

The optichannel campaign built trust in MB Financial’s commitment to small business banking needs, and the direct mail piece converted a 205% increase in sales leads.

What Makes MB Financial’s Optichannel Strategy Successful

This is the only campaign we’ve discussed that specifically focuses on lead generation and customer acquisition, but it shows the power of optichannel experiences in generating qualified leads.

By extending optichannel strategies to outbound marketing, MB Financial created personal connections in a faceless marketing environment. Customer modeling, personalized creative and strategic channel execution all work together to form your next customer’s impressions.

Every prospect experiences your brand as an optichannel phenomenon. The campaigns they see shape the reaction they will have to your direct marketing.

MB Financial tied those pieces together. It didn’t need to be personalized to the individual level, just versioned so every prospect business was able to personally connect with and recognize their local branch managers.

From public messaging to targeted engagement to a personal experience: That’s how optichannel marketing continues to change the game.

Were Publishers the First DTC Brands? How 2 Areas of Marketing Align

DTC brands are hot entities. Practically any consumer product can be translated to a paid subscription business model. As a direct result, circulation and subscription marketing professionals have become very attractive new hires to the growing bevy of direct-to-consumer brands.

DTC brands are hot entities. Practically any consumer product can be translated to a paid subscription business model.

As a direct result, circulation and subscription marketing professionals — a mainstay of the direct marketing discipline for decades — have become very attractive new hires to the growing bevy of direct-to-consumer brands. In reverse, too — publishers are enriching their content offerings for their customers in service to them, acting as DTC brands, themselves.

That was a main thrust at a recent joint meeting of the Direct Marketing Club of New York and The Media and Content Marketing Association. The joint meeting, titled “What DTC Brands and Publishers Can Learn from Each Other in Today’s Subscription Economy,” allowed publishers to exchange ideas with DTC brand reps and others.

DTC brands meeting
Source: DMCNY, Twitter @dmcny | Direct-to-Consumer Brands, Publishers and their Admirers exchange perspectives around customer value and experiences.

“Magazines are the original DTC,” said Mike Schanbacher, director of growth marketing at Quip, a subscription business for toothbrushes and dental care,. He noted that traditional circulation metrics, such as lifetime value and churn rates, very much factor in the business and marketing plans of a subscription commerce company.

Alec Casey, CMO of Trusted Media Brands Inc. (TMBI, which manages 13 brands, among them Reader’s Digest), described how his business continually explores expansion of product and content — to books, book series, music and video — and potentially podcasts and subscriber boxes.

“We are always DTC,” he said, meaning that customers’ interests drive every brand extension in the company.

Data can reveal interesting patterns, he noted. Visitors to Family Handyman digital content is 50% men, 50% women, for example, while print content is dominated by men.

DTC Is High-Speed

One hallmark of the newest DTC brands is velocity.

“When bananas and avocados are sitting in the warehouse beneath you, there’s urgency,” said Tammy Barentson, CMO of Fresh Direct, who previously had had a lengthy career in publishing with Time, Meredith, Hearst, and Conde Nast. Innovations are sought for and tested constantly … and rapidly: “There’s a mindset here … ‘That bombed. What did we learn?’’ ” she said, which is a marked change from her previous publishing posts, where testing was more considered.

Barentson also noted that the Fresh Direct executive team meets every morning to listen in collectively on each department’s dashboard of metrics — and that can inspire action.

“There’s a lot I can learn from operations and customer service data,” she said. “For example, how many deliveries are made per hour might tell me geographies where I might focus more customer acquisition.” Her own team pores through subscription data — who orders groceries one, two or three times a week, or just for special events — “how do we bring them up the food chain?” she quipped.

One of the first publishers to capitalize on digital was Forbes and Forbes.com, said Nina LaFrance, who is Forbes’ lead for consumer marketing and business development. Today, the corporation’s digital sites generate 80 million unique visits per month — but it’s the drill-down on the data that is perhaps the most exciting, enabling Forbes to help advertisers connect with customers across print, digital, programmatic display, brand voice, social channels, live events, apps, webinars, and more. Forbes has its own in-house studio to help brands develop content for marketing across the portfolio.

“We adapt and embrace,” LaFrance said, responding to the all the challenges and opportunities presented to publishers and DTC brands alike — issues, such as coping with “walled gardens,” tech giants, privacy laws, data restrictions and regulations, and the Cookie Apocalypse.

Communities Are Sticky

A common theme expressed by the panel was the desire to create a sense of “membership” and “community” — going beyond the transaction to create “stickiness.” That’s where content development matters. “

At Quib, we try and give a membership feel,” Schanbacher said. “Data is the goal,” noting the better consumer understanding and insights that come from content engagement, data collection, and analysis.

However, not every piece of content translates equally to profit, LaFrance reports.

“Visitors to our home page, or who respond to direct mail, may be more profitable to us than those who link to an article from a social post,” she says — and the ability to measure that customer value across channels is a success, in its own right.

Which is probably the most valuable insight of all. These professionals — DTC brands and publishers — revere how data serves, bolsters, and builds the customer relationship, and they have all pursued a shared culture for measurement, insight, and application to build the brands, build the business, and connect to consumer experience. As subscription commerce grows — it has doubled in the past five years — we know how invaluable such data reverence can be.

How to Use Sentiment Analysis to Transform Your Digital Marketing Strategy

The goal of sentiment analysis is to increase customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction. Moreover, it helps put the right brand messaging in front of the most interested eyes.

Sentiment analysis is a fascinating concept.

Brands use it to better understand customer reactions, behaviors, and opinions toward their products, services, reputation, and more. The goal of sentiment analysis is to increase customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction. Moreover, it helps put the right brand messaging in front of the most interested eyes.

Before the digital age, gauging and understanding sentiment was an incredibly cumbersome process. It typically involved sending out surveys manually, going to the streets and asking people, or gathering focus groups in one place at one time. The big data-infused model of sentiment analysis we know today hit its stride on the political scene in 2010. Since then, it has morphed into a key tactic in marketing plans. These days, most of the grunt work is automated.

However, even with all of the advances in areas like martech, voice search, conversational commerce on social media, virtual assistants, and big data analytics, understanding how to actually use sentiment analysis to improve the bottom line is a complicated task.

Here are a few key approaches to help you get the value you need.

Know the Terms and Phrases That Indicate Intent

Most businesses today (hopefully) don’t even begin their digital branding and marketing efforts without a list of keywords relevant to their industry and a plan on how to target their audiences. You should have a good idea of the terms and variations that bring you traffic to your website, when used in conjunction with your brand and products. If you run an auto repair shop, people are likely finding you on the web through terms such as: body shop near me, auto repair, replace brake pads, etc.

Google Search Console gives you a great, fairly accurate idea of what’s bringing people to your website:

google search console
Credit: Author’s own

In terms of sentiment analysis, to gain actionable insight, you need to know how people are using these keywords in a way that indicates interest and engagement potential. Now, this is perhaps the biggest gray area in sentiment analysis, because not all positive sentiment equates to sales. Just because there are a lot of positive words around luxury cars doesn’t necessarily mean people are about to buy.

However, there are certain terms and phrases that signal people have entered your buyer’s journey. Let’s say you run an SEO agency and one of the terms you’re tracking for sentiment analysis is “Google update.” If you notice that a lot of people are searching for things like “what to do after a google algorithm update?” or “how to recover from a google penalty?” it’s a good indicator that they might need your services at the moment; you should target them accordingly.

Spot Patterns in Product Reviews

At its core, sentiment analysis is a game of pinpointing patterns and reading between the lines. Simply put, the more genuine and meaningful feedback you get on your product, the better insights you will gain into your customers.

Of course, gathering such high-quality feedback is easier planned than executed; especially for newer or smaller companies. Only 10% of customers will review or rate a business after a purchase, while half of consumers will leave a review only some of the time. However, the number of reviews jump significantly to 68% when a company asks the customer directly to leave one.

In order to find fruitful, up-to-date patterns, you need to make it a marketing process to consistently seek out new reviews. Then, you’ll want to start by searching for common adjectives. These should include words like:

  • great, simple, easy,
  • or awful, difficult, poor, etc.
trustpilot review
Credit: Capterra.com

In the above image, there are a good amount of reviews that include the word “great” for this product. Looking at the context around this term, we notice recurring patterns around components, like features and usability, and “not so” great opinions on customer service.

Finding recurring themes in customer sentiment will give you a better picture into the positive and negative aspects of your business or product. These can indicate the level of trust people have in your brand and how likely they are to give you a recommendation. When you are looking for patterns, try to come up with several adjectives that shed light on both sides of the spectrum.

  • What words are commonly used to describe their experience?
  • Is there an issue that forces multiple people to leave negative reviews?
  • What part delights them the most?
  • What’s preventing you from solving common problems?
  • Which products or solutions are users comparing yours to?

The answers to these important questions can help you understand user sentiment better and build a customer-focused marketing strategy.

Look to Social Media for Unabashed (Unfiltered) Opinions

Oftentimes, social media is one of the best places to get raw opinions, where people don’t hold back —  both in positive and negative lights. Knowing how people feel in an unfiltered environment can be a great way to tell which parts of your business are working very well —  and not so well.

A social listening platform is an important tool to keep in your portfolio for monitoring online mentions and gathering important datasets. Tools like Mention, Talkwalker, and Brand24, not only keep an ear on social mentions, but also turn these comments and hashtags into valuable customer analytics to help your marketing team understand your customers even better.

For instance, the online gaming developer Wargaming used brand monitoring techniques to analyze its customer’s desires and see which products performed best. The company tracked its users’ social media conversations to see what they were looking for, what parts of the games they liked or disliked, and any suggestions they offered for improvements.

Similarly, you can use a social listening tool to combine all your brand mentions into one database, giving your marketing team a bird’s eye view of audience sentiment on social platforms and identify areas to work on.

Credit: Talkwalker.com

While gathering this sentiment is good, the most important thing is knowing what to do with it. About 83% of customers who make a social mention of a brand —  specifically, a negative one —  expect a response within a day, and 18% want one immediately. Unfortunately, a majority of these mentions go unanswered, which can really impact a brand’s image. By utilizing an effective real-time social listening program, you can not only stay on top of social buzz, you can intervene and reply to any negative sentiment right away.

Some of the next steps will be fairly obvious, especially when you’re dealing with negative feedback. For instance, if your customer sentiment from social listening reveals that people are having trouble updating their software or there are issues with the product itself, this indicates that some redesign is necessary. However, don’t get too comfortable when you are getting positive reactions —  these tend to trick companies into thinking that no improvements are needed.

This kind of feedback can support a stronger marketing strategy. Let’s say your business sells pool supplies. While your customers may not be tweeting about your great chlorine chemicals, they are more likely talking about the fun pool floaties and games your website sells. Therefore, it would be helpful to highlight these fun accessories, as well, by listing them more prominently on your page and even including UGC to promote them.

Credit: Instagram

Use Predictive Analysis to Spot Trends and Automate Actions

Now that you have all these valuable insights, you need to know how you can use them to shape your current and future business strategies.

Plugging your sentiment analysis into a predictive model is crucial for spotting trends, getting a feel for how opinions are progressing, and determining your next steps. Predictive analytics use machine learning and AI technology to not only gather, but analyze loads of consumer data and make accurate projections. These systems gauge historical behavioral data to help determine the best plan of action in the future.

In fact, customer segmentation and targeting (which is the logical next step after you analyze your audience’s sentiments) is one of the areas where applying AI and predictive analytics has the highest chance of working well for business.

applications of AI
Credit: Emerj.com

In order to develop an optimal predictive model for sentiment analysis, ask yourself:

  • What do you want to know?
  • What is the expected outcome? What do you think your customers are thinking?
  • What actions will you take to improve overall sentiment when you get the answers? How will you automate these actions?
  • What are the success metrics for these actions?

The Wrap

Chances are, your customers are already telling you what you need to make improvements to your business. By gathering as much data as possible on customer sentiment, your marketing team can understand just what needs to be done to provide a better experience, tweak campaigns accordingly, and acquire and retain more customers in the process.

Be sure you know what to data to collect, how to mine it, and how to apply it to keep raking in the revenue.

The Silent Killers for Brands Aren’t What Marketers Expect

What marketers expect is that we marketers must address human emotion when building out a customer experience. How we address these emotions can make the difference between brands that survive chaotic times and those that do not.

As much as we like hitting the snooze button when those wake-up calls come in “the morning after,” the results can often turn the best dreams into nightmares.

Recall the day after the 2016 presidential election, when thousands took to the streets, protesting and chanting “Not My President”? One of the many insights that came out of those protests was the fact that many of those protesting had not even voted. They, like countless other voter-age American citizens, had taken it for granted that their candidate was so far ahead in the polls that they didn’t have to make the effort to stand in line and fill out the bubbles on their ballot. One vote won’t change the outcome, right?

Complacency not only elected a president who has very likely been the most controversial and least respected of any U.S. president in decades, but it contributed to a change in the American psyche. People seem to be more outspoken about their opinions on politics and politicians than in the past, and don’t seem to hold back their corresponding emotions much, either. Many select their tribe, based upon posts and likes that support their now very vocal positions on issues and the people behind them. The lines seem to be drawn and few seem to be willing to change, or even smudge the boundaries.

The display of emotions around Trump’s election are examples of the human emotions we marketers must address when building out a customer experience. How we address these emotions can make the difference between brands that survive chaotic times and those that do not. As marketers, we are constantly developing programs to keep customers positively charged about our brands — enthusiastic, excited, engaged, and delighted.

What we don’t take time to do much is assess our own emotions about our customers.

  • Are we as excited about them as we want them to be about us?
  • Are we delighted when we engage with them?
  • Or are we, like many voters in 2016, apathetic and complacent?

These are important questions to ask ourselves. Consumers have learned to not sit quietly, to not take situations for granted, and they have learned to build consensus and communities to support their views and opinions and help others do the same.

This week while visiting Boston, my daughters witnessed voter registration taking place outside the Statehouse — where people were being sworn in as citizens. Voter registration groups did not take for granted that these new citizens would go register on their own and go vote now that they could. They made it easy, simple, and fast to register and join their “tribe” of voters ready for Election Day 2020.

Reverse marketing tactics are key for brands to really engage in mutually beneficial relationships. Consider doing to your own teams what you do with your customers:

  1. Survey Your Marketing, Sales, Customer Care, and All Employees who interact with your customers. Ask them how they feel about customers. Do they enjoy interacting with customers? Do they find it fulfilling to fill a need? Close a deal? Exceed expectations? Why and Why not? Are customers appreciative, grateful, or just going through the actions? These answers will tell you a lot about your customers’ attitudes toward your brand.
  2. Create Branding Campaigns for Your Staff. Communicate the emotional value you offer customers to your staff, so they can strive to create similar emotional outcomes in each interaction. And then create experiences that create those same experiences for employees. Delight your employees. Trigger those feelings of dopamine and oxytocin that create a sense of belonging. When you love your tribe, you love to get others to join to validate your place in that world. If this weren’t so, religions wouldn’t have missionaries who succeed in bringing others to the fold.
  3. Offer Loyalty: What are you doing to keep your employees loyal? It goes beyond just delighting them with ping pong tables, draft beer, on-site laundry, and other perks. What are you doing to create communities that make them feel secure and appreciated, like the communities you create online to make your customers feel like they belong to something really cool that other brands do not offer? Fun, collaborative, and rewarding communities matter and they make us want to stay with that community, despite attractive offers.

While we are building relationships with our staff and customers, keeping the staff our customers learn to love is critical! That seriously needs to take priority over customers’ loyalty, as losing one staff member who 10 customers depend on and love to work with could lose us 10 loyal customers. Not a small loss.

Complacency not only elects unlikely candidates, it kills brands. Just these three simple steps can create the kind of engagement between employees and your customers that take price and competitors out of the equation at the same time!

Here’s the Customer Psychology You’ve Shown You Care About, Marketers

Customer psychology helps marketers design campaigns. Emotion drives many purchases, even in B2B circles. And considering all I write about is customer psychology, let’s look at what aspects of it interested you the most during these past six months.

Customer psychology helps marketers design campaigns. Emotion drives many purchases, even in B2B circles. And considering all I write about is customer psychology, let’s look at what aspects of it interested you the most during these past six months.

The science behind this analysis is based on posts you’ve clicked on and read, according to Target Marketing’s site analytics. These appear to be persistent favorites, as I only published one of them during the past six months. So you’ve been interested in and reading these posts for awhile — one since 2016. Parse.ly says these are the top posts you’ve read, marketers:

‘Persuasive Copy That Sells: It’s Not About the Words’

This opinion piece from Jan. 15 is your clear favorite, with almost four times as many hits as No. 4, “3 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers to Reduce Churn.”

So the psychology behind how you communicate with your customers is top-of-mind for marketers.

The column says:

“Smart consumers don’t believe marketing any more. We’ve used those lines way too long and not delivered on promises we’ve made. Conscious choices are built upon values, personality and giving natures of brands.”

Among the post’s 17 comments, many of which disagreed with me, is this from “Tony, the Pitiful Copywriter”:

“I find it easier to test and measure the results of an offer than a touchy-feely campaign. Don’t get me wrong, those campaigns are cool and moving the needle forward for someone. At the end of the day (hate that phrase), I gotta sell stuff to customers.”

He has a point. But that point may be missing the big picture. My response was:

“Hi Tony, thanks for reading and commenting. Traditional marketing will never go away. At the same time, the ROI and response will never be what it was years ago; and I don’t believe it will match the results we get now from highly relevant, psychologically based marketing [campaigns]. I see it in my own work. My copy that engages what matters deep in a person’s psyche has produced 20-year champions for brands across B2B and B2C. Price engages, of course; but not as much as it used to … Just read Cone Communications’ reports on how it matters less than CSR to about 90% of consumers today.”

‘What’s Your Brand Schema?’ 

This post from Nov. 1, 2016, is No. 2.

This is still true:

“Chances are, you don’t know what I’m talking about and creating your brand schema has never been a line item on your marketing to-do list. Yet in today’s cluttered word of information overload, understanding schema is more critical than polishing your content, engagement and customer service strategies. True, because if you don’t understand the schema that drives the attitudes, beliefs and interest in your brand, your other programs simply won’t work.

“So what is schema? Simply put, psychologists define our collective preconceived ideas about just about anything as schema or our mental framework of thoughts, attitudes, beliefs that drive our values and behavior. Our schemas produce automatic thoughts on which our opinions and beliefs are built, and no amount of evidence can change our minds. Just like Facebook posts, political speeches and debates don’t change our voting choices, brands’ promises, messages and claims don’t change our attitudes or propensity to engage if they don’t meet our ‘reality,’ which is based upon what we choose to believe vs. what brands want us to believe. As mentioned in last month’s post on marketing messages falling on deaf ears, we even choose which scientific evidence to believe and what not to believe.

“For marketing purposes, schema is your customers’ ‘reality’ vs. your own. And when the two don’t twine, you spend a lot of time effort and money on marketing that just doesn’t produce results that will reach your company’s goals and advance your individual career. Not good, either way.”

‘The Psychology of Rewards’

Marketers have evolved loyalty programs a lot since my post from Aug. 15, 2017. But customers’ motivations for joining the programs haven’t changed.

Extrinsic motivation, or our behavior which is driven by the anticipation of being rewarded by others for engaging in specific behaviors, drives much of the choices we make in life — how we perform our jobs and what products we chose to buy.

“And down deep, that motivation is linked to what I’ve said before is our greatest psychological driver: our survival DNA. Unconsciously, rewards help us feel like we are getting closer to that place in life where we have what we need to survive the daily battle to fulfill needs and wants that propel us ahead of the pack.”

‘3 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers to Reduce Churn’

Even though customers are telling brands that customer experience is more and more important to them, they’re becoming less and less satisfied with how well marketers are providing these experiences.

The post from May 7 cites research from Qualtrics-owned Temkin Group and my interview with David Morris, CMO of Proformex, marketing advisor to Resilience Capital, and respected authority on SaaS marketing.

He says:

“We spend thousands of dollars and huge amounts of time marketing to customers, and in some cases, a year or more to convert a lead to a customer. And then we lose a customer in a matter of months. When this happens, you spend a lot more money getting customers than you get back in revenue, and that is not a sustainable way to operate a business.”


Based on all of this, it seems as though marketers are serious about understanding their customers. This is good news for everyone. Because I love talking with you about customer psychology. Is there anything I haven’t covered that you’d like to talk about? I’ll read your suggestions in the comments section below.

3 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers to Reduce Churn

Here’s the backdrop for our customer experience story. It takes most organizations months to onboard new employees to get them to full productivity. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resources Management, an effective onboarding program can take 12 months.

Here’s the backdrop for our customer experience story. It takes most organizations months to onboard new employees to get them to full productivity. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resources Management, an effective onboarding program can take 12 months. (Opens as a PDF)

Onboarding, defined on Wikipedia as “organizational socialization,” is the process by which employees gain the knowledge and skills to succeed at their jobs, and assimilate into the culture of the organization, becoming valued and contributing members of the “tribe.”

Without carefully planned and executed employee onboarding programs, employee attrition goes up, and so does corporate waste, as it costs about nine months of an employees’ salary to terminate and start over again.

This same principle applies to customer loyalty and the very high cost of losing even just one customer. Yet it’s hard to find “onboarding” programs for customers that are as robust as those for employees. Even with the cost of losing a customer being much higher than the loss of a middle management employee. When you lose a customer, you lose not just the cost of acquiring that customer, you lose the next transaction you were counting on, and you lose their entire lifetime value, which can be pretty substantial in the B2B world.

This is where a carefully concerted and executed customer experience becomes mission-critical to any businesses’ success. Interestingly enough, Qualtrics-owned Temkin Group, which conducts regular customer experience rating studies, shows that customers’ satisfaction with brand experiences is dropping. Those rating customers’ experiences as “good” or “excellent” has dropped to 38 percent, or 7 percent lower in 2018 than in 2017.

customer experience graph
Credit: Temkin Group

David Morris, CMO of Proformex, marketing advisor to Resilience Capital, and respected authority on SaaS marketing, has founded and led many businesses to exceptional growth by focusing on customer experience above all else. His mantra for success is really one simple step that if neglected could put any business out of business:


This simple mandate seems like one of those no-brainers for most of you reading this article; yet, if you really did an audit of your business, you’d likely find, like most businesses today, that many of your team members are so focused on getting more and more customers to meet those sales quotas that they are not all that engaged with whom they just sold.

Per Morris, “We spend thousands of dollars and huge amounts of time marketing to customers, and in some cases, a year or more to convert a lead to a customer. And then we lose a customer in a matter of months. When this happens, you spend a lot more money getting customers than you get back in revenue, and that is not a sustainable way to operate a business.”

To stop the craziness and profit bleeding from the above cycle, Morris suggests some simple tactics to re-engage customers through experiences that create the kind of partnerships and added values that take competitors and price out of the equation.

Make Sure Your Customers Are Actually Using Your Product

Nothing kills customer satisfaction ratings like customers who have not gotten around to using the products you sell them. Again, this sounds obvious. But it’s not. Professionals often sign up for SaaS licenses, marketing tools, and systems that they don’t get around to using or put off when training becomes more timely than planned. And quite often, they never get around to telling you. So when it’s time to renew, they go elsewhere.

Utilize the Tool of Face Time

And Morris doesn’t mean online. Get out to your customers office, take them to lunch, talk about the weather, sport teams, your kids. Just get out there and establish some positive energy in real time. In a world where time is one of the most valuable assets we have, giving time to someone is often more valuable than anything tangible you can offer. Customer satisfaction goes up when customers feel they are appreciated, valued and recognized for their achievements, roles and needs. Spending “real time” in the “real” vs. digital world is one of the strongest methods for building long-term customer relations, as Morris teaches his staff and uses himself.

Establish Reciprocal Transparency

Ask customers the tough questions, suggests Morris. And his definition of tough does not include, “What is your budget,” or “How quickly can you buy?” Tough to him includes, “How are we doing? What can we do better? How do we compare to others you’ve used? And how do we need to change to earn your loyalty?” Its tough when someone points out your failures and shortcomings, but until you face them and buck up to change them, you cannot succeed in securing customer loyalty, and frankly many other areas of business and life, in general.


To succeed in business today, you must have a plan for a customer journey that addresses every step of the way, every touchpoint, and is aligned with KPIs across your business. Creating customer journeys and experiences that result in customer satisfaction is really a simple process, as Morris points out. The key is commitment. Get commitment to a consistent process, experience and outcome for every customer, every day, vertically and horizontally within your organization. Start small, grow big and enjoy long-lasting relationships that generate sustainable revenue streams and strong ROMIs.

7 Privacy UX Tips From a Privacy and Marketing Expert

There are all kinds of marketing awards, but how about one for privacy UX? How do you make your customers comfortable with your privacy user experience? It’s not just agencies — but ad tech and martech companies, data providers, analytics firms and even management consulting firms that are in the data-driven mix.

Do we need to have an award for a better Privacy UX?

With the Association of National Advertisers’ acquisition of the Data & Marketing Association last year came new ownership, too, of the International ECHO Awards. As a lover of data-driven marketing (and an ECHO Governor), it’s very exciting to see brands recognize the strategic role of data in driving more relevant consumer (and business) engagement, and the myriad ad and data partners that brands rely on to make this engagement happen.

It’s not just agencies — but ad tech and martech companies, data providers, analytics firms and even management consulting firms that are in the data-driven mix. These are the facilitators of today’s consumer intelligence that forms the basis for smarter and more efficient brand communication. Some folks even eschew the term “advertising” as we move into a world where branded and even non-branded content underlie data-inspired storytelling that are hallmarks of today’s forward-thinking campaigns.

By the way, the call for entries for this year’s ECHO Awards (to be presented March 2020 as ANA moves what was the DMA conference from this Fall to next Spring) is happening soon — though the entry portal is now open. Let me know if you’d like an invite to the launch party in New York (Wednesday, May 22, in the afternoon).

An Important Part of Brand-Consumer Dialogue — Privacy Notices

One category that won’t be part of this year’s ECHOs is related to privacy-specific communication from brands.

You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. Again and again — all over our smartphone and laptops … communications asking for our consent for cookies, for newsletters, for device recognition, for terms and conditions — all in an effort to help enable data collection to serve the brand-consumer value exchange and subsequent dialogue.

Some of this is mandated from Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, with halo impact in other nations and markets. Others are anticipating such notice requirements from California’s forthcoming privacy and advertising law. Still others are simply adopting heightened transparency (and choice) as part of self-regulatory and best practices regimes, where no laws may yet exist.

All of this devoted to one objective: getting a consumer (or business individual) to say “yes” to data collection about them, their devices and digital behaviors, in an effort to serve them better.

This week, during the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ Global Privacy Summit 2019 in Washington, DC, one expert — Darren Guarnaccia, Chief Product Officer, Crownpeak — offered some research insights from some 17 million preference experiences that Crownpeak has helped to facilitate on behalf of its brands. These experiences are focused on Europe in light of GDPR, but the findings offer good counsel to any brand that is thinking through its privacy UX.

Some Privacy Communications Concepts to Test

Here are just a few of the tips Guarnaccia reported:

  • Privacy Notices are Not Just a Matter of Compliance: Yes, they may be legally required in some jurisdictions – but more vitally, they should be treated with the same discipline and care of any other branded communication. Because the ultimate goal is to earn trust — going beyond compliance and permission. As a result, the whens, wheres and hows of such notices are vital to test and perfect.
  • Avoiding Legal Penalty Is Table Stakes — We Ought to Design Such Notices for Higher Purpose: To extend the previous point on consumer trust, there’s a higher price to pay if a privacy notice simply meets a legal expectation, and nothing more. Many consumers have gone “stealth” — using ad blockers and going incognito on browsers. We must remind, convince or persuade consumers of the value a brand seeks to offer in exchange for permissions and consents for data collection, analysis and application. Are we extending such notice in plain language at the right time?
  • Brand’ the Privacy Communication: This may seem obvious — but it’s often overlooked. Does the privacy notice look like it’s coming from the brand — or from somewhere else (such as a browser or ad tech partner)? In gaining consent, it’s always superior for the notice to be owned, cared and looked after by the brand itself — even if a third-party (such as an ad tech provider) is facilitating the notice. Does the creative of the notice match the colors, fonts and point sizes of the brand content behind it? By extending brand requirements to such communication, a brand is taking “ownership” of the data collection, consent and trust-building directly — as it should, in the eyes of the user.
  • Earn Before You Ask: Oftentimes, the consumer is presented with a cookie or related privacy notice upon entering a brand’s digital property — first page, upon entry. Test giving consumers a more anonymized experience for the few page visits, and then present a notice — “Are You Enjoying What You’re Seeing?” where a data collection permission is then sought. This allows the consumer to indeed value what’s on offer in information on the site.
  • Give Consumers Both an ‘Accept’ and a ‘Decline’ Choice or Button: Many sites offer only an “accept” button, leaving the consumer with an impression that they can “take it or leave it,” with no sense of real control. Test offering both an accept or decline offer — just seeing the word “decline” reminds consumers they are in control — and the actual decision to “decline” becomes more apparent for those consumers who indeed wish to be stealth.
  • Test Progressive Consent: Not every Website (or app) may need immediate access to user data for all purposes of consumer engagement. For data minimization purposes, perhaps ask visitors permission to collect only basic information (say, for contact, site optimization or customer recognition purposes) first. Then, only when necessary for utility, ask permissions for location data or other data categories, alongside the rationale for such collection and consent, as those needs arise. Asking for everything, upfront, all at once, can be a real turnoff — especially if a user is “new” to a brand. Consumers love — and frankly, need to know — the context for the permissions they give (or deny).
  • Test Privacy Notices by Market: Did you know users in the United Kingdom, for example, are 1.4 times more likely to give consent than those in France and Germany? How notices are worded and rationales explained — how transparency is conveyed — can have a big impact between markets, so it’s best to test notices by individual market (and language) to optimize consent rates. In short, national cultures and language nuance matter, too, in privacy communication.


In summary, there’s more payback than just permission. Consent rates in Europe can go as high as 60 to 70 percent — and hurtling over cookie walls at 80 to 90 percent — when privacy communications are optimized. Crownpeak offered far more tips (and real-market examples) in its session — about search engine optimization, personalization, analytics disclosures and other related topics. But there’s also lifetime value, and indeed consumer trust in the balance. We have an entirely new area for many marketers to test, working with their counsel and technology colleagues.

Who knows? Maybe the best such privacy-focused campaigns could still win a 2020 ECHO — based on compelling strategy, creative and results toward an earn-their-trust purpose. Is there a courageous brand ready to show us how? After all, this is one area where we all benefit from ways to raise consumer trust in advertising by sharing successful case studies. We shall see.

3 Steps for Building Brand Authenticity When Consumer Trust Is at Rock Bottom

Creating brand authenticity is a huge challenge. This is not only because it requires major coordination from all company functions, but it also takes highly focused discipline from strategy and planning to execution. Generating authenticity has three major components.

In my last post, I discussed how brand trust in the U.S. may have hit rock bottom and that marketers need to build brand authenticity. In this article, I would like to discuss a bit about how companies can address this challenge.

Creating brand authenticity is a huge challenge. This is not only because it requires major coordination from all company functions, but it also takes highly focused discipline from strategy and planning to execution. Generating authenticity has three major components: setting expectations, consistently meeting those expectations and actively managing failure. While these components seem simple, executing them well should not be easy. If it is, you are probably doing it wrong.

Step 1: Setting Expectations

When setting expectations, companies should remember that customers do not need you to solve all of their needs, just the needs that you can solve well. We have seen countless examples of companies entering spaces where they are out of their element, in search of new growth streams.

Many times, this ends in a poor customer experience and a huge financial hit. This is where the brand team should lead the conversation around what brand promises the company should make to its target markets. In this statement, “should” is an operative word; but it is often replaced by “want to” or “could,” in practice.

This happens because the market research identifies an unmet need or underserved segment. Then, the brand aspires to fill that gap without properly addressing its corresponding operational capabilities.

One example of how a company did it right is Domino’s pizza. Its well-documented campaign — apologizing for historically bad pizzas and promising a better experience — was bold and brilliant. However, it would have been a humiliating and epic fail if it wasn’t backed by a concerted and highly organized operational transformation.

Step 2: Meeting Those Expectations

Executing well is the next critical component, which has two managerial subcomponents:

  • measuring the customer experience; and
  • listening to the customer.

Companies primarily fail here, because they don’t know what to measure or where to focus. CX can be immensely detailed and complex. That can lead to overwhelming or underwhelming measurement strategies.

Assume you are managing a burger chain. You can measure how often you run out of key menu items or measure customer satisfaction with condiment packaging. Knowing where your priorities lie is important, but is often not as obvious as the previous example would illustrate. This leads to the second subcomponent, listening. Effective listening isn’t just about regular surveys or feedback. Customers of your burger chain may state they are frustrated by hard to open, messy ketchup packets. When looking at behavioral data, how often does that actually lead them to forsake the brand? How about when the menu item they want has run out?

Most market research, by its exploratory nature, is often exhaustive and can present many pain points which need addressing. While some methods, such as conjoint analysis, may help mitigate this issue, there is no substitute for analyzing real behavioral data.

Real listening lies at the intersection of what customers say and what they do.

Step 3: Managing Failure

Finally, brand authenticity requires that you have a prevention and mitigation plan in place, because mistakes happen.

Yes, it is important to “make it right,” and that should be done as soon as possible.

However, it also means knowing the difference between a mistake and a broad violation of the brand essence, or the brand’s core values.

Examples range from knowingly compromising on customer safety to highly public displays of brand hypocrisy. To avoid trust-destroying events, companies should conduct a brand trust audit and examine every compromise it makes that is counter to the core principals of the brand.

Some compromises need to happen, but when they do, they need extra oversight. For example, look at the college admissions scandal I mentioned in my previous post. Many believe that the elite colleges involved were victims. I disagree. Their primary proposition in the market is intellectual heft; yet there are clear avenues where they knowingly compromise on this proposition, such as athletic departments. The colleges should have been much more careful about monitoring that comprise and making sure it was not abused.

Compromises need to be made; however, once brands lose control over the quantity and quality of those compromises, the brand loses control over the values it claims to project.


I ended my last post by writing “Authenticity means saying what you will do, doing what you say and showing that you mean it.”

In retrospect, the statement seems to be focused too much on honest intentions (also sounds like a politician trying to sound folksy and humble.) I will not take back those words, because I also believe them to be true.

In this post, however, I acknowledge that much more goes into this than genuinely honest and good intentions.