Christmas didn’t quite work out? Well maybe Valentine’s Day then.

Valentine’s Day is on the 14th of February. Now this should not come as too much of a surprise – it is the 14th of February every year. Yet, it sneaks up on us each and every year. We get past the fraught Christmas period and think we can relax and then Valentine’s Day seemingly comes out of nowhere. I am not talking about the the blokes that get surprised by Valentine’s Day, but rather, I am talking about the ecommerce companies that seemingly get caught out by it as well.

At the 2017 dotmailer Summit in March, we launched the Hitting the Mark Report (HTM) where we reviewed 100 UK and US ecommerce brands. We thought we would go back and review how those brands handled the 2017 Black Friday period to see if anything had changed and if not, what advice we could give for the upcoming holiday season of Valentine’s Day, Mothering Sunday, Easter, Father’s Day and Graduation Season for our friends in the US.

Sixty percent (60%) of the brands in the full HTM did not have abandoned cart programs in place and surprisingly this number grew to 66% over the Black Friday period (the Monday before through to Cyber Monday). This increase is more likely down to brand concerns about stock and their ecommerce tech rather than a general move away from abandoned cart programs. While there is nothing worse than delivering a bad customer experience, failing to send cart recovery emails is simply leaving money on the table. With 69% of carts being abandoned globally (Baymard Institute 2017), you don’t have to reclaim many of them to make money.

Another surprising thing in our Black Friday Hitting the Mark was that 44% of the brands in the study did not push their Black Friday offers via email. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom when you consider that email is still the most popular channel for consumers when maintaining a relationship with a brand and email consistently delivers the highest ROI; the DMA reports that marketers get a return of over £32 for every pound spent.

On the other hand, these brands may have had the right idea and actually stood out because of their absence. Over the course of that week we received an average of 18 emails per day that teased us with promotional items and potential deals on offer early on and then closed out the week by adding urgency with countdown timers.

To me, this data all points to one thing: marketers falling into the Black Friday trap of focussing on the sale and forgetting that this transaction is part of a long-term relationship. So, what should we be doing in the coming weeks and months to make sure we get these important holiday sales but also maintain and build relationships to get further sales throughout the year?

1. Don’t just sell, add value

You want to promote your products but often this is more achievable not by giving an offer but by using your marketing to enhance your customer service. One of the easiest ways to do this is by providing gift inspiration. Generally, people know they have to get a gift but will have absolutely no idea what to get. What they need is a little inspiration and reassurance. Of course, you can also add value to your customer service by reminding people about the last day to purchase to get things delivered on time, order confirmations and shipping notifications.

I have also recently heard about an email program for people who have procrastinated just a bit too long and missed the all-important date. It was an ecommerce company that would (for an extra fee) send an apology email or even include an apology letter in the package for “their delayed shipping.” They were essentially willing to take the hit for someone who had ordered too late.

2. Recognize that it may not be a special day for everybody

I was recently taking a train to an event and overheard a conversation where a woman was telling her friend about a recent breakup. It was clear that her emotions were still quite raw as she lamented about Valentine’s Day being right around the corner. This got me thinking that a lot of these upcoming holidays may not be relevant for a lot of reasons and our marketing messages may be more than just an annoyance, they could hurt too.

Of course, it would be impossible to know this. It is like bumping into an acquaintance and asking about their parents only to find that one had passed away. You had no way of knowing, but you feel bad anyway.  As part of your preference center let people take a break from your emails. You do not need to know why, and they probably would not say, but they will remember you for providing this little courtesy.

3. Reduce the cadence once they have bought

One of the trends we saw in the full Hitting the Mark report which ran over a period of six months was that even though we had filled in every field on every form, answered all of their questions, thoroughly browsed their websites, and went on to purchase something; many of the brands failed to recognize any of that behavior.

Their emails consisted of a new offer with each new message. Many even went so far as to send us an offer for a product we had already purchased. Most people only need one gift for each of these holidays, once you have bought that Valentine’s Day, Mothering Sunday or Father’s Day gift, how likely are you to need another one? One of the easiest ways to ‘recognize’ a recipient is to know whether they have purchased recently and change your mailing cadence accordingly.

4. Don’t add new customers to your business-as-usual comms right away

Similarly, we have found that many retailers refuse to recognize new customers and treat them differently. Your new customers have found your site, registered, browsed and purchased. How likely are they to need to purchase again right away? That however is too often ignored and new customers are immediately put into the full-on marketing comms program (which as we saw above is usually based around buy, Buy, BUY). Think about easing your new customers into your program by starting with your value-added content, increasing the offer cadence over time.

5. Start working on your abandoned cart program

Let’s face it. If you haven’t started yet, you are unlikely to have your abandoned cart program up and running by Valentine’s Day, so this is a longer-term recommendation. Start working on your abandon cart program as soon as possible. One dotmailer client was able to cover the entire cost of setting up their abandoned cart with the very first recovery email they sent out. In another example, a medium fashion retailer working with dotmailer successfully recovered over £50k per month with its abandoned cart program. The success stories are countless…

Gone are the days of the big Christmas Shopping Season, when just over two months’ trading determined if we had a good year or not. As marketers and retailers, we have been really good at creating the next big gift-giving occasion and these seem to get bigger, better and more frequent every year. The brands that really succeed however do not rely on this constant stream of ‘important’ days. The successful brands build strong, long-lasting customer relationships by using the data they have to deliver relevant emails, which are regarded by subscribers as useful, one-to-one comms rather than generic marketing.

To learn more about seasonal email marketing trends, download our Black Friday Hitting the Mark report below:

The post Christmas didn’t quite work out? Well maybe Valentine’s Day then. appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 2 weeks ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Search Engine Land’s Community Corner: Local SEO survey results, a new book on influencer marketing & SEO Christmas jumpers

As we head into the slow holiday stretch, the news likewise takes a breather. Of course Google did surprise the search community this week by confirming some algo updates, starting a new webmaster video series, and moving Eric Schmidt into a non-Executive Chairman of the Board position. Elsewhere…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 2 months ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

A little bit of Christmas magic – Barbour’s heartwarming holiday campaign

At dotmailer, we love a creative challenge, so when Barbour approached us with their idea for a holiday email campaign, we couldn’t believe our luck; we must have been very good this year!

Barbour and Sons Ltd was founded in 1894, and is synonymous with waxed cotton and country wear, enjoying a reputation for quality and durability. Barbour is sold in over 40 countries worldwide and has over 30 of its own retail stores in the UK, Germany, US and Japan.

The brand also boasts an impressive email marketing initiative. Here’s an awesome statistic: by adding a popover to their website using dotmailer’s surveys and forms tool, the company grew its engaged contact list by 20,000 contacts in just three months! If you subscribe to their list, you’re in for a refreshing treat; the brand is keen to use their email marketing to inspire customers with their collections, rather than send out batch and blast, cut-price campaigns.

We’re ecstatic to announce that our four-year relationship with Barbour has reached new heights of success this holiday season. Working with dotmailer’s talented Creative & Managed Services team, the company has produced a wonderfully dynamic and festive marketing email to accompany their TV holiday campaign: The Snowman and the Snow Dog. Elaine Taylor, Barbour’s Global Ecommerce and Digital Manager, describes why dotmailer was the only choice for the company:

“This year’s Christmas campaign with The Snowman and The Snow Dog is the biggest we have undertaken and we really wanted every element of it to feel special.  We reached out to the guys at dotmailer to see if they could help us launch the holiday campaign with an email that was a little bit magical.”

Based on the famed story The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, the design for Barbour’s nostalgic advert provides a heart-warming sequel; the now grown main character and his dog, both clad in matching Barbour, recall a memorable bygone Christmas in the snow.

Our CMS team got stuck in with the illustrated assets, producing a holiday campaign that perfectly complements its TV counterpart; the design features an animated snowfall header and Snow Dog, an embedded video, and beautifully illustrated CTA blocks.

Elaine continued “We gave them a tight deadline but Brett (our key Account Director) and his team rose to the challenge and came up with some great ideas. The end result was a beautiful animated email designed to work on all devices that captured our theme perfectly. The email campaign went out on time and in the first four days generated a real buzz around the website and on social media.

The result was a real success. The overall campaign has already been seen by 2 million people online, including a whopping 1.2 million users on Facebook – a truly multi-channel achievement for the brand, and a fantastic experience for the dotmailer team.

The expertise, creativity and knowledge that the team at dotmailer brought to the project was fantastic and we wouldn’t have been able to produce something like this without them.”

Check out Barbour’s case study to find out more about the brand’s achievements using dotmailer.

 

 

 

The post A little bit of Christmas magic – Barbour’s heartwarming holiday campaign appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.

Reblogged 1 year ago from blog.dotmailer.com

dotmailer help Team London Bridge get all wrapped up for Christmas

Rob Short and his team of helpers – Ellesse Howells, Fariah Mahmood, Mervyn Nichols, Suleman Syed and Victoire Frencia – volunteered to sort and wrap presents, as part of an initiative by Team London Bridge. Team London Bridge is a not-for-profit organization that’s designed to support local businesses and the surrounding community.

The gifts were being distributed to charities including Bede House, Beormund Community Centre, CoolTan Arts, Ronald McDonald House, Time and Talents, Stones End Day Centre, South London Mission, South London Cares.

The brand-new gifts were kindly donated by the general public and included everything from cuddly toys and Harry Potter mugs to Champneys toiletries and body creams.

Fariah thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon: “It was really nice to give back to the community during the festive period.

“I would urge anyone to take an hour out of their day, like we did, to make a difference to someone’s life over the holidays.”

Here are some snaps!

Victoire showing off her expert gift-wrapping skills.

Team work at its finest.

Gifts ready to be distributed to local charities.

 

The post dotmailer help Team London Bridge get all wrapped up for Christmas appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.

Reblogged 1 year ago from blog.dotmailer.com

The 2015 #MozCon Video Bundle Has Arrived!

Posted by EricaMcGillivray

The bird has landed, and by bird, I mean the MozCon 2015 Video Bundle! That’s right, 27 sessions and over 15 hours of knowledge from our top notch speakers right at your fingertips. Watch presentations about SEO, personalization, content strategy, local SEO, Facebook graph search, and more to level up your online marketing expertise.

If these videos were already on your wish list, skip ahead:

If you attended MozCon, the videos are included with your ticket. You should have an email in your inbox (sent to the address you registered for MozCon with) containing your unique URL for a free “purchase.”

MozCon 2015 was fantastic! This year, we opened up the room for a few more attendees and to fit our growing staff, which meant 1,600 people showed up. Each year we work to bring our programming one step further with incredible speakers, diverse topics, and tons of tactics and tips for you.


What did attendees say?

We heard directly from 30% of MozCon attendees. Here’s what they had to say about the content:

Did you find the presentations to be advanced enough? 74% found them to be just perfect.

Wil Reynolds at MozCon 2015


What do I get in the bundle?

Our videos feature the presenter and their presentation side-by-side, so there’s no need to flip to another program to view a slide deck. You’ll have easy access to links and reference tools, and the videos even offer closed captioning for your enjoyment and ease of understanding.

For $299, the 2015 MozCon Video Bundle gives you instant access to:

  • 27 videos (over 15 hours) from MozCon 2015
  • Stream or download the videos to your computer, tablet, phone, phablet, or whatever you’ve got handy
  • Downloadable slide decks for all presentations


Bonus! A free full session from 2015!

Because some sessions are just too good to hide behind a paywall. Sample what the conference is all about with a full session from Cara Harshman about personalization on the web:


Surprised and excited to see these videos so early? Huge thanks is due to the Moz team for working hard to process, build, program, write, design, and do all the necessaries to make these happen. You’re the best!

Still not convinced you want the videos? Watch the preview for the Sherlock Christmas Special. Want to attend the live show? Buy your early bird ticket for MozCon 2016. We’ve sold out the conference for the last five years running, so grab your ticket now!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 2 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it

The Massive Ranking Factor Too Many SEOs are Ignoring – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Despite Google’s ambiguity about how it’s used in the algorithm, we’ve seen evidence time and again that there’s a giant ranking factor that SEOs just aren’t optimizing for. In today’s very special Whitebeard Friday, Rand (or Randa Claus) shows us how to fill in this important gap in our work.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video transcription

Ho, ho, ho. Howdy, Moz boys and girls, and welcome to another special Christmas edition of Whitebeard Friday. I’m your host Randa Claus. (pause) I just can’t keep making fun of Santa like this. It’s just terrible.

I am very thrilled to have all of you with us for the holidays and for this special edition of Whitebeard Friday. We actually have some really important, juicy, meaty SEO material. Hopefully, my beard won’t get too much in the way of that. I feel like I have the same mustache. It’s just whiter this week.

I want to talk about this big ranking factor that a lot of SEO practitioners and experts are almost ignoring. By ignoring, I don’t mean to say we don’t know it exists. We just aren’t optimizing it yet.

That factor is engagement. I’m not just talking about onsite engagement. I’m talking about overall web engagement with your site and your brand. That can manifest in a bunch of different ways. A branded search is certainly one manifestation of that. Direct navigation, so lots of people going directly to your website, lots of people typing in searches for clearly your brand. They want to go just to your website. Time on site and browse rate, we’ve seen a bunch of elements around this. Pogo-sticking, which we’ve talked about on Whiteboard Friday previously. Traffic referrals, meaning traffic you’re sending out to the rest of the web. Google can see this. They have Chrome. They have Android. They have Google Analytics. They have all sorts of plugins. They have the web’s biggest advertising network. They can see all of this stuff. Then, finally, amplification in the forms of press and PR and word of mouth, kind of the non-link forms of amplification, which could even encompass social media.

So what is our evidence that these things are real factors in the search ranking algorithms? Well, unfortunately, unlike the early days of links when this was more directly observable and when the search engines were a little more open about this, they’ve been pretty quiet about engagement. They all talk about it in a broad sense, but they don’t specifically say, “Oh, yes, we specifically use time on site and browse rate.” In fact, they’re very nuanced around this.

The only thing that I’ve heard engineers or search engine folks say is, “Yes, we do use pogo-sticking, and yes, we will look at some forms of amplification and some things around brand,” which you could interpret to mean maybe branded search and some things around brand that could be interpreted as direct navigation. But they are not specific about this.

However, we’ve seen tons of experiments and lots of information that suggest that even if these aren’t exactly what they’re using, they’re using stuff like it. When you see experiments that show, hey, despite the fact that site speed is a very small factor, we reduced the page load time and saw all these wonderful things happen around search. What’s going on there? It’s some form of engagement. It’s something they’re measuring around that, that’s not just site speed, but engagement overall. That increases as you bring page load speed down.

So what’s the problem here? Why is it that SEOs, many of us at least, are not optimizing for this yet? Well, the answers are oftentimes we don’t have the authority. If you go to someone, you pitch an SEO project internally at your company, you’re the person who runs SEO, and they’re like, “No, you take care of our crawlability. You take care of our links. You’re not responsible for how much traffic we send out or the time on site and browse rate or amplification and press.” Those are all different departments, and it’s very tough to get that synchronization between them.

We may not have access to the tools or the data that we need to measure this stuff and then to show improvements. That’s very tough and hard too.

Then the inputs around a lot of this stuff are not direct. Let’s go back to links as an example. If you know that links are the big ranking factor for you, you can show, “Hey, we got this many links. Here’s how it changed our ranking position. We need more. Here’s how we go about getting them.” Plan, execution, analysis, it’s simple. It’s direct. It may not be easy, but it is observable.

This is often indirect. There are so many things that impact this stuff that’s indirect, and that’s really tough and frustrating.

As solutions, it’s going to be our job to do what early SEOs had to do — socialize. We have to go out to the industry, to our colleagues, to our clients if we’re consultants, to other web professionals across all the forms of marketing, and we have to socialize the fact that engagement is a major input into SEO, just like SEOs did starting in about 1999/2000, where we had to explain, “Look, this is how links work. Links are important. It’s not just about getting listed in the directory. It’s not just about keywords anymore. It’s not just about meta tags anymore. Links really matter here. I can show you Google’s PageRank paper here. I can show you all these patent applications here. I can show you the impact of links.”

We have to do that again with engagement. That’s going to be tough. That’s going to be an uphill battle, but I believe it’s something we’re already starting. A lot of industry leaders have done this ahead of this Whiteboard Friday for sure.

Second off, we’ve got to utilize the tools that we do have available to be able to get some of this data, and there are some. While I am no big fan of Google Webmaster Tools — I think a lot of the data in there is inaccurate — we can look at trending numbers around things like branded search, and we can do that through Google Analytics. So Google Analytics, yes, keyword not provided is 90% of your referrals. That’s okay. Take the sample 10% and show over time whether you’re getting a bigger and bigger proportion and bigger and bigger quantities of branded search. That’s a directional input that you can use to say, “Look, our brand is growing in search. There it is.”

You can do user testing around search results. This is something I see very few folks doing. We often do usability and user testing on our websites, but we don’t do them in the search results. If you ask a group of five users, “Hey, go perform this search. Take a look at these 10 results. Tell me which one you would choose and why. Now tell me your second choice and why. Now tell me your third choice and why,” you will get to things like time on site. You’ll get to things around pogo-sticking. You’ll get to those engagement metrics that happen in the search results.

Then, of course, you can use, if you’re a Moz subscriber, Fresh Web Explorer or something like mention.net or Talkwalker or Trackur or something to get these amplification numbers and data that you might not be able to get from raw links themselves. This is gettable data, just in different ways than we’re used to.

Finally, we actually are going to have to change what we’re comfortable with. We’re going to have to get comfortable in a world where the ranking factors are indirectly influenceable, not directly influenceable. That’s weird for us, because we’ve always said, “Okay, algorithm has all these factors. I can influence these ones. That’s the ones I need to work on. I’m going to go to work.”

Now we have to go, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. In order to influence traffic referrals, I’m going to have to do things around my content, things around how I earn traffic, and then, boy, I don’t know if that’ll have a direct impact on my rankings.” You don’t. This is a world of indirect inputs. This thing, this tactic I’m going to pursue is going to lead to this thing, which I hope is going to lead to engagement, which I hope is going to lead to rankings.

That’s frustrating. It’s harder to sell. It’s harder to invest in, but, oh man, the ROI is there. If you can do it, if you can earn that buy-in, you can make these investments, and then through experimentation, you can learn what works for you and where you need to move the needle. This is going to be weird because it’s a world where our tactics are correlated, but they aren’t explicitly causal into the ways that we influence the rankings. It’s a whole new world, but it’s about to be a new year, and I think it’s a great time for us to invest in engagement.

With that, happy holidays, whatever holidays you celebrate. Happy new year if you celebrate the new year. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of you here on Whiteboard Friday in 2015. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 3 years ago from moz.com

How To Tap Into Social Norms to Build a Strong Brand

Posted by bridget.randolph

In recent years there has been a necessary shift in the way businesses advertise themselves to consumers, thanks to the increasingly common information overload experienced by the average person.

In 1945, just after WWII, the
annual total ad spend in the United States was about $2.8 billion (that’s around $36.8 million before the adjustment for inflation). In 2013, it was around $140 billion.

Don’t forget that this is just paid media advertising; it doesn’t include the many types of earned coverage like search, social, email, supermarket displays, direct mail and so on. Alongside the growth in media spends is a growth in the sheer volume of products available, which is made possible by increasingly sophisticated technologies for sales, inventory, delivery and so on.

What does this mean? Well, simply that the strategy of ‘just buy some ads and sell the benefits’ isn’t enough anymore: you’ll be lost in the noise. How can a brand retain customers and create loyalty in an atmosphere where everyone else has a better offer? Through tapping into the psychology of social relationships.


Imagine that you are at home for Thanksgiving, and your mother has pulled out all the stops to lovingly craft the most delicious, intricate dinner ever known to man. You and your family have enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of socializing and snacking on leftovers and watching football, and now it’s time to leave. As you hug your parents goodbye, you take out your wallet. “How much do I owe you for all the love and time you put into this wonderful afternoon?” you ask. “$100 for the food? here, have $50 more as a thank you for the great hospitality!” How would your mother respond to such an offer? I don’t know about your mother, but my mom would be deeply offended.

New scenario: You’ve gone to a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s the most delicious dinner you’ve ever had, the atmosphere is great with the football playing in the background, and best of all, your server is attentive, warm, and maternal. You feel right at home. At the end of the meal, you give her a hug and thank her for the delicious meal before leaving. She calls the cops and has you arrested for a dine-and-dash.

And herein lies the difference between social norms and market norms.

Social norms vs. market norms

The Thanksgiving dinner example is one which I’ve borrowed from a book by Dan Ariely,
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions. Ariely discusses two ways in which humans interact: social norms and market norms.


Social norms
, as Ariely explains, “are wrapped up in our social nature and our need for community. They are usually warm and fuzzy. Instant paybacks are not required.” Examples would be: helping a friend move house, babysitting your grandchild, having your parents over for dinner. There is an implied reciprocity on some level but it is not instantaneous nor is it expected that the action will be repaid on a financial level. These are the sort of relationships and interactions we expect to have with friends and family.


Market norms
, on the other hand, are about the exchange of resources and in particular, money. Examples of this type of interaction would be any type of business transaction where goods or services are exchanged for money: wages, prices, rents, interest, and cost-and-benefit. These are the sort of relationships and interactions we expect to have with businesses.

I’ve drawn you a very rough illustration – it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing visual, but it gets the point across:

Market norms come into play any time money enters into the equation, sometimes counter-intuitively! Ariely gives the example of a group of lawyers who were approached by the AARP and asked whether they would provide legal services to needy retirees at a drastically discounted rate of $30/hour. The lawyers said no. From a market norms perspective, the exchange didn’t make sense. Later the same lawyers were asked whether they would consider donating their time free of charge to needy retirees. The vast majority of the lawyers said yes. The difference is that, when no money changes hands, the exchange shifts from a poor-value market exchange to an altruistic and therefore high-value social exchange. It is a strange psychological quirk that ‘once market norms enter our considerations, the social norms depart.’

Mixed signals: when social and market norms collide

In a book called
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout (originally published in 1981), the authors describe the 1950s as the ‘product era’ of advertising, when ‘advertising people focused their attention on product features and customer benefits.’ It was all about the unique selling proposition (USP).


In this case, the USP is mildness: “not one single case of throat irritation!” (image source)

However, as the sheer volume of products on the market increased, it became more difficult to sell a product simply by pointing out the benefits. As Ries and Trout put it, ‘Your “better mousetrap” was quickly followed by two more just like it. Both claiming to be better than the first one.’

They describe the next phase of advertising (which hit its peak in the 1960s and 70s and which we can probably all relate to if we watch Mad Men) as the ‘image era’, pioneered by David Ogilvy. In this period, successful campaigns sold the reputation, or ‘image’ of a brand and a product rather than its features. Ries and Trout quote Ogilvy as saying that ‘Every advertisement is a long-term investment in the image of a brand’. Examples include Hathaway shirts and Rolls-Royce.

Rather than the product benefits, this ad focuses on the ‘image’ of the man who smokes Viceroys: “Viceroy has a thinking man’s filter and a smoking man’s taste. (image source)

But yet again, as more and more brands imitate the strategy of these successful campaigns, the space gets more crowded and the consumer becomes more jaded and these techniques become less effective.

According to Ries and Trout, this brought the world of advertising into the ‘positioning era’ of the 80s, which is where they positioned (hehe) themselves. As they described this, “To succeed in our overcommunicated society, a company must create a position in the prospect’s mind, a position that takes into consideration not only a company’s own strengths and weaknesses, but those of its competitors as well.”

This one’s all about positioning Winston’s in opposition to competitors: as the brand with real taste, as opposed to other brands which ‘promise taste’ but fail to deliver. (image source)

And yet, despite this evolution of advertising strategy over the course of the 20th century, all of these different approaches are ultimately based on market norms. The ‘product era’ sells you features and benefits in exchange for money; the ‘image era’ sells you on an image and a lifestyle in exchange for money, and the ‘positioning era’ sells you on why a particular company is the right one to supply your needs in exchange for money.

Social norms and loyalty


When does cheap not win?
When it comes to social norms. Social norms are about relationships, community and loyalty. If your sister is getting married, you don’t do a cost benefit analysis to decide whether or not you should go to her wedding or whether the food will be better and the travel cheaper if you go to your next door neighbor’s BBQ instead. If anything, it’s the opposite: some people take it to such an extreme that they will go into massive debt to attend friends’ weddings and bring lavish gifts. That is certainly not a decision based on monetary considerations.

Therefore, if the average brand wants to get out of the vicious cycle of undercutting competitors in order to gain business, they need to start focusing on relationships and community building instead of ‘SUPER CHEAP BEST LOW LOW PRICES!!®’ and sneaky upsells at the point of sale. This is something my colleague
Tim Allen spoke about in a presentation called “Make Me Love Your Brand, Not Just Tolerate It”. And this is what a large number of recent ‘advertising success stories’ are based on and it’s the whole premise behind many of the more recent trends in marketing: email marketing, personalization, SMS marketing, good social media marketing, and so on.

Some of the most popular brands are the ones which are able to find the perfect balance between:

  • a friendly, warm relationship with customers and potential customers, which also often includes a fun, personal tone of voice (the ‘brand personality’) – in these interactions there is often an offering of something to the customer without an expectation of instant payback, and
  • a strong product which they offer at a good price with good ‘market’ benefits like free returns and so on.

One example of this is John Lewis, who have good customer service policies around returns etc but also offer free perks to their shoppers, like the maternity room where breastfeeding mothers can relax. One of my colleagues mentioned that, as a new mother, his girlfriend always prefers to shop at John Lewis over other competitor stores for that very reason. Now if this is purely a convenience factor for her, and after her child is older she stops shopping at John Lewis in favor of a cheaper option, you could argue that this is less of a social interaction and more market influenced (in some sense it serves as a service differentiator between JL and their customers). However, if after she no longer requires the service, she continues to shop there because she wants to reciprocate their past support of her as a breastfeeding mother, that pushes it more firmly into the realm of the social.

Another thing John Lewis do for their fans is the annual Christmas ad, which (much like the 
Coca-Cola Santa truck in the UK) has become something which people look forward to each year because it’s a heartwarming little story more than just an ad for a home and garden store. Their 2012 ad was my favorite (and a lot of other people’s too, with over 4.5 million Youtube views).

But usually anytime a brand ‘do something nice’ for no immediate monetary benefit, it counts as a ‘social’ interaction – a classic example is
Sainsbury’s response to the little girl who wrote to them about ‘tiger bread’.

Some of my other favorite examples of social norm interactions by brands are:

The catch is, you have to be careful and keep the ‘mix’ of social and market norms consistent.

Ariely uses the example of a bank when describing the danger of bringing social norms into a business relationship:

“What happens if a customer’s check bounces? If the relationship is based on market norms, the bank charges a fee, and the customer shakes it off. Business is business. While the fee is annoying, it’s nonetheless acceptable. In a social relationship, however, a hefty late fee–rather than a friendly call from the manager or an automatic fee waiver–is not only a relationship-killer; it’s a stab in the back. Consumers will take personal offense. They’ll leave the bank angry and spend hours complaining to their friends about this awful bank.”

Richard Fergie also summed this issue up nicely in this G+ post about the recent outrage over Facebook manipulating users’ emotions; in this case, the back-stab effect was due to the fact that the implicit agreement between the users and the company about what was being ‘sold’ and therefore ‘valued’ in the exchange changed without warning.


The basic rule of thumb is that whether you choose to emphasize market norms or social norms, you can’t arbitrarily change the rules.

A side note about social media and brands: Act like a normal person

In a time when
the average American aged 18-64 spends 2-3 hours a day on social media, it is only logical that we would start to see brands and the advertising industry follow suit. But if this is your only strategy for building relationships and interacting with your customers socially, it’s not good enough. Instead, in this new ‘relationship era’ of advertising (as I’ve just pretentiously dubbed it, in true Ries-and-Trout fashion), the brands who will successfully merge market and social norms in their advertising will be the brands which are able to develop the sort of reciprocal relationships that we see with our friends and family. I wrote a post over on the Distilled blog about what social media marketers can learn from weddings. That was just one example, but the TL;DR is: as a brand, you still need to use social media the way that normal people do. Otherwise you risk becoming a Condescending Corporate Brand on Facebook. On Twitter too.

Social norms and authenticity: Why you actually do need to care

Another way in which brands tap into social norms are through their brand values. My colleague
Hannah Smith talked about this in her post on The Future of Marketing. Moz themselves are a great example of a brand with strong values: for them it’s TAGFEE. Hannah also gives the examples of Innocent Drinks (sustainability), Patagonia (environmentalism) and Nike (whose strapline ‘Find Your Greatness’ is about their brand values of everyone being able to ‘achieve their own defining moment of greatness’).

Havas Media have been doing some interesting work around trying to ‘measure’ brand sentiment with something call the
‘Meaningful Brands Index’ (MBi), based on how much a brand is perceived as making a meaningful difference in people’s lives, both for personal wellbeing and collective wellbeing. Whether or not you like their approach, they have some interesting stats: apparently only 20% of brands worldwide are seen to ‘meaningfully positively impact peoples’ lives’, but the brands that rank high on the MBi also tend to outperform other brands significantly (120%).

Now there may be a ‘correlation vs causation’ argument here, and I don’t have space to explore it. But regardless of whether you like the MBi as a metric or not, countless case studies demonstrate that it’s valuable for a brand to have strong brand values.

There are two basic rules of thumb when it comes to choosing brand values:

1) I
t has to be relevant to what you do. If a bingo site is running an environmentalism campaign, it might seem a bit weird and it won’t resonate well with your audience. You also need to watch out for accidental irony. For example, McDonalds and Coca-Cola came in for some flak when they sponsored the Olympics, due to their reputation as purveyors of unhealthy food/drink products.

Nike’s #FindYourGreatness campaign, on the other hand, is a great example of how to tie in your values with your product. Another example is one of our clients at Distilled, SimplyBusiness, a business insurance company whose brand values include being ‘the small business champion’. This has informed their content strategy, leading them to develop in-depth resources for small businesses, and it has served them very well.

2) I
t can’t be so closely connected to what you do that it comes across as self-serving. For example, NatWest’s NatYes campaign claims to be about enabling people to become homeowners, but ultimately (in no small part thanks to the scary legal compliance small print about foreclosure) the authenticity of the message is undermined.

The most important thing when it comes to brand values: it’s very easy for people to be cynical about brands and whether they ‘care’. Havas did a survey that found that
only 32% of people feel that brands communicate honestly about commitments and promises. So choose values that you do feel strongly about and follow through even if it means potentially alienating some people. The recent OKCupid vs Mozilla Firefox episode is an illustration of standing up for brand values (regardless of where you stand on this particular example, it got them a lot of positive publicity).

Key takeaways

So what can we take away from these basic principles of social norms and market norms? If you want to build a brand based on social relationships, here’s 3 things to remember.

1)
Your brand needs to provide something besides just a low price. In order to have a social relationship with your customers, your brand needs a personality, a tone of voice, and you need to do nice things for your customers without the expectation of immediate payback.

2)
You need to keep your mix of social and market norms consistent at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Don’t pull the rug out from under your loyal fans by hitting them with surprise costs after they checkout or other tricks. And don’t give new customers significantly better benefits. What you gain in the short term you will lose in the long term resentment they will feel about having been fooled. Instead, treat them with transparency and fairness and be responsive to customer service issues.

3)
You need brand values that make sense for your brand and that you (personally and as a company) really believe in. Don’t have values that don’t relate to your core business. Don’t have values which are obviously self-serving. Don’t be accidentally ironic like McDonalds.

Have you seen examples of brands building customer relationships based on social norms? Did it work? Do you do this type of relationship-building for your brand?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Panda 4.0, Payday Loan 2.0 & eBay’s Very Bad Day

Posted by Dr-Pete

After a period of relative quiet, MozCast detected a major “temperature” spike in Google’s algorithm at some point on Monday, May 19th. This occurred after some historic lows, including the 3rd coldest day on record (May 11th).

Tuesday afternoon, Google confirmed two updates, Panda 4.0 and Payday Loan 2.0. Matt Cutts tweeted the Panda 4.0 announcement:

Less than an hour earlier, Search Engine Land confirmed the 
Payday Loan 2.0 update. This ended a weekend of wild speculation (including many predictions of a Penguin update), but didn’t leave us with many details about the timeframe or the impact.

Which update was which?

For the moment, we’re going to have to speculate a bit. If the latest iteration of the Payday Loan update is like the first, it hit hard but fairly narrowly. Google laser-targeted some very spammy verticals with Payday Loan 1.0 (back on June 11, 2013), but the overall impact was moderate. That update was also very query-specific. My gut reaction is that it was unlikely that the May 19th update was Payday Loan 2.0 – that update was probably smaller and rolled out over the weekend (possibly May 16th). There was heavy flux around a few potentially spammy queries on May 16th, including “mortgage rate trends” and “cheap apartments”, but competitive queries tend to change frequently, so the evidence is unclear.

Google’s numbering scheme suggests that Panda 4.0 is a major update, which probably means that it is both an algorithmic update and a data refresh. This typically means substantial rankings flux, and I think that’s much more likely connected to what we’re seeing on May 19th. While Matt’s tweet implies a roll-out on May 20th, most Panda updates over the past year have been multi-day roll-outs. We should know more in the next few days.

What happened to eBay?

Digging into the May 19th data (and before Google confirmed anything), I noticed that a few keywords seemed to show losses for eBay, and the main eBay sub-domain fell completely out of the ”
Big 10” (our metric of the ten domains with the most “real estate” in the top 10). Sites shift, and nothing on the level of a keyword means much, so I took a look at the historical eBay data. This is eBay’s share of top 10 rankings for the past week across the MozCast 10K (approximately 94,000 URLs, since not all page-1 SERPs have ten results):

Over the course of about three days, eBay fell from #6 in our Big 10 to #25. Change is the norm for Google’s SERPs, but this particular change is clearly out of place, historically speaking. eBay has been #6 in our Big 10 since March 1st, and prior to that primarily competed with Twitter.com for either the #6 or #7 place. The drop to #25 is very large. Overall, eBay has gone from right at 1% of the URLs in our data set down to 0.28%, dropping more than two-thirds of the ranking real-estate they previously held.

It is entirely possible that this is temporary, and it’s not my intention to “out” eBay – I have no idea if they’ve done anything that merits major ranking changes. This could be a technical issue or a mistake on Google’s part. It’s also worth noting that these results only track the main eBay sub-domain (www.ebay.com), not other ranking sub-domains, including popular.ebay.com.

What exactly did eBay lose?

Looking just at the day-over-day change from May 19-20, I dug into the keywords that eBay lost out on, hoping to find some clues about the broader Google updates. The vast majority of losses were where eBay had one top 10 ranking and then fell out of the top 10. In three cases, eBay lost two top 10 rankings for a single keyword phrase. Those phrases were:

  • “fiber optic christmas tree”
  • “tongue rings”
  • “vermont castings”

Here’s what the top 10 looked like for that first phrase (sub-domain only) on May 19th:

  1. www.kmart.com
  2. www.walmart.com
  3. www.americansale.com
  4. www.sears.com
  5. www.amazon.com
  6. www.christmascentral.com
  7. www.ebay.com
  8. www.ebay.com
  9. www.bronners.com
  10. www.ask.com

eBay held the #7 and #8 spots. Here’s the top 10 for the next morning, May 20th:

  1. www.kmart.com
  2. www.walmart.com
  3. www.sears.com
  4. www.amazon.com
  5. www.americansale.com
  6. www.christmascentral.com
  7. www.bronners.com
  8. www.hayneedle.com
  9. www.dhgate.com
  10. www.alibaba.com

It’s interesting to note that both eBay losses here were category pages, not specific products. Here’s one example (from 
this eBay URL):

For the other two keywords where eBay lost two positions in the top 10, the lost URLs were also category or sub-category pages (not individual auction listings). The remaining losses were either situations where eBay went from two listings to one or one to zero.

Here are the top 25 keywords where eBay lost one top 10 ranking position, ordered by their MozCast temperature:

  1. “beats by dr dre” (231°)
  2. “honeywell thermostat” (190°)
  3. “hooked on phonics” (188°)
  4. “fajate” (188°)
  5. “batman costume” (181°)
  6. “lenovo tablet” (181°)
  7. “pyramid collection” (170°)
  8. “hampton bay” (170°)
  9. “jordan 11 concord” (168°)
  10. “pontoon boats for sale” (168°)
  11. “mockingjay pin” (166°)
  12. “kobe vii” (166°)
  13. “food trucks for sale” (166°)
  14. “galaxy s2” (166°)
  15. “jordan spizike” (163°)
  16. “foamposite” (163°)
  17. “george foreman grill” (161°)
  18. “wholesale jerseys” (161°)
  19. “tend skin” (161°)
  20. “fender stratocaster” (161°)
  21. “rims for sale” (161°)
  22. “shed plans” (158°)
  23. “hello kitty vans” (158°)
  24. “cheap used cars” (158°)
  25. “lilly pulitzer bedding” (156°)

It’s very hard to interpret individual keyword changes, but, not surprisingly, many of these phrases seem to be products and product categories, and some are fairly competitive. Most of these drops seem to be from lower positions in the top 10 – I was unable to find a case where eBay lost a #1 ranking day-over-day.

In one case, it appears that both “www.ebay.com” and “popular.ebay.com” lost out. Here are the top 10 sub-domains for May 19th for the query “hooked on phonics”:

  1. www.hookedonphonics.com
  2. itunes.apple.com
  3. www.amazon.com
  4. en.wikipedia.org
  5. www.youtube.com
  6. popular.ebay.com
  7. popular.ebay.com
  8. www.ebay.com
  9. www.time4learning.com
  10. www.walmart.com

…and here’s the same SERP the morning of May 20th:

  1. www.hookedonphonics.com
  2. learntoread.hookedonphonics.com
  3. itunes.apple.com
  4. en.wikipedia.org
  5. www.youtube.com
  6. popular.ebay.com
  7. www.amazon.com
  8. www.amazon.com
  9. thekrazycouponlady.com
  10. hip2save.com
One page on “popular.ebay.com” kept its spot (this category page), but two narrower category pages lost out. In this particular example, Amazon picked up a top 10 spot, although their highest position dropped. Both Amazon URLs were for specific products, although it’s important not to generalize too much from one example.

What does it mean for you?

I’m sorry to say that it’s probably too soon to tell. We’re hearing reports of big losses and gains, which is the norm for any major update – for every winner, there’s a loser. If Google is to be believed, we’re looking at two sizable updates in the span of a long weekend. It’s possible we’ll see even more changes before the US holiday weekend (Memorial Day), so I’d strongly suggest keeping your eyes open.

Update (May 21st – 9:30AM)

Good follow-up post from Rishi Lakhani about eBay’s internal linking structure. Digging deeper, it looks like all of the URLs of the form “ebay.com/bhp” have disappeared from the rankings, at least within our data set. We’ve collected another day’s worth of data since the post was written, and the situation hasn’t changed. This could be a manual action on Google’s part, but it’s hard to tell.

Google is now saying that Panda 4.0 impacted 7.5% of English-language queries. Despite Matt’s “…starting today” statement on May 20th, I (and others) strongly believe the Panda 4.0 roll-out may have begun over the weekend, and is connected to the May 19th temperature spike.

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Merry Christmas: Children Christmas Nativity

My sweet kids did this video with me a couple years ago, I mostly shared it with family, but I thought more people would love to see it. Merry Christmas!!! C…

Reblogged 3 years ago from www.youtube.com