Sunday, November 30, 2008

Customer Circus

Following the debacle,
Comcast did a pretty good job of reaching out to both consumer and business audiences. I just saw their director of digital care, Eliason speak at the WOMMA conference. Looks like Bob Garfield is also acknowledging that Comcast is being responsive (at least) to customer issues. He is expanding the scope of his mission though - he'll continue his customer service reviews at

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ann Taylor's Smart Email

With the ongoing news about the declining economy and the dismal retail conditions, it is hard not to believe news that some stores will not be able to honor their discount coupons after January 1st. In fact, on Friday I got an email from a friend with a long list of retailers, the number of stores they were shutting down. The note indicated that any holiday deals, such as friends and family coupons/savings, would not be honored after the New Year's, since the stores would no longer be in business.

I am never coordinated enough to have the right coupon at the right store, but the email did create a short list of brands in my mind that I matched up to poor performance. Ann Taylor, one of my favorite clothing stores, was mentioned in that email.

Come Saturday, I got a note from Ann Taylor, debunking the rumors about honoring holiday deals and clarifying the reason behind the store closings.

Dear Valued Client:

It has come to our attention that false and misleading information, regarding our Company and our store closure program, is circulating on the Web, as part of a hoax to scare consumers away from purchasing gift cards. Ann Taylor is a financially strong Company that operates nearly 1,000 Ann Taylor, LOFT, Ann Taylor Factory and LOFT Outlet stores across the U.S. In January 2008, we announced plans to close some underperforming stores, as part of a strategic restructuring program to make us an even stronger Company that can continue to serve you in the future. Our gift cards continue to be a popular and great option for gifting this Holiday season and can be redeemed at any of our stores, as well as online at and We look forward to serving you again soon!

Kay Krill
President and Chief Executive Officer
Ann Taylor Stores Corporation

Ann Taylor wins points for delivering a fast, online response from a top officer in the company. Being in PR, I can appreciate all the work that must have gone into crafting the right message and targeting the right customers. I am on Ann Taylor's Insights panel as a customer who cares about the brand. I had also signed up for a store card at some point. Not sure how they exactly selected the email recipients, but they surely reached the right audience.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Learnings from WOMMA Conference - Part 1

I have been living and breathing word of mouth marketing theory for the past few days in Las Vegas, where I was attending the WOMMA Research Symposium and Marketing Summit. I would like to use this space to share some of the key learnings I took away from the conference, which was rich with WOMM examples and best practices.

First, the Conversation Value (TM) Model developed by the research firm ChatThreads and colleagues brought quite a bit of substance to the discussion around the incremental value WOM brings to campaigns. The firm, leveraging the work of Dr. Walter Carl from Northeastern University (and ChatThreads' Chief Research Officer) and Prof. Barak Libai who is currently teaching at MIT University, has built an agent based model. The model takes elements such as the following into consideration:

- profitability per unit
- purchases per customer
- retention rate
- discount rate
- time periods people continue to make recommendations
- generational relay
- generational purchase rates
- number of program participants
- program, coupon, sample costs

ChatThreads uses survey data and statistical modeling to calculate the value of a conversation. It is like, if you are skipping a stone over water, you can estimate the number of times it is going to bounce and the distance it will travel based on the strength of your arm, the weight of the stone and what happens when that stone hits the water.

The model helps marketers go beyond metrics such as impressions, hits and clicks; which tell only part of the story. It puts a dollar value on an esoteric concept such as word of mouth. When I asked Dr. Carl whether the model was best suited to estimate the value of conversation around tangible products, he explained that it could actually have a variety of applications, including scenario planing.

So, imagine knowing how far the word will go when faced with a crisis or when writing the key messages for a campaign. Pretty powerful stuff.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Great Crisis Site from NY Governor

The New York State just launched a new Web site, Reduce NY Spending, to inform the public about the budget deficit issues and to draw them into a discussion. The design is great for its purpose. No bells and whistles. Just the right amount of information, which is quick to find and navigate. Information is not just in static prose, but also in video format - giving Governor Patterson the chance to speak directly to his audience. My favorite is the budget calculator, where visitors can see what goes into the state budget, play with the numbers and try to balance it out themselves.

Governor presents his plan to balance the budget, answers the most frequently answered questions and invites everyone to an speak up. You can send the Governor and his staff your two cents by using this form.

My hope is that the Governor and his staff respond promptly and effectively to questions they get from this section. Perhaps we'll see a truly interactive, public forum soon? Nonetheless, this is a pretty good crisis site example.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Motivequest Called It!

So, I am keeping the election widget on the right hand side, because it shows our new leader's picture. Motivequest CEO David Rabjohns had said he'd shave his hair off if his online promoter score didn't predict the outcome of the election. Well, he's keeping his hair I guess: the widget shows Obama 52%, McCain 46%. According to Yahoo News, that's exactly where we are with the latest count of votes!