Posts

How to Avoid the Reputation Mistakes of Lululemon

Once the darling of women across Canada and the United States for great yoga and leisure clothes, Lululemon seems to have lost its way.  First came the less than stellar quality pants, then the comments that essentially only certain women can wear their pants without issues arising, and now marketing promotions that counter concerns about skin cancer.  Lululemon is not unlike any other brand in that reputation issues do arise. The difference however, could be in how a brand responds.  So, let’ take a look at how to avoid the reputation mistakes of Lululemon.heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com, taylormadecanada.com

1.  The Argument FOR Listening to Brand Conversations

When the story first broke that Lululemon’s pants were of poor quality and actually see-through, Lululemon’s response, or lack of response was odd. At first they completely ignored their customers’ complaints and continued to promote other product in their social channels.

This only fuelled the fire and angered customers. As more people became aware of the issue, the story also grew. Playing the role of the Ostrich and burying your head in the sand does not work.

Key Take-Away:  It is hard to imagine that this commentary still needs to be shared but, apparently it does. Brands can no longer “push” their communications on customers.  Communication is a two-way street.  Therefore choosing to “not” listen is no longer acceptable business practice.  In the case of Lululemon they could have addressed the issue immediately and demonstrated to their customers that their opinion was valued. Instead it escalated out of control, the brand took a hit, as did their stock.  In the end, they were forced to respond.  Once news hits mainstream media and you are forced to respond, you have damaged your reputation.

2.  Act on Your Own.  Don’t be Forced

As someone who provides guidance to companies on PR and reputation issues, I always tell people to come forward first.  Don’t wait to be outed by the media or some other source.  If you did something wrong, admit it and have a plan to fix it.

“Key Take-Away:  Lululemon is certainly not alone in waiting to respond. I can’t put them in that category alone. There are many companies that have also done so. Most airlines, including Air Canada have had to respond to outrage as a result of actions incurred and not addressed properly.  It really comes down to doing the right thing. If you did something wrong, like United Airlines when they broke Canadian musician Dave Carroll’s guitar and then do nothing about, even with video proof, you are headed for a PR nightmare. Over and above that you have a bigger issue though. You have a cultural issue. People working for you just don’t care. You cannot fix a reputation issue without first fixing your cultural issue. This is a big take-away and one that should be looked at seriously.

3.  Test Your Messages

Sometimes we blame agencies for providing marketing materials, campaigns, etc. that result in PR nightmares.  While that does happen on occasion, as brand managers, we must take some responsibility for our brand and what we choose to do.  There is a reason that both agencies and many brands test messaging before going to market. For me personally, if I have this “I don’t know feeling” and can’t really articulate it, I know I need to test it.  Nine times out of 10 the testing comes back with results that send us back to the drawing board.

Key Take-Away:  Don’t let nagging feelings of doubt just fade away with the hopes that it will be o.k.  And, more importantly test your message. Sometimes brands are too close to the message or storyline and can miss subtle nuances that an unbiased audience will pick up immediately. Getting this information before going to market can save you time, money and embarrassment.  Lululemon might want to think about this as a go forward plan.

Now, like all Canadians, I like to see my Canadian companies succeed. I am hoping that these few missteps are just that and things will evolve and change for our much loved Lululemon!

Like this post?  Follow me on Twitter:  @MacLeanHeather.  Feel free to leave a comment, add your input or disagree with me.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cost of Ignoring Social Media (What You Need to Know)

Is your company still in denial thinking that you don’t need to embrace social media? If so, you are suffering a great cost which can be documented through research. For example, McKinsey & Company research shows that unlocking value and productivity through social media is significant. In fact, the study reports that social media could potentially contribute between $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value across the four commercial sectors studied.

Research from Genesys points to the fact that more than half of customer-facing Fortune 500 Corporations “suffer from social shyness”. Specifically, 55% fail to list a Twitter handle and 51% fail to list a Facebook page on their “contact us” page.

The Cost of Ignoring (COI) social media is more significant to businesses than just being socially shy. It comes down to dollars. According to a recent Forbes piece, “social media is more pervasive than ever among customers: 50% of the population currently use Facebook and more than 37% use Twitter.”  This same post also suggests that only 16% of surveyed CEOs were participating in social media. The logical conclusion? Your customers are using social to connect and communicate; therefore, you should too.

The COI of social media comes down to missed opportunities. As a business, you need to question your opportunity costs. If you and your organization don’t have a listening and engagement plan in place, here are five areas where you are experiencing COI right now:

1. Customer Service

Conversations are taking place right now about your products and/or services. Some are very positive and helpful to you.  Some are very negative, perhaps even inaccurate. If you are not listening and engaging, you aren’t taking the steps to correct misinformation.  You are also not taking the steps for a rapid response to fix an issue and delight your customer. Rapid responses save time, which saves money.

2. Reputation Management

If you haven’t secured your company’s social identity, someone else will. They could communicate with your customers under the guise that they represent your brand. We all know that one of the things keeping the Boards of Directors awake at night is the possibility of a social media crisis that damages the company reputation.

3. Crowdsourcing to Build Loyalty

Perhaps one of the most effective companies at utilizing crowdsourcing for this outcome is Starbucks. They have successfully built brand ambassadors through contests and more. Best of all, when done well, it also engages their employees and results in profits.

4. Collaboration

Companies like Dell use their invention of IdeaStorm to bring collaboration to life. According to McKinsey & Company, improved communication and collaboration through social media could raise the productivity of interaction of workers by 20 to 25 percent.  This has huge potential.

5. Recruitment

Some of the savviest candidates have strong social profiles. They have their resumé on social networking sites like LinkedIn. They are researching potential employers through social sites, commentaries, and the social profile of an employer. Being absent can send a strong message to potential candidates.

Want to learn more?  Sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

A version of this post previously appeared on the Marketing Cloud blog.

Mitigate Business Risks: Implement a Social Media Council

Collaboration and cooperation are important components of a business ecosystem. They can help us mitigate risk. We all know this. Interestingly enough though, not enough people consider this when developing and implementing different components of their operational functions and some of the communications associated with the various operational aspects.  For example, not enough organizations are implementing social media councils.  These councils are an important component of your operations; and here are the top 5 reasons to start your social media council immediately.

5.  Eliminate Functional/Communication Silos

Unless your organization is small and centrally located, then you have experienced the fact that different people in different departments could very well be duplicating efforts.  Some examples include communications with customers through such channels as Twitter for customer service. The last thing you want to do is to confuse your customers about what channel is the right one to reach you in the event of an issue. Approaching your social media as a collective can bring good ideas to the table sooner and ensure that everyone approaches it the same way.  A social media council will foster collaboration. Want tips on how to break down silos?  Check out Busting Silos: Workplace Design Offers a Smart Solution, Barbara T. Armstrong. Click to Tweet

 4.  Reduce costs

Silos not only increase confusion, they increase costs.  Creating a social media council can ensure that the right number of resources are identified and trained to monitor and engage on behalf of your company.  This will reduce costs.  Click to Tweet A social media council will also ensure that multiple resources are not carrying out the same function at the same time.

3.  Manage & Protect Reputation

Eisner  Amper’s 4th Annual Board of Directors’ Survey continues to show Reputation Risk at the top of the list, primarily due to the concerns around social media.  Developing and implementing a social media council is your first step in your defence. A social media council should be made up of people from different disciplines, including Human Resources, Legal, Public Relations, Marketing, Sales, etc.  Including Human Resources and Legal is absolutely essential.  Their approach will provide a different perspective that will make your overall effort more focused.  They will also learn about the issues of Sales, Public Relations and Marketing in a new context.  This will further foster collaboration and learning for all. Click to  Tweet

2.  Create an Informed and Educated Workforce

Creating a social media council, when done well, means that you are building a multidisciplinary   team.  This group of people should not only bring information, ideas and issues to the Council, they are also to bring information, ideas and issues back to their respective departments.  A successful, highly functioning Council gives and receives information.  It becomes a powerful communication channel for the entire enterprise – from the frontline workers all the way up to and including the C-suite.  Click to Tweet

1. Identify and Mitigate Risk

It all comes down to this.  If there is just one reason to implement a social media council, it is about identifying and mitigating risk.  When you look at each of the reasons above, it can all be boiled down to this.  I don’t know one organization that isn’t concerned about mitigating risk.

If you would like to learn more about social media councils and mitigating risk, let us know.  Check us out at TaylorMade Solutions.

How You Tell Your Customers (on a daily basis) That Your Brand Sucks

First off, a brand is not a logo.  A brand is about the emotional reaction that your product and/or service causes.  For example, how do you feel when you think:  Apple, Range Rover or Canada Goose? What you thought and felt is the brand – good or bad!  More importantly, ask yourself how do you want people to react to your brand?  What do they think when they hear your name?  So, repeat after me:  a brand is not a logo.   And people who continue to think that a brand is a logo are likely the same people that don’t understand why they are having customer retention issues.  These same people are telling their customers and prospects that their own brand sucks in these three ways:

Image: TaylorMade Solutions

Image: TaylorMade Solutions

1.  Unknown Company Values

If you haven’t really thought about what your company values are, your employees will be left to make them up. Needless to say, consistency might be an issue at best.  Worst case scenario?  Your customers won’t like what they see and bail.

It is not enough to say that you strive for excellence for example, you need to ensure your entire team knows and understands what this means.  What excellence looks like and what it does not.  In December I wrote of an experience with Keurig Canada that demonstrated that they weren’t operating on that premise of  excellence.  Thankfully they were listening on social and called me to rectify the situation.  You can read about that experience here.

2.  Not Responding to Customers

This is no doubt the best way to tell your customers or prospects that they don’t matter.  First and foremost you have to be present in the channels where your customers and prospects are.  So, that means telephone, email and in some cases social media. (I differ from most marketers with respect to social.  I believe you have to be realistic about your business and who your customers are and make an informed decision, but this deserves its own separate blog post.)

Here is the critical piece, however:  be sure that you properly staff these channels and respond.  Seems logical right?  Unfortunately not.  Would you sit next to a ringing phone and not answer it?  Probably not. At least I hope not.  So, why then do some brands ask people to email them and then never respond?  The same goes for social media?  You are sending the wrong message.

Not responding to customers happens all the time.  Not responding to prospects happens all of the time.  These results in lost business.

Here are two recent examples:

  • Robert Burns Day got me thinking about Haggis.  So, I wanted to buy some.  I googled and found Stahly Quality Foods. Great!  However, not so great!  When I tried to order a notice came up for North Americans.  Not to worry, I could reach out to a regional distributor via email.  I sent that email more than two weeks ago and have not received an acknowledgement or answer.  So, I put a message on Stahly Quality Foods Facebook page…and you guessed it…nothing.  In fact the last time they actually posted on their Facebook page was October 2013.  So, exactly why do they have a Facebook page?  Why do they list their distributors with their contact information?  Frankly I have formed an opinion of this brand.  It is not a good one.  I now can’t imagine buying food from them.Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 10.04.12 AM
  • I was helping a student with his cover letter and resume for a specific job.  The company doing the hiring requests that applicants send their information via email or snail mail.  They are a large company with a full HR department.  They had approximately four jobs listed on their website at the time this student applied.  The issue that he faced is that he could not get anyone to respond to his request to confirm receipt of the email.  He even tried a delivery receipt, but received a notification that their system was set up so that a delivery acknowledgement was not possible.

Many HR departments that do this often claim that because of volume of applications and only successful candidates will be notified of an interview.  I say “B.S” to that.  First and foremost you can have an automatic response that acknowledges receipt of the email.  Secondly, you can set rules to sort applications by job number.  So, saying that you get too many email is really and truly B.S.

What you are doing is setting the tone for candidates.  Some may decide that this is not the type of organization that they want to work for.  This could certainly be the case in markets where there are more jobs than candidates.  Or, you can be setting the tone for how, if successful, they should act towards their colleagues, prospects and customers.  After all, mediocrity begets mediocrity (tweet this).

3.  Lacking of Training and Management

We all need training.  Sometimes it is training rooted in the technology we need for the job, some times it is in safety, working hours, etc.  What many brands forget to train their employees in, is customer interaction.

Have you ever gone into a store and saw a number of employees clustered together laughing and carrying on?  There are many things that could be going in here.  The first thought might be, wow, this is a great place to work. These people are happy.  This is great.  However, as you are in the store longer you see that these same employees continue to stay together and are completely oblivious to the customers around them.  They don’t see the customers who need help.  They deliberately avoid eye contact.  This is often systematic of a lack of training and management.  It can be a very easy fix.  Train your employees on the importance of the customer. Ensure that your managers are always focused on the customer and lead by example.  There is nothing wrong with a team huddle and good camaraderie.  Actually it is great.  It only becomes an issue when your comrades don’t focus on the customer and the customer walks out.

The Fix

These are three ways that you and your employees tell your customers, on a daily basis, that your brand sucks.  Thankfully there are easy fixes:

  • communicate your values to all employees
  • consistently enforce your brand values and acknowledge your employees when they live the brand values
  • make brand training a regular operational practice
  • ensure that your customers are prospects are at the forefront of your communications and expectations
  • communicate your expectations
  • test your employees – secret shoppers help identify issues for improvement
  • remember to focus on issues and not individuals – praise publicly and coach privately

What would you add to the list? Want more information or help? Feel free to connect with us.

The Ostrich Effect

In my last blog posting I spoke of people, in general, having a fear of social media. The question is why?

The answer could be as simple as “it is human nature”, but that would be letting me, and you, off the hook way too easily! We need to dig a little deeper. For this posting, let’s look at the issue from the perspective of an organization or institution.

Thanks to research presented earlier this year by Nancy Bain, we know that 75% of all Canadians are now on-line, that there are some 18,620,000 Canadians on Facebook and that the time that we spend on Twitter is up 3700%.

These numbers can be daunting for businesses or institutions. These numbers are significant and it means that decisions makers have to take a hard look at actions that will involve the use of new communications’ tools, new technology and very open and public discussions. This is a frightening thought for many.

The questions that immediately come to mind are: how will we learn to use these tools effectively? Who will train us? Do we need training? What are the full ramifications if we choose to not use these tools and resources? What are the ramifications if we do? Do we need new policies? Do we need to staff 24/7? And most importantly, what if something unsavoury is said about my organization? What can I do? This last question is probably really what would keep managers awake at night. Earlier this year Eisner Amper conducted a survey of Boards of Directors asking them what they felt was the biggest threat to their respective organizations. The result was a clear and decisive statement – reputational risk!

So, we know that reputational risk is a huge concern. That being said, why exactly would so many decision makers choose to not engage in social media? The reason – is what I like to call the Ostrich Effect! If one chooses to bury his head in the sand and therefore cannot hear what is being said on social media, it doesn’t exist, right? Wrong!

The fact is that there are many communications professionals that can assist organizations and institutions navigate the social media waters and prepare a social media strategy that meets your specific organizational needs. We are just a click away! What are you waiting for? Organizations and institutions need to be proactive. Waiting for a crisis to emerge is not the answer.

In my next posting, I will look at crisis communications and how social media can work to your advantage.