Tag Archives: Conusmer Behavior

I Went to School….#agreesharon


Life is filled with so many interesting moments that I decided to create a weekly conversation starter around one of the more entertaining observations made during the previous week. Nothing too complicated — fun to see how people answer the question.

       Let me know what you think.

Pre-School_GraduationImagine you are having one of those exploratory networking conversations with someone….both participants have a solid 20 years of professional work experience. One person kicks off the introduction by saying: Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I went to school….

Really! With twenty years of work experience…why would you begin the conversation with your school history? Keep in mind: (1) We do not share an alma mata and (2) You did not recently acquire a new credential in your industry or in a new industry.

Why would someone set the tone with this introductory statement?

Encouraging or Discouraging??


Life is filled with so many interesting moments that I decided to create a weekly conversation starter around one of the more entertaining observations made during the previous week. Nothing too complicated — fun to see how people answer the question.

Let me know what you think.

With the Rio Olympic games in play, I found myself reading both current and historical articles about the event. Is the expression “You do not Win Silver….You Lose Gold” helpful to the competitive mindset or an insult to anyone other than he/she placing first?



Have you made anyone feel that 2nd or 3rd place was not good enough? More importantly, did it provide any positive impact on the outcome?

Bubble in the Starched Shirt


Life is filled with so many interesting moments that I decided to create a weekly conversation starter around one of the more entertaining observations made during the previous week. Nothing too complicated — fun to see how people answer the question.

Let me know what you think.

Walking by one of the fancier, established NYC hotels, I watched the starched shirt doormen assisting the well-dressed and casually-dressed hotel guests alike. The doormen juggled their assistance with the luggage, the hailing of the taxis and the requests for directions with never-ending smiles and cool composure.

So it is not surprising when I took a moment to pause because out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of the clean cut doorman having a moment of rest —- and blowing a big bubble gum bubble covering up the bottom quarter of his face. Really??!!! Not quite the class act hoped for by the hotel management.

little boy blowing a bubble

And a good reminder that we all sometimes do things that are best done when not in the public spotlight.

Lesson reiterated……Someone is Always Looking. LOL

The Big Rethink US 2014 Conference

I was lucky enough to attend The Big Rethink US 2014 Conference delivered by conference logoThe Economist and further supported by MENG. The discussions surrounding big data, social networking and customer engagement crossed almost every industry. In this blog post, I will share twelve highlights from the March 2014 conference; they are in no particular order. For additional twitter streams, check out #BigRethink, @TheIdeasEconomy and @sharonlewisnyc.

1.Real Time Marketing
This is the Holy Grail that we marketers seek to achieve with confidence, reliability and available budget parameters. The concept behind achieving this is to set up multi-functional teams that are empowered to be spontaneous within a pre-determined set of boundaries. Huh?? Is this possible?
Yes. The example was the 2013 SuperBowl Dunk in the Dark Oreo campaign. With a zero media spend; one tweet generated 525 million media impressions.

2.Data Context: Opt-in May Still Need a Human Intervention to Avoid Bad Assumptions
At @1800Flowers, they do not assume that you send the same person a Valentines’ Day bouquet every year! In a similar vein, you cannot re-use the data that you collect for an arrangement being sent for a funeral or for condolence purposes. Enough Said!

3. Our attention span has become so short that we do not take the required time to explore many worthwhile options. Here are two examples:
Remember the amount of time that what went into making a 30 second or 60 second commercial? Our requirements for immediate gratification (read: short attention spans), have further crept into the creative process. What happened to the evolution of an idea? Some speaker discussion suggested that similar to the final campaign, the creative process has become one that demands instant gratification. As such, we may be pre-maturely eliminating some great campaigns and bottom line results.

As it relates to getting the consumer to the action stage of the offer: @MaryKayUS spoke about a mobile – first strategy with the goal of accomplishing any action within two clicks. …. “Making it easy for the soccer mom en route to the practice field” to be productive……. @SherryAG That does sound pretty close to instant gratification!

4. We have too many channels of vertical expertise. This impacts our corporate structures and our recruitment efforts
Comments from the CMOS of Lowe’s and The Weather Company spoke to trying to break down the vertical channels of expertise. As an industry, we have already established many proven formulas for successful, relevant marketing. While the quantity of the messaging channels has changed, and the available channels for marketing have changed…… The principles of relevant messaging and singular focus to action have not changed.
A good marketer can learn the nuances of a unique communications channel; Good marketing skills are applicable across any vertical channel. Hence why do we suggest otherwise in our (formal and informal) recruitment and career development policies?

5. “Say what”…….Whose language are you speaking? Whose perspective are you sharing?
There was an “aha moment” when the McCann Truth Central story was shared about a focus group participant stating that they engage in low rates of text messaging. Further probing revealed that this young adult had some 300 text messages daily; another participant piped in to say that they wake up some mornings to 1000 messages on their phone. @McCannTruth @TruthLaura
Lesson reiterated: Perceptions are everything. Probe and define the perception from which one speaks!

6. Crisp, singular messaging is nothing new and should continue to be a mantra for good communications.
Remember the old adage for a good billboard ad: six words or less! Why do we act surprised when the role of crisp singular messaging is re-proven with each new communications channel that we invent?

7. Data Sharing and Privacy
There are conceptual lines that consumers use in determining how/when/what they share. Brands are starting to learn that consumers are more aware than ever that they are sharing and that when they do… “They want something back for it”. Many of the speakers noted that they have received customer complaints from those feeling that their data was not being maximized. Again, this creates a fine line in differentiating a personalized experience from a Yuk factor, also known as a “creepy factor”. The app for a healthier lifestyle called @Noom, spoke to their success in the creation of trusted on-line weight-loss support groups; Caesar’s Entertainment spoke about real time data updates regarding the preferences of their clientele.

8. Data Context, Data Filters and Timely Data vs Relevant Data
A real time, big picture challenge that continues to be tested by marketers are the models behind: How does a brand insert themselves into a conversation that is appropriate and relevant to the customer experience?
• Here is where mobile is changing the retail shopping experience.
• Here is where content is being taken to new levels of storytelling, relevancy and entertainment (interpreted as three distinct and intertwined objectives).
• Here is where the concept of “filter failure” needs to be fine-tuned for efficacy and relevancy.

9. Would this ad prompt someone to want to see the ad again?
It seems logical that re-watching an ad is an important criteria to wanting to share the ad, thereby allowing it to go viral. Music videos being replayed on YouTube are a great example. The “Lowe’s Fix in Six,” vine series offers simple, everyday improvements that could also fit into the category of a “want to replay it”. The Apple ads that speak to what you can do with an apple product were touted as another example.
It is hard to predict what will spark a viral reaction; it is easier to go with creating something that people simply want to see/hear/experience again.

10, Note-taking was visual and intrigued everyone in the audience. Take a look

11. Analysis Paralysis
With data exploding at unparalleled rates, projects quickly become so big that they are scary—even to the best minds in quantitative model development. The presenters advised that we all just get in there and start doing it — not everyone can have the big budgets, however everyone can create learning environments.

12. Funny Expression of the Day
The budgets available to test, measure and deliver were never stated during the conference. SVP and CMO of Frito-Lay North America enthusiastically shared some memorable experiential campaigns with the audience. And, with such stories, she had us all laughing with the expression: “The juice is worth the squeeze”.

In closing: I will paraphrase an organization that was not represented at the conference: “Ya gotta be in it to win it”

Wishing us all much positive learning in our campaign endeavors.

This blog originally posted in March 2014 through the mengonline.com community via http://mengonline.com/blog/2014/03/18/reflections-economists-big-rethink-360-cmo/

Is there a formula to asking Brilliant Questions?

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Not surprisingly, Einstein makes a good point. And, so I set out to ask others what they think of that observation. In turn, practicing the philosophy first hand. The dialogue was great. The conversations produced a list of seven common themes. And so, with a number of qualitative research projects on my plate, I set out to be uber-deliberate in using these themes in the formulation of the questions that I would be taking into the field. Correlating the brilliant question criteria to my own facilitation guides did indeed have a positive impact!  Here are the seven themes:

What qualities make a question brilliant?

1. Inspiration to see things in a new light

For example: Five plus five equals ten; what other numbers can be used to get me to ten?

  1. Generates thoughtful willingness to challenge the norm

Referencing Storm Sandy remains a tangible reference point. What would happen if a critical piece of this process were no longer available?

  1. Creates ownership of the solution

Tell me: What do you suggest we do here?

  1. Provides clarity of purpose

In explaining what someone does, they are forced to account for how the dots connect.

  1. Encourages new solutions

Probe: What are the frustrations in doing it this way? Can that be done in any other way?”

  1. Asks for an evaluation of limited resources

If you had the power to change it, what are the consequences of choosing A over B?

  1. Open ended enough to solicit the “how, why and what do you think about this” yet tight enough to provide direction to the thought process

Imagine yourself painting a picture. Now imagine yourself painting a picture of the golf course where you played last week-:)


Look Elsewhere for Answers

In addition to the quest for consistently developing brilliant questions to ask, it always astonishes me when the “ah-ha moments come from where you least expect.

I was recently contracted to interview people that could help us learn more about employee overtime as a source of income in today’s economic environment. While speaking to individuals across industries, it was time to dig deeper within a particular function within a particular industry. Employees, HR executives, department managers all provided lots of interesting insights. It was the conversation with a professional in a completely unrelated industry to the one that I was researching….that the “ah-ha” moment came into place. My facilitation guide took on a new twist and each time I presented the “ah-ha” question to my interviewees…they lit up in the same way that I did with the implications presented. This was empowering. And, it was fun for all involved.

When in doubt, provide praise

In the exploration phase of a project looking to uncover breakdowns between functional departments, I was presented with an opinion that I did not quite know what to do with. “Great point. No-one else has mentioned that”, I said.  “Tell me more.” And the flood-gates opened!

Do you find yourself asking questions that lead you to great answers?

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” (said the same man).

The Adoption of Bank Technology

Why would an organization that has spent years driving customers away from traditional brick and mortar facilities spend millions of dollars driving customers back into the branch storefront?

 Citibank recently opened a new branch in the Union Square geography of Manhattan. The branch is well located on a busy corner in the heart of Union Square. A large selection of transportation, arteries, leading retailers, a large Green Market and a “hip reputation” all contribute to the high store traffic that any retailer in this physical location should experience.

So here is where I find the paradox.

 Service providers are scrambling to embrace social media and use it to further drive brand activities (including sales). For years, banks have been directing customers outside of the traditional brick and mortar storefront and into telephone banking, online banking and most recently mobile banking. These activities were originally targeted to the “less profitable” customer. No more. Practically every activity that can be done on-line or through a Smartphone device has been simplified, de-mystified, made affordable and is now heavily promoted to every customer profile and segment.

 Why would an organization that has spent years driving customers away from traditional brick and mortar facilities spend millions of dollars driving customers back into the branch?

 Perhaps like the Apple stores, any opportunity to close the technology gap and to get customers using the technology more will eventually result in delivery channel optimization. It was fun too see the techniques that are being used in the new Citibank branch to drive branch traffic ….. And potentially technology use.

Accessibility: The corner site in bustling Union Square will drive foot traffic.

Appearance:  Citibank partnered with the Apple store architects to design the new branch.

The open concept of the branch design is inviting and appealing to the eye. The signage is simple and bold. Something about it says: “come on in and take a peek.”

Awareness: Citibank delivered an integrated communications strategy to increase awareness and further drive traffic and interest to the new location.

Compelling: Once you are inside the branch, many new “toys” await your perusal: 

  • The branch boasts no paper. No colorful paper collateral is found on the walls of this retailer. Interactive media walls display real time rates and product benefits. Touch the media wall—it’s like a big tablet screen. Feels like the iPad; looks like the iPad on hormones.
  • A media wall with a live chat screen ensures that you are never alone in the ATM vestibule—24/7. Hmmm, seems like most e-commerce sites offers me that same level of personal service. Okay, no need to fear the technology. A human is just behind the screen.
  • Can’t find an envelope to deposit your checks or cash into the ATM. No worries—enhanced image ATMs capture every detail. This is “green” and it is safer  —  remember when the cardinal rule was “no ATM cash deposits—- you will never win the argument with the bank if there is a discrepancy  “how much cash” was deposited in the ATM deposit envelope? No more.

Ease of Engagement: It is easy to do more than just take a peek….

  • The interactive media walls are large and they are installed at various heights. Adds a bit of fun and exercise to the experience.
  • Of course, if you prefer to speak to someone, staff is available to triage you to the right area. And, yes, it appeared that there were many areas for private customer meetings if such was of interest.
  • The wi-fi offering and comfortable seating area accommodates weary customers who are invited to sit down and relax at their friendly branch. (No, they do not serve Starbucks coffee)
  • And, a long counter filled with laptops seduces you to play games with very attractive prize options…… Just provide your contact information so that the bank marketing department can get back to you with more news, more games and more opportunities to feel comfortable with the Citibank brand. 

Citibank will have many opportunities to measure the customer response to this new branch design and customer service experience.  

 Good Luck to Citi on this new venture. 

Side Note

In the mid 1980s, I was involved in the approved business case that developed a branch in the Carnegie Hill section of Manhattan; at the time, a capital investment of that magnitude in that neighborhood was built with a “pioneering” attitude. However the design of the branch which included a pneumatic tube system for accepting customer deposits was leading edge. Customers could sit with an account officer and no-one had to leave their seat to complete the deposit or the withdrawal transaction. Amazing.

The business case for the new Union Square Citibank branch had to be a lot of work and a lot of fun to develop. A lot of fun!