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Friday, August 23 2013

How to Make Money Before You Are 30

If Mike Nichols were to remake The Graduate, there would need to be a crucial script change.  Newly graduated Benjamin Braddock would not be informed that his future lay in 'plastics,' but social media.  "Ben, I've got one word for you, Internet.'

Thanks to staff.com' Reina Carpeso for this.

Salaries for Popular Online Jobs - Infographic
Staff.com – Connecting Great Companies with Global Talent

Wednesday, November 28 2012

What They Are Saying About Psychological Foundations of Marketing

PFM_final_cover.jpgSusan Fournier, Professor of Marketing, Boston University

The field of marketing has always drawn inspiration and character from psychology: from marketing’s inception in the science of persuasion; through the cognitive revolution that sought to unravel the complexities of decision-making, memory, and choice; to a non-conscious paradigm exposed through the hard science of neuropsychology; and into the intricate psycho-social terrain of contemporary lives enacted online. This book provides a solid foundation in the concepts, principles, and processes that determine the whys and hows of consumer behavior at its core. With Malcolm Gladwell-style reporting, Kimmel grounds us in classic and state-of-the-art psychological research that can inform and advance marketing academics and practice. If you understand that marketing success rests on a deep understanding of the customer, read this book.


Michael R. Solomon, Professor Marketing, Saint Joseph's University

If indeed we are what we buy, the field of consumer psychology plays an integral role in explaining who we are.  Allan Kimmel offers both scholars and laymen a highly readable overview of the psychological underpinnings of marketing theory and practice.  His synopsis looks backward to the fundamentals of consumer psychology, and forward to emerging areas such as neuromarketing and virtual identity.  It's a great 'one-stop shoppint' solution for readers who want to appreciate the fascinating synergies between psychology and consumption.

Mark Batey, President, Batey Consulting, Oxford UK and author of Brand Meaning

Allan Kimmel demonstrates why and how psychology and marketing are inseparable.  Amply illustrated with useful examples, this comprehensive book probes all the major themes and facets of the consumer mindset.


Now Available:

Routledge http://www.psypress.com/books/details/9780415620017/



Are we influenced by ads even when we fast-forward them?

Do brands extend our personalities?

Why do we spend more when we pay with a credit card?

Psychological Foundations of Marketing considers the impact of psychology on marketing practice and research, and highlights the applied aspects of psychological research in the marketplace. This book presents an introduction to both areas, and provides a survey of the various contributions that psychology has made to the field of marketing.

Each chapter considers a key topic within psychology, outlines the main theories, and presents various practical applications of the research.

Topics covered include:

  • Motivation: The human needs at the root of many consumer behaviors and marketing decisions.
  • Perception: The nature of perceptual selection, attention and organization and how these perceptual processes relate to the evolving marketing landscape.
  • Decision making: How and under what circumstances it is possible to predict consumer choices, attitudes and persuasion?
  • Personality and lifestyle: How insight into consumer personality can be used to formulate marketing plans.
  • Social behavior: The powerful role of social influence on consumption.

cropped1.jpgAuthor: http://www.amazon.com/Allan-J.-Kimmel/e/B001H6UQE6/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Allan Kimmel, Professor of Marketing, ESCP Europe, Paris, France (email:  kimmel@escpeurope.eu)
Author of the following additional books:
Connecting With Consumers: Marketing for New Marketplace Realities (Oxford)
Marketing Communication: New Approaches, Technologies, and Styles (Oxford)
Rumors and Rumor Control: A Manager's Guide to Understanding and Combatting Rumors (LEA/Routledge)
Ethical Issues in Behavioral Research: Basic and Applied Perspectives (Blackwell/Wiley)
Ethical Issues in Applied Social Research (Sage)
Ethics of Human Subject Research (Jossey-Bass)

Friday, October 12 2012

Consumers as Social Media

The marketing software firm Marketo brings us this social media users profile segmentation, which likely will prove too close to home for comfort.  Yes, it's a sorry state of affairs when people become their machines, but hey, isn't that exactly what Raymond Kurzweil predicts in The Singularity is Near?  It's sad to see so many people becoming slaves to their portable devices and social media channels, but that's the reality of the contemporary world.  Are you ready to admit, which type of social media addict are you?


Friday, August 24 2012

Psychological Foundations of Marketing: The Cover

Just before this site went down temporarily, I posted a teaser regarding the cover for my forthcoming book, Psychological Foundations of Marketing (November, 2012, Routledge/Taylor & Francis).  This was more a commentary on the sorry state of creative decision making among academic publishers than any backhanded attempt to sell books - regarding the latter, I'm not that delusional.  Without further adieu, the final choice brought us to the following cover, which both myself and my publisher are satisfied with.  The cover photo is one of my own, taken as I wandered around the famous department stores off Boulevard Haussmann following a night at the Paris opera.


I think this cover does a good job of 'reflecting' - in more ways than one - the heart of what the book is about, which is largely an effort at getting inside the heads of consumers, for better (I hope) or worse (I hope not) marketing efforts.  Here's the runner up, another one of my photos in my decades long 'windows series' - again, taken while window shopping in Paris.


Let me know what you think.

Sunday, August 19 2012

The Website is Back

your_image.jpgSome technical difficulties. Sorry for any inconvenience while the site was crashed.  Hats off to my local shaman P. for restoring what Webhostingpad could not (despite my $25 restore payment).  I will be posting from time to time here, but beginning in September, my new site http://connectwithconsumers.blogspot.com, will take over - unless I change my mind, but you will be the first to know.

Thursday, June 7 2012

The Cover That Never Was

We've reached that stage in the production process of my forthcoming book, Psychological Foundations of Marketing, that I always enjoy - the choice of a cover.  Enjoy, yes, but not without a high level of trepidation.  Based on my past experience, I would have to say that the design teams of major publishers often leave their creativity, imagination, and flair at the door and prefer to go with the tired and true once they sit down at the drawing board.  I think I lucked out for the cover of Connecting With Consumers: Marketing for New Marketplace Realities, probably the only cover of my eight books that I actually like.  And I like it a lot.  Fortunately, my editors at Oxford University Press and I worked together to come up with a cover that we believed reflected the book's content, while maintaining a certain degree of originality in the category.

Originally, my new publishers, Routledge/Taylor & Francis came to me with a couple concepts that I quickly rejected - one theme featuring one or more shopping bags and the other showing someone sitting in front of a bank of TVs.  They struck me as unoriginal and uninformative.  One month later, despite my initial reservations, they came back to me with four cover mockups of the same two original ideas, with the intent to run with the TV banks cover you see below.

I can't quite explain why the production people at T&F fell in love with this cover.  Granted, it's not a bad looking or poorly designed cover, and I could picture it blending into - and getting lost in the process - the array of other academic and professional books on the shelf in greater bookstores throughout the land.  But I hated this cover for several reasons, perhaps mostly because it had little, if anything to do with the book's content, which, as the title suggests, delves into the psychology of consumer behavior and marketing efforts.  An anonymous figure sitting passively in front of a bank of TVs might indeed be the ideal cover for a book on mass media communications circa 1970/80s, but that is not what my book is or intends to be.  When I pointed this out, one member of the T&F team responded that the image shows someone being directly marketed to in a competitive global marketplace characterized by advertising saturation.  To which I pondered, what exactly is Fred Flintstone marketing? 

But what really irked me about this cover is that it belies one of the basic points of my previous book - and this corresponding website: that we no longer live in an age in which people are passively sitting in front of television screens, waiting to be marketed to. I was perplexed as to how anyone could believe that a cover with multiple TVs reflects anything about the contemporary world, psychology, or marketing.  So, true to the Connecting With Consumers philosophy, I suggested that I post a call for covers from enterprising designers in cyberspace and offer some sort of monetary prize for best cover idea. 

Well, given their rush to deadline, T&F nixed the crowdsourcing idea, but I nonetheless am happy to report that they did give me 24 hours to come up with a better idea - actually, three ideas - drawing from two stock photo sites that they already had agreements with.  I'm no designer, but it didn't take me long to come up with about 15 ideas, all of which I thought, if I say so myself, were more appropriate for the new book than the TV motif above.  (The last image below of the shopping mall, unfortunately, would have required a time-consuming permission request.)  Two made it to the final cut and have the professional typography (see the first two below).  I faked the title and author typography on some representative other candidates below. 

So, which cover is the winner?  Sorry, I don't want to ruin the surprise, there's time for that.

I can say that it is not any of the covers you see below.





Wednesday, June 6 2012

76ers Connect With Fans

I'll begin this installment by openly admitting that although I consider myself an avid and knowledgeable fan of baseball and American football, when it comes to the one American sport that has accrued any degree of an international following, NBA basketball, you can count me out.  I'd be happy to challenge you to a game of HORSE or spend a couple hours watching college hoops on the tube, but try to have a conversation with me about the NBA and I will quickly bolt for the nearest exit.  Nonetheless, there is something talkable that I would like to focus on here regarding this past regular season and it just so happens to pertain to the one NBA team I have any degree of affiliation for - the Philadelphia 76ers.

I spent more than a decade in Philadelphia during much of the 1970s and a few years into the '80s, a period perhaps most noteworthy for Julius 'Dr. J' Erving and a trip to the NBA finals  during the 1976-77 season.  Unfortunately, the Sixers and Dr. J. were no match for the Portland Trail Blazers and Bill Walton, the latter of whom promptly won four straight to take the title after starting off 0-2.  Recent years have been lean indeed for the Sixers, until this season when a ragtag team of overachievers nearly shocked the basketball world before falling in the semi-finals to Boston after taking the series to deciding game seven.  But enough about the sport itself, what I want to write about here has to do with the marketing of the sport. 

The Sixers' traditional advertising campaign continued unabated during the season, and it remained as tired and hackneyed as most sports teams' marketing efforts.  Each ad largely followed the same script: swelling music, and a voiceover recounting some team facts, along with some footage from past successes.  Although a few of the ads ended with coach Doug Collins saying how proud he is to be a Sixer, all finished with the same tagline, "Passionate. Intense. Proud."  As losses began to mount during the second half of the truncated season, the ads began to look more and more ludicrous. 


So much for traditional marketing - however much money went into those communications no doubt accrued little dividend from jaded fans who quickly tuned them out.  But since purchasing the team in late 2011 for the relatively low sum of $280 million, the new Sixers' owners, a group of largely anonymous personalities led by Josh Harris, the billionaire private equity titan, created an amazing turnaround for the franchise by dipping into the connected marketing toolbox.  Through a combination of savvy non-traditional sports marketing techniques, Harris and the Sixers' chief executive, Adam Aron rejuvenated the fan base, which had been staying away from games in droves.  No, this did not involve luring Jack Nicholson, Snoop Dogg, and Will Ferrell away from the Lakers' front row seats; instead, the Sixers relied on some tactics that spoke more directly to consumers struggling to get by in hard times--cutting ticket prices as much as 50% on thousands of seats, jazzing up the in-game presentation, and speaking openly and often to fans.  According to Harris, when he and his partners acquired the team, "the Sixers were an undermanaged and undervalued asset that wasn't connecting with its fans."  Like many sports fans, people in Philadelphia prefer team owners to have some allegiance to their cities.  A wealthy New Yorker, Harris made sure to attend nearly every home game, shuttling down from NYC in his chauffeur-driven SUV, and then made sure to sit among the fans: "I like to be on the floor. I like seeing the games down there, and it's good to be down there with the fans."  Fans were invited to apply for free seats behind the basket, an opportunity that came with a caveat:  they had to dress up in Philadelphia-theme outfits.  Aron bought the basketball court on which Sixers' great Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in Hershey, PA, and then proceeded to give away pieces to fans during the game that took place on the 50th anniversary of Chamberlain's astonishing feat.

Not surprisingly, with this new fan-oriented approach, the Sixers are also active on social media.  Aron regularly converses and jokes around with fans on Twitter, posting dozens of times a day from his account, @sixersceoadam.  And the Sixers' Facebook fan page scraps the "Passionate. Intense. Proud." blah blah, replacing it with "Like. Comment. Share."  There are regular opportunities for fans to check out interesting videos and cash in via Facebook with special offers and contests.  At the time of this writing, visitors to the page could win access for two to the 2012 Sixers' draftee press conference and official NBA Sixers draft hats.  Fans, of course, are fickle.  Sportswriters are skeptical.  It helped that the Sixers' brass launched this marketing approach at a time when the team was surprising the pundits.  There's nothing better for marketing a sports team than winning.  It will be interesting to see what the Sixers' owners have in mind for their sophomore campaign.

Tuesday, May 8 2012

From B-to-C to B-to-B

Although this site is dedicated to consumer marketing, it goes without saying that more and more companies are waking up to the potential of new technologies and approaches for connecting with other companies. So in this entry, we go a bit outside the box to take a look at what businesses are doing these days with social media. The best window for meeting that objective may well be Mike Stelzner's  2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, with findings based on a survey of more than 3800 marketers.


Among the key results, we see that most B2B marketers claim to be using social media in their businesses, which essentially matches their consumer marketing counterparts:


Perhaps not surprisingly, B2B marketers are catching up to B2C marketers on Facebook, although they surpass their consumer-oriented counterparts on LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, and Google+.  The key to using such channels is to focus on where one's intended audience is likely to be spending the most time.


What about results?  These results reveal some of the potential benefits of social media for B2B marketers:

  • Over 56% of B2B marketers acquired new business partnerships through social media (compared to 45% of B2C marketers)
  • Nearly 60% of B2B marketers saw improved search rankings from their social efforts (compared to 50% of B2C marketers)
  • B2B marketers are more able to gather marketplace insights from their social efforts (nearly 69% vs. 60% of B2C marketers)
  • The one area where B2B marketers significantly lag behind their B2C counterparts is in developing a loyal fan base.  63% of B2C marketers found social media helped them develop loyal fans, compared to 53% of B2B marketers.
  • The fact that many businesses are not seeing a direct link between their social media efforts and increased sales or reduced marketing expenses may have something to do with a lack of acumen as to how results can be measured:  20% of the respondents asked “How do I measure the effect of social media marketing on my business?”


Some projections concerning how B2B marketers intend to invest their time with social media also were culled from the study:

  • Respondents claim to be far more likely to increase their use of LinkedIn, with, over 76% of B2B marketers stating that they will increase their use (compared to 55% of B2C marketers).
  • 71% of B2B marketers plan to invest more time in blogging (compared to 65% of B2C marketers).
  • As for Facebook, a majority of marketers predict they will increase their use of Facebook this year, but B2B marketers (68%) lag behind B2C companies (76%).

The top topics B2B marketers want to learn about (compared to B2C) are:

  • Measuring effectiveness of social media (77% vs. 78%)
  • Converting activities to sales (72% vs. 69%)
  • Discovering best social media tactics (69% vs. 74%)


... is one we probably knew already:  Social media is now as much part and parcel of B2B marketing as it of B2C marketing.


Why Marketing is Broken and How to Fix It

83% of Consumers Bailed on a Purchase Due to Poor Social Media Customer Service                                                    

Monday, February 27 2012

Starbucks Disconnects

It's one thing to write about all the wonderful things that some forward-thinking companies are doing in joining the consumer conversation, based on second-hand reports and fancy websites.  But when it comes down to interacting directly with those firms, a dramatically different picture often emerges.  What I have been learning these past few months as I finish the preparation of my next book, Psychological Foundations of Marketing, behind all the social media bells and whistles, many companies may talk the talk, but in the end, it's all bullshit.  Case in point:  Starbucks.

Despite all the praiseworthy pages I scribed in Connecting With Consumers about how Starbucks, after some growing pains, gets it when it comes to customer engagement, when I asked for a little something from them, all I got was a door in my face.  Now, I must admit, I am not a loyal Starbucks customer.  In fact, the only time I've ever been a Starbucks customer is when I was stuck in a Dulles airport terminal (prior to its recent renovation) in Washington and was desperate for a cup of java.  As I waited for my beverage to be prepared at the Starbucks stand, I found myself counting the cockroaches ducking in and out of the containers of straws, spoons, and napkins.  No big deal, I live in Paris, where there are 40,000+ alternatives to the handful of Starbucks stores dispersed around town.  Who needs Starbucks?

Well, actually, I do, or at least thought I did.  In chapter 3 of my new book, my discussion of perception includes some examples of how company logos often are subtly changed over time, to keep them looking up-to-date, to freshen up a brand image, whatever.  One example was to show Starbucks' recent logo change, and here is what I intended to include:

These images appear on untold websites, no doubt without any permission rights obtained from the company.  For my forthcoming book, however, I am understandably obliged by my publisher (Routledge/Taylor & Francis) to obtain the rights from the image owners.  When I attempted to do so from Starbucks, no matter how clearly I explained how the images were to be used, how I wrote glowingly about the company in my previous books, and so on, all I received was a series of, basically, impersonal emails.  Here is a sampling:

1st Email:

Hello Allan,


Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.

Per Starbucks company policy, we do not grant permission to download our proprietary images. This applies to trademarks, logos and other graphic images displayed on Starbucks.com. 


For more information, please review our Terms of Use at http://www.starbucks.com/about-us/company-information/online-policies/terms-of-use and read the information under "Copyright and Trademark" and "Personal Use."


Thanks again for your interest in Starbucks Coffee Company.  If you have any other questions or comments regarding our site, please email us at webmaster@starbucks.com.


 Warm regards,


Ryan H 

Customer Relations

Starbucks Coffee Company

800 STARBUC (782-7282)

Monday through Friday, 5 AM to 8PM (PST)

2nd Email:

Dear AJ,


Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.


I do apologize but unfortunately we are unable to provide any contact information for our CEO Howard Schultz.

 If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know. 


Warm Regards,


Emmanuel D

Customer Relations

Starbucks Coffee Company

800 STARBUC (782-7282)

Monday through Friday, 5AM to 8PM (PST)

3rd Email:

Dear @Starbucks,


Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.


 Unfortunately, due to the volume requests we receive, we’re unable to grant the information about the company beyond what we make publicly available.


For more information about Starbucks, including our most recent annual reports, visit our website at www.starbucks.com/aboutus and also www.starbucks.com/.  There you will find the Global Responsibility reports, our latest press releases, SEC filings, and general company information.  For industry information such as market share, please visit the Specialty Coffee Association website at www.scaa.org. 


We also recommend that you check out www.businesswire.com. This useful website contains media releases, a company profile, and links to stock quotes and our SEC filings.


Thanks again for your interest in Starbucks Coffee Company, and good luck with your project.





Customer Relations

Starbucks Coffee Company

800 STARBUC (782-7282)

Monday through Friday, 5AM to 8PM (PST)

4th Email:

Dear AJ,


Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.


I am truly sorry about your disappointment and frustration. However as stated by the previous agent we're unable to grant the information about the company beyond what we make publicly available.


I want you to know that we take feedback from our loyal customers seriously. Because you know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks, I will share this with the  appropriate departments here in our corporate office.


We have made a promise to our customers to provide outstanding products and service.  I know that this is a primary reason why you visit Starbucks and I understand how disappointing it is when we let you down.


Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to improve what we do.


If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know. 


Thanks again,


Anjelika R

Customer Relations

Starbucks Coffee Company

800 STARBUC (782-7282)

Monday through Friday, 5AM to 8PM (PST)

Share your ideas at www.mystarbucksidea.com

5th Email:

Dear AJ,


Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.


I am sorry, sir, that we are unable to answer your question adequately enough, however we are unable to provide you with any other resources other than the ones made available to you on the website at www.starbucks.com/aboutus and also www.starbucks.com/. While I admire your determination to find the resources to put in your book, the reports that are made public on the above two web links are the only resources that are available.


As previously stated, you will find the Global Responsibility reports, our latest press releases, SEC filings, and general company information on the Starbucks website. You can also find industry information such as market share, at www.scaa.org. 


If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know. I wish you luck with your book, and hope the information that we can provide will be enough.


Warm Regards,


Amber C

Customer Relations

Starbucks Coffee Company

800 STARBUC (782-7282)

Monday through Friday, 5AM to 8PM (PST)

As is pretty evident, these are all pretty much form responses which seemed to all ignore the essence of my basic request.  Hardly indicative of a company that is supposed to be so good at 'listening' to consumers.  Several attempts to discuss my request by telephone with someone other than a 'Customer Relations' worker resulted in my turning around in circles and racking up a hefty long-distance phone bill.  So, Starbucks can rest assured that the images that appear here will never appear in any publication written by me, including this website.  I have no idea how the images got onto this site. 

My summary reaction is that Starbucks is a joke.

I also requested permission to run the following in-store poster that appeared in Starbucks stores shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

This poster, as is now widely known, was viewed by some consumers as too close for comfort.  Here is the passage in my forthcoming book that explains how this incident provides a good illustration of the subjectivity of consumer perception:

Starbucks was forced to pull from 3000 North American outlets its “Collapse Into Cool” promotional poster for the popular coffee chain’s new TazoCitrus drinks when numerous consumers complained that the poster’s imagery (flying insects surrounding two tall iced beverages) was overly reminiscent of the September 11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center (see Exhibit 3.2).  Although the ad had nothing to do with the event, the combination of the term “collapse” and the unfortunate choice of illustration was perceived by some consumers as insensitive on the part of the company and a malicious attempt to capitalize on the misfortunes of others (Roeper, 2002).   This example reflects the fact that although people may receive information about the environment through the senses essentially in the same way, perception tends to be more individualistic.  Thus, what one consumer might perceive as a rather innocuous promotional poster from an internationally-known coffeehouse chain, another may interpret as an insensitive and offensive allusion to a national tragedy.

I can better understand Starbucks' reluctance to have this image appear again in the public eye (despite the fact that it too can be found on countless Internet sites, such as the snopes.com site, which debunks the original charges that the association to the World Trade Center was intentional), yet when I asked for permission rights, all I got in return were more of those emails you see above.

Starbucks isn't the only culprit - in subsequent installments, I will detail how the responses I received from other supposedly engagement-friendly companies, such as The Gap, Colgate-Palmolive, Nespresso, were worse than those from Starbucks.  If this is how these companies treat authors who are offering an opportunity to discuss the marketing practices in an innocuous way, I can only imagine how they treat customers with complaints.  Well, as for Starbucks, there already is some indication of that - the Starbucked.com website that I discussed in Connecting With Consumers is still up and running.  Perhaps those cockroaches were symbolic of the brand after all.

Wednesday, February 8 2012

Social Media in a Donut

Just in case you're feeling a bit out of it and having trouble keeping up, I offer this primer on social media.

(source: Pascal Beucler, MSLGROUP, Paris)

Monday, January 30 2012

Don't Trust That Review

"More people are depending on reviews for what to buy and where to go, so the incentives for faking are getting bigger," says University of Illinois computer science professor Bing Liu. 

That consumers are increasingly turning to online reviews prior to making a purchase (offline or online) is now pretty much common knowledge.  I wrote extensively about this in Connecting With Consumers in my discussion of WOM and have posted a separate entry at this site on the power of consumer reviews.  That a majority of online reviews tend to be positive, with a ratio relative to negative reviews estimated anywhere from 3:1 (Robert East and his colleagues at the UK's Kingston U.) to 6:1 (Keller-Faye), already raises questions about whether many reviews may be bogus.

It is one thing for blatantly fake raves to be anonymously posted by unscrupulous e-commerce marketers, the equivalent of the used-car salesman freshly painting a worthless crate to move it off the lot, but now it appears that online tactics are becoming more subtle. Last week amazon.com seller VIP Deals offered buyers of its $10 plus shipping leather case for the Kindle Fire (list priced at $59.99) a full rebate for writing "a product review for the Amazon community."  The offer was explained in a letter that arrived in the package along with the leather case, further explaining, "In return for writing the review, we will refund your order so you will have received the product for free."  Although it wasn't specified that the review had to be positive, the statement "We strive to earn 100% perfect 'FIVE-STAR' scores from you!" made it abundantly clear what kind of review was sought - the not-so-subtle equivalent of a wink, an arm twist, and a quick elbow jab to the ribs.  So it is no surprise that by last week, 310 out of 335 reviews of the leather case were five stars and most of the others were four stars, and the company itself had received 4,945 reviews on Amazon resulting in a nearly perfect 4.9 rating out of five.

Unfortunately, this tactic is nothing new.  Representatives of TripAdvisor have learned that an increasing number of hotels are bribing their guests with offers of free rooms, upgrades, and discounts if they post an "honest" but "positive" review of their property on TripAdvisor.  If you've searched for a hotel online, you probably have a good idea what these bogus missives sound like, especially if you yourself have been misled:  "Wow, what a find," or " a peaceful paradise"  or "perfect in every way!"  There is nothing wrong with owners encouraging customers to 'spread the word,' or 'write a favorable review'--a clear incentive to provide good service-- but when the offer of an incentive is thrown in, then things get dicey.

In the US, for example, the regulatory agency, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has rules stating that when there is a connection between a merchant and someone promoting its product that affects the endorsement's credibility, it must be fully disclosed.  Failure to comply can be costly.  Last March, a company that sells music instructional tapes, Legacy Learning Systems settled charges that it had hired affiliates to post favorable reviews on Web sites, paying $250,000 in fine.  TripAdvisor places a red flag against those properties it suspects of paid-for-reviews, but alas there is no foolproof way at present to nab all the culprits.  Considering that reviews can make or break a hotel or restaurant on such a powerful site, more precise methods are sorely needed.  The aforementioned Prof. Liu is among those working on the development of mathematical models to systematically I.D. the bogus endorsements.  

So while we wait for those computer gurus to find a sure solution for 'fakespotting,' here are three simple tips offered by Rebecca Greenfield (The Atlantic):

My fear is that as more companies continue to jump on the fake review bandwagon, viewing it as a cheap way of marketing, it won't be long before consumers stop trusting customer reviews entirely.  And once you shoot an arrow through the heart of WOM, what are we left with but traditional advertising.  Do we really want to go back? 

Friday, January 27 2012

Talkin' About My Generation

Every consumer is part of one, like it or not, and from the consumer's perspective, it's the best.  From my perspective as an ancient baby boomer, the music was better, films were better, politics more engaging, and I got to write my doctoral dissertation on a typewriter.  Okay, I'll give millennials the edge in technology.

This infographic from onlinegraduateprograms comes thanks once again from my no. 1 source of infographics, Peter Kim.

Created by: Online Graduate Programs

Bad Connections

Some good advice from Sundeep Kapur over at ClickZ.

In the pursuit of trying to get things done, some "top" brands have made mistakes. Here are some things to avoid, with no exceptions - things that I hope are rarely repeated.

  1. Run specials all the time. In a struggle to keep the consumer engaged, brands tend to keep offering consumers special deals. This all-out effort to discount and lure tends to have a negative impact by devaluing the brand and devaluing the relationship.
  2. Wait for people to come. Brands set up shop on social media sites and simply wait for the consumer to come and find them. They do little to engage via dialogue or by trying to market along other channels. They have simply set up shop and expect that it is good enough to drive consumers in.
  3. Run contests and games all the time. Gamification is the new buzzword for engagement with many brands investing significantly in games to engage their consumers. Additionally, brands tend to run multiple contests, which results in severely diluting their engagement to conversion metrics.
  4. Block negative feedback. Many top brands tend to either block or ignore negative feedback. If you put up a comment on their site they either take it down or have a defined strategy to push the bad comments as far down as possible. This strategy diminishes the value of the positive comments.
  5. Launch press releases on social media. Do you pay attention to more than 300 characters or watch long video clips? Brands tend to forget the conversational nature of engagement on social media sites - short, interesting stories are a much better way to engage.
  6. Wait 24 hours to respond. Some brands take a long time to respond because they only check "social feedback" twice a week. Other brands take a long time to respond because they have to get approval before they can respond. The problem is that if you take too long, the consumer will probably call your brand for an answer or move over to someone else.
  7. Not connecting your channels. Always a classic with the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Just two weeks ago, a major travel company sent two types of incentives - a gas discount card by email that shaved 10 cents off each gallon and a gas discount offer via social media that offered a five cent discount. It took a direct mail piece to fix the issue.
  8. Snoop on and shock your customers. While it's OK for a brand to leverage "widgets" to track consumer behavior on social media sites, it's scary when the brand surprises these consumers with offers. A click on a social link led to a phone call by a cruise representative who unabashedly told me that he observed my behavior online.
  9. Just roll along. Some brands feel that it's OK to reach a certain critical mass in social media after which their sites can just "roll along." The snowball can roll the wrong way and hurt brands.
  10. Focus on "likes." A blind focus on driving up "likes" has led to the "like" button being devalued and resulted in significantly lower ROI.
  11. "Wait" to get started. Believe it or not there are still brands, especially in the financial services area, that are waiting for the social media "fad" to end.
Feel free to add your own, just click 'comment.'

Thursday, January 12 2012

50 Brands That Connect With Consumers

What is the secret to creating more meaningful relationships with consumers and experiencing significantly higher growth as a result?  According to a recent Stengel Study of Business Growth, the answer is no more complicated than this: develop a strong brand promise.

Using Milward Brown's Optimor technique (explained in the box at the end of this discussion), the Stengel analysis was performed over a ten-year period spanning 31 countries and 28 categories. The top 50 brands--that is, those that outpaced their competition in brand value over the past decade and formed “unusually strong connections with consumers” are listed alphabetically in the following chart.  The so-called the ‘Stengel 50’ grew three times faster in financial terms during the period studied than their competitors and the overall universe of brands.

The Stengel 50 reveals quite a disparity in brand categories, ranging from luxury brands like Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Moët et Chandon, Hennessy and Mercedes-Benz to e-commerce brands like Amazon.com and Zappos to consumer goods brands like Coca-Cola, Sensodyne, and Red Bull.  Among these brands we see some of the usual suspects, ones that have been identified in other analyses, particularly engagementdb's social media engagement study of the top global brands (which compared Business Week's top 100 global brands according to number of channels and depth of engagement), as well as assessments of company's performance on Facebook and Twitter.  Albeit with differences.  For example, the top three brands that emerged from the engagementdb analysis were Starbucks, Dell, and eBay.  The top three Stengel brands were Apple, Google and Pampers, growing as much as 10 times faster than average company growth between 2001 to 2011.  Both studies found that connecting with consumers was associated with financial growth.

Looking a little more closely at the Stengel study, however, the basic question is what exactly does it mean to 'develop a strong brand promise' or identity?  Insight into this question is provided by the study's director, Jim Stengel, former CMO of P&G.  According to Stengel the high ranking brands were built around a central ideal that clarified their core purpose, such as IBM's goal to 'create a smarter planet' and Jack Daniel's 'maverick independence.'  In marketing jargon we call these central ideals  'brand essence' - the essential and intrinsic nature of the brand; its spirit and soul; a single thought that captures that soul.

The man behind the research – high profile US marketer and former CMO of Procter & Gamble, Jim Stengel – suggested all of the high ranking brands were built around a central ‘ideal’ that fostered a tight focus on their core purpose.  As described in his book Grow. How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies, Stengel elaborates on brand ideals:

 “A brand ideal is not social responsibility or altruism but a programme for profit and growth based on improving people’s lives.”

“Maximum growth and high ideals are not incompatible. They’re inseparable.”

As an example, Stengel points to Pampers, a brand that lost sight of its core ideal by focusing too narrowly on the dryness of diapers.  Market share continued to drop until Pampers successfully redefined its brand ideal as ‘helping mothers care for their babies’ and toddlers’ healthy, happy development’. Anybody can talk about dry diapers, but helping mothers care for their newborns is a message that helps distinguish a winning brand from the also-rans.  The best-performing businesses, according to Stengel, are driven by ideals that touch on one of five human values: eliciting joy, enabling connection, inspiring exploration, evoking pride or having an impact on society.

Source: http://www.millwardbrown.com/Sites/Brand_Ideal/The_Study.aspx

The Stengel study adds another notch to Starbucks' growing collection of successes in outperforming just about everybody else when it comes to connecting with consumers.  That I've admired Starbucks' strategy and tactics in the past is certainly evidenced by my extensive discussion of the company in my book, Connecting With Consumers, and in the many lectures I've given on the topic.  Nonetheless, based on some recent experiences associated with my forthcoming book, Psychological Foundations of Marketing (Routledge, June 2012), I'm beginning to reassess my image of Starbucks.  I'm now beginning to think their 'connecting' is nothing more than a lot of smoke and mirrors.  More on this in a subsequent installment.  Stay tuned.

Friday, December 23 2011

Be 'Flawsome'

'Flawsome.' It may not be a word that you'll find in the dictionary, but an increasing number of companies are using the strategy, whether they know it or not. In the spirit of the new year, I reproduce verbatim, this short piece on flawsomeness from [Forbes|http://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisperry/2011/12/19/what-should-top-brands-new-year-resolutions-be-flawsome/|en].

What Should Top Brands' New Year Resolutions? Be 'Flawsome'

Image credit: dailyshow.com

If you’re in charge of brands put one non-negotiable New Year’s resolution your list: Think ‘flawsome.’

The trend, coined by global trend monitoring firm TrendWatching, describes companies embraced by customers for their authenticity, humanity and willingness to admit mistakes. They’ve hit on an urgent issue for brand leaders – despite the kitsch of the call.

Marketing is still largely projection-driven business. As part of the process flaws are kept as far out of sight as possible. Problem is, sooner or later some of those blemishes will be exposed. Despite the best intentions in presentation, no brand, company or representative is perfect. How imperfect moments are handled can make the difference between a small situation or reputation capital vaporized in short order.

Consider the current plight of Lowe’s. For those of who missed the uproar, here’s the summary: the company complied with the Florida Family Association’s request to pull its ads from the TLC reality show, “All-American Muslim,” and as part posted a message to Facebook to explain why. The page went un-managed in the days following. Commentary on the note blew up as did media coverage pointing back to the page. Within a few days more than 28,000 comments were left in reply to the note, many openly racist, profane and offensive. The media and cultural commentators continued to pile on. Even Jon Stewart weighed in. Lowe’s eventually deleted the note leaving a bruising trail of sentiment is its wake.

Whether you agree with the decision or handling of the issue, one thing is clear: This is a lightning rod event with sustained shelf-life for Lowe’s.

This can happen to anyone, and it’s yet another illustration of the customer-empowered environment all companies now operate in. When things go sideways, quick recognition and fast response is important. A little humanity, humility and even creativity won’t hurt either.

Take the example of Domino’s. In 2009 former employees posted a YouTube video showing disgusting acts on pizzas being prepped. That video went viral, generated over a million views and did serious damage to Domino’s brand.

What follows is modern-day textbook material for handling a social media crisis. The secret ingredients in the company’s response were straightforward recognition and response to the issue, and, more fundamentally, an overhaul of its marketing to focus on product flaws and willingness to fix them.

Domino’s tracked down its critics and sold them on completely new pizza recipes—a process documented on a microsite created for the effort. The company Twitter account solicits contact information from disgruntled customers to solve problems in real-time. CEO Patrick Doyle even recorded an apology ad (backed up with social engagement) over the state of delivered pizzas.

Domino’s embraced a new attitude, opting to engage in dialogue about problems, address them and document the process —from encouraging customers to post photos of their delivery orders online to live-streaming negative and positive customer comments on Times Square billboards.

As both examples show, for better or worse, reputation is influenced by how well a brand is prepared to face its flaws. Risk management and protection may not be as sexy as exci

Thursday, December 8 2011

What is Word of Mouth Marketing?

Call me a stickler for proper language usage, a cantankerous old goat, or an old-fashioned traditionalist, but I happen to think that it's important not to dumb down social discourse through the improper use of terminology, poor spelling ("I 8 dinner 2nite"), and lousy grammar. But I get it, the emergence of texting, which is rapidly supplanting email among youth, seduces one rather quickly into a lazy writing modality which, for want of a better description, may more appropriate be referred to as 'de-texting,' in the sense of its efficiency at deconstructing language. When was the last time you texted a complete and accurately-written sentence, devoid of abbreviations and childish emoticons? I rest my case.  Making matters worse is the growing number of commentators who, as commentators are wont to do, comment on various aspects related to social media and connected marketing who bandy about terms without seeming to have clear insight into what it is they are talking about. Case in point - if it has anything to do with social media it is described as 'viral.'

Definitions are important because they provide us with a common ground for discussion. A conversation about word of mouth isn't going to get very far if the discussants are operating from different perspectives on what WOM is. I usually begin my presentations about WOM with George Silverman's definition from his book The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, in that it is typical, but also problematic:

A good start, one highlighting the fact that WOM may be positive or negative in nature.  But what about neutral?  For example, say I hear from a neighbor that our local satellite TV/cable provider is about to change its name.  Most of us would agree that is WOM - I have been informally provided with news about a local service company that I personally do not find positive or negative in connotation.  Silverman also points out that WOM is characterized by 'personal communication,' yet isn't it true that WOM conveyed by anonymous posters at an online chat forum is in fact 'impersonal'?  And although it is true that most WOM is disseminated outside of commercial ties, how then do we describe brand advocacy programs, which involve people spreading positive recommendations because they have been incentivized with free products, gifts, or payment?

WOMMA skirts some of these problems inherent in Silverman's definition by defining WOM more broadly:

Although many pundits use the terms 'WOM" and "buzz" as synonyms, Emmanuel Rosen's (The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited) clarifies:

Who can argue with WOMMA and Rosen?  Successful WOM marketing (WOMM) results in plenty of buzz.  So what is WOMM?  Last week, WOMMA contributor Pat McCarthy provided 'the simplest definition of word of mouth marketing":


So now that we know what we're talking about, what are the basic principles underlying successful WOMM?  There are two simple ways to find the answer: (1) by reading my book Connecting With Consumers and (2) by watching this short WOMMA video.

In a nutshell, WOMMA identified 5 basic principles of WOMM:

Saturday, November 5 2011

Generation Mobile

A nice followup to my last post pertaining to smartphones, this HackCollege.com infographic comes to me by way of Peter Kim, and offers some perspective on the role of the portable phone in the lives of contemporary American students.  Granted, the sample is small: 200 respondents randomly sampled from several universities nationwide, and somewhat skewed in favor of females (approx. 60-70%). 

By their nature, infographics provide a rather superficial glimpse of current trends and behaviors, so take this for what it's worth.  Needless to say, while we might quibble with the numbers, for many youth, take away their phones and you take away part of their selves.

Generation Mobile
Created by: HackCollege

Monday, October 31 2011

Connecting With Consumers on Smartphones

A nice summary of recent research by Ofcom (an independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries) by UK blogger Colette Burke detailing the growing infatuation of the British for the smartphone, so I republish it verbatim below.  Burke's conclusion is right on regarding the need for companies to respond sooner rather than later by making their websites more mobile-friendly.  And it won't be long before we start hearing how 'mobile' not only refers to smartphones but also tablet PCs.  In fact you just did.  More of my comments following Burke's column.

Friday, 28 October 2011 

Colette Burke - Land Strategies Farming Blog

"A nation addicted to smartphones" is how Ofcom summarises its findings from a recent piece of research, saying that 27% of all adults and almost half of teenagers now own a smartphone (a mobile which connects to the internet). Smartphone owning numbers have exploded in the past year, and are set to rise further as annual sales of smartphones are now higher than those for the standard version.

More internet users connect to the web via their mobile than a laptop (45% versus 38%), and the number is even higher among 16-24 yearold where 71% access the internet via phone.

Smartphone usage is definitely here to stay and businesses are thinking through how they tap into the trend, whether it be for advertising their products, providing information, or directly selling goods online.

At the very least, websites must be simple enough to be quickly accessed. Consumers will rapidly lose patience if they have to wait for information to be downloaded. This means either having a site tailored to mobile usage, which automatically comes up when searched via phone, or having a link redirecting users from the main site to a mobile friendly one. Amazon and Tesco are good examples of a speedy tailored link. Asda’s site take an age to download.

The other option is to provide an app, or application, which sits permanently on the phone for easy access to a specific activity.

Although most usage is still for socialising, downloading music,  gaming, and searching for information,  the IGD reckons that smartphones are starting to change the way groceries are bought online. According to their research, 1 in 10 online shoppers are using smartphones to shop. Ocado claims that 15% of customer checkouts during the first half of the year came via their smartphone app. Tesco has a handy app which allows shoppers to scan the barcode of a product on their phone whereupon it is automatically added to their online shopping basket.

As to future developments, the IGD predicts that tailored apps which build a relationship with individual consumers are the way to go.

The time has probably come to view selling and marketing via the mobile phone as a crucial part of any business plan.  The research finds that 81% of smartphone users never switch them off, even when they go to bed, and that huge numbers are happy to use the phone whilst socialising, at the meal table, and even in the bathroom.

Smartphone usage is now a part of life. Those businesses without a smartphone presence may find themselves competitively disadvantaged. 


It's nice to see a perspective, boosted by fresh data, coming from outside the US for once.  Ofcam's research revealed some additional findings that didn't make it into Burke's installment, especially in terms of socializing.

In the bathroom and at the dinner table

The rapid growth in the use of smartphones – which offer internet access, email and a variety of internet-based applications – is changing the way many of us, particularly teenagers, act in social situations.

The vast majority of smartphone users (81 per cent) have their mobile switched on all of the time, even when they are in bed, with four in ten adults (38 per cent) and teens (40 per cent) admitting using their smartphone after it woke them.

Over half (51 per cent) of adults and two thirds (65 per cent) of teenagers say they have used their smartphone while socialising with others, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of adults and a third (34 per cent) of teenagers have used them during mealtimes and over a fifth (22 per cent) of adult and nearly half (47 per cent) of teenage smartphone users admitted using or answering their handset in the bathroom or toilet.

Teenagers are also more likely to use their smartphone in places they’ve been asked to switch their phone off such as the cinema or library – with 27 per cent admitting doing so, compared with 18 per cent of adults.

So much for the UK.  What about elsewhere?  A global survey carried out last February and March by IDG Global Solutions involving nearly 13,700 participants from 16 countries essentially demonstrated that the UK results are pretty typical.  Although IGS identified differences in terms of preferred smartphone brands and usage by region, it was clear that the popularity of mobile devices is rapidly growing worldwide, and that the traditional cellphone is on its way out, to the product scrapheap that is littered by VCRs, fax machines, and desktop computers.

More than 2/3s of the respondents worldwide claimed to use a smartphone for personal (73%) or business (69%) purposes. Nokia and Apple lead the way in Europe, while Apple, Blackberry, and Samsung the preferred choices in the US.  Moreover, 70% of smartphone users say they browse the Internet regularly and use mobile applications, with general and IT news sites most popular, followed by social networking access.  

As if you don't have enough stats for one day, here are some more 'in a nutshell' global mobile stats from mobilThinking:

Consumer mobile behavior

1) What do consumers use their mobiles for?  Japanese consumers are still more advanced in mobile behavior, using mobile Web, apps and email more, but US or Europeans text and play more games. Most popular mobile destinations are news and information, weather reports, social networking, search and maps.

• In all countries surveyed more consumers used their browser than apps and only a minority will use Web or apps exclusively.

2) US consumers prefer mobile browsers for banking, travel, shopping, local info, news, video, sports and blogs and prefer apps for games, social media, maps and music.

3) Mobile searches have quadrupled in the last year, for many items one in seven searches are now mobile.

• Did you know 71 percent of smartphone users that see TV, press or online ad, do a mobile search - will they find your mobile site or your competitors’?

4) SMS is the king of mobile messaging. 8 trillion text messages will be sent in 2011.But consumers are also embracing mobile email, IM and MMS rapidly.
A2P -application to person SMS e.g. automated alerts from banks, offers from retailers, m-tickets is expected to overtake person to person SMS in 2016.

 • Is your opt-in CRM database part of that revolution?

5) Mobile ad spend worldwide is predicted to be US$3.3 billion in 2011 sky rocketing to $20.6 billion in 2015, driven by search ads and local ads.  In the US over half of U.S. mobile ad spending is local – Japan particularly – continues to dominate global mobile ad spend.

 • With US$1 billion in annual mobile ad revenues Google is the main recipient of mobile ad spend.

6) To what types of mobile marketing do people respond best? In the UK and France opt-in SMS gets the best results, in Germany mobile Web ads get  best results.

Sunday, October 9 2011

Infographic: Never Leave Home Again

Paris is an amazing city, I don't deny that, and I am sure that by living here, I am the envy of millions of people living in lesser cities, towns, or villages.  That said, Paris shares a major drawback that one can find in any alternative burg - people!  Here we are in the 21st century, with technology evolving at a mindboggling pace, enhancing our lives in untold ways, and yet many people seem to be stuck in the Stone Age - grunting in response to a simple request, blowing smoke in your face, bumping into you on the sidewalk as if you are invisible, resting their filthy trainers on metro seats, spitting and urinating in public, and in many cities, like the one in the US where I grew up, shooting, stabbing, maiming, punching, drowning, and whatnot, just for the hell of it.  What to do, yes, what to do?  Perhaps the obvious answer to how to cope with the caveperson formerly known as 'human' is just in front of our noses:  stay home!

According to a recent infographic, among several offered up by Peter Kim, who claims to have taken a fancy to this site, the computer and the Internet have made the 'never leave home again' coping mechanism increasingly possible.  You be the judge.

I personally think there is something to be said for leaving the home from time to time.  One reason is to chase after my cat, who is not yet 'connected.'  Another is to go to work, which I still can't completely do from home, although it probably won't be too long before most teaching is done via a computer screen - I've already exploited that possibility with some video teaching I did for TEC students sitting in a Monterrey, Mexico classroom.  Another is to actually meet up with people you like - that is, the non-cavemen types - in actual bricks and mortar settings, to converse around drinks, catch a live band, visit an art gallery, attend a baseball game, and my personal favorite, to have an original meal in a restaurant (without which my Paris Restaurants and Beyond blog would be lame indeed).  Not that these activities can't be accomplished virtually (although I'm a bit stuck figuring out how to accomplish the restaurant feat in virtual life), but from my perspective, something is clearly lost in translation.  What's scarier than not having to leave home at all are all those device obsessed persons in the real world who psychologically are nowhere except in their devices.  Watching many young Parisians walking around town while frantically texting, checking their messages, talking on the phone, etc. - don't tell me they are in Paris.  They are in the device, which for many, might as well be home.

Created by: College At Home

Sunday, September 25 2011

Connecting With Consumer Campaigns: Tremor

  Remember P&G's Tremor teens program?  I discussed it rather extensively in Connecting With Consumers.  As the forerunner to P&G's ongoing Vocalpoint campaign with US mothers, Tremor involved the recruiting of nearly 300,000 US teen "connectors" (respondents to an online questionnaire who had an average of 170 names in their address books).  Tremor provided these influentials with free samples, CDs, movie passes, and so on, in exchange for feedback and the opportunity to have them lend an air of cool to the products and recommend them to their friends.

So why am I talking about Tremor teens in the past tense?  As I've recently learned from Nina, a member of the Vocalpoint team, they grew up.  I contacted the Vocalpoint team directly when my online search to see what was happening with the teen program came up empty.  Nina explained via email: 

School, sports, clubs and other activities are keeping teens busier than ever before.  We don't want to compete with these priorities, so Tremor stopped recruiting teen panel members a while ago and now our teens have become young adults with other interests. 

I don't know Nina personally, so there is no reason I shouldn't take these comments at face value, but I can't help feeling that there is a hidden message here, as in 'parents and school officials were complaining that Tremor's free gifts and not so subtle efforts to influence peers had become the central preoccupation of kids' lives, serving as too much of a distraction from school, establishment extracurricular activities, and family responsibilities.'  I mean, if the program was such a success--and all indications are that it was--and your participants have aged from teenagers to young adults, wouldn't you simply keep recruiting new teen participants?  According to a 2010 Common Sense analysis few parents are aware of the extent of their children's daily time spent on social networks, as described in The New York Times article below.  Perhaps Tremor was just too obtrusive to parents and school marms who viewed the program as a manipulative tool to lure teens to serve as company spokespersons.

Vocalpoint, however, is alive and well.  After all, while moms can complain about their kids being exploited as social marketing tools, when it comes to moms receiving free products and coupons themselves, who is going to complain - Dad?  As I discussed in my book, Vocalpoint is a marketing group powered by P&G that recruits influential mothers to assist companies in developing and testing new product ideas and marketing programs that women care about and want to talk about.  Or, as Nina explained,

Vocalpoint works with companies in industries that include consumer products, entertainment, fashion, music, food, and beauty.  We get our members directly involved in the creation and launch of these companies' ideas and programs.  We collect feedback and generate valuable knowledge and insight for our clients through surveys, product sampling and previews of new products and marketing ideas, while building word of mouth among women around the US.

Since in its 2006 inception, Vocalpoint has recruited several hundred thousand US moms into the program, which today represents an enormously effective mechanism for P&G to obtain product-related feedback from women (aged 28 to 45 with children aged 19 or under) and to get them talking.  From the Vocalpoint website, here are the nuts and bolts:

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