Category Archives: Consumer Behavior

Consumer Behavior

The confluence of technological innovation and economic circumstance is resulting in the greatest shift in consumer behavior in decades. Smart brands do more than recognize the changes; smart brands embrace them.

Making PR Magic

While much of the nation was under snow last week, I had the fortune of spending the week in beautiful and sunny Orlando, Florida attending the PRConsultants Group conference, our annual gathering of senior-level PR professionals from around the country.

When we originally booked our conference hotel within the Walt Disney World Resort Area last year, we were told that they would be in the process of converting from the Royal Plaza Hotel to a new property, the B Resort. Renovations were expected to be completed by the time our group arrived, but as anyone who has ever built or renovated their home knows, construction doesn’t always happen on our personal timelines. As our conference approached, it became evident that they were a bit behind schedule. (The hotel is now slated for a grand opening in the summer of 2014.)

Since it would have been terribly difficult to find another location to suit the needs of our group on such short notice, the hotel agreed to accommodate us, with the understanding that they were in “soft opening” mode. You had to feel for them. They had potentially the worst set of critics around – a group full of outspoken PR people with extensive experience in event management and logistics, and national media contacts to boot.

What began as tempered expectations were quickly turned around and sustained throughout our stay by a staff that was committed to exceptional customer service and hospitality. From the moment each guest arrived to the moment we left, the staff went above and beyond to make us feel extra special. They were friendly, welcoming and accommodating. Their willingness to solve problems and to find quick resolutions to minor inconveniences demonstrated not only a customer-focused culture, but also a leadership team that empowered their employees to pursue any idea or remedy that would make our stay better.

Here are just a few examples of how they ensured that we had an experience that we would be proud to share:

  • Their culinary staff served a cooked-to-order breakfast and provided complimentary snacks, including custom-designed cookies.
  • They ordered and assembled stylish furniture for the lobby so that we would have somewhere to congregate in the evenings.
  • They arranged with nearby hotels for the use of pools and fitness rooms.
  • When winter weather along the east coast threatened some guests’ travel plans, they offered to accommodate anyone impacted by canceled flights.
  • When a staff member overheard one of our members lamenting a sore throat, he prepared a special, soothing “homemade recipe” with cucumbers and tonic water.
  • Minor maintenance issues were resolved within minutes, including one repairman who provided a guest with his name and personal extension in the case of further concerns.
  • Most notably, the general manager asked us to serve as a “test guest group” and report to him directly any suggestions that would be helpful for future travelers. It made us feel that our opinions mattered, and gave us the satisfaction of knowing that our input would help future hotel guests have an even better experience than we did.

In the end, this property created 40 ambassadors who came away feeling impressed, relaxed, pampered and appreciated. The PR value was immeasurable. The cost of making it right was priceless.

In a culture that is so resigned to bad customer service, shouldn’t we all shine the spotlight on those who go above and beyond? Share your stories of great customer service in the comments section below!

In Pursuit of Purpose

We had to see it coming: Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot Foundation and the guru of the pro bono movement, has moved beyond inspiring us to share our professional skills as a means to social good to building an entire economic sector around doing work that matters.

Aaron’s new gig is CEO of Imperative, a cadre of social entrepreneurs, product developers, economists and all-around brilliant creative minds. They’re on a mission to create a fully functioning Purpose Economy by 2020. The bottom line? Helping people and organizations uncover, activate, and monetize work that leaves a mark on this world — and making a good living doing it.

I got a preview of this big fat idea last winter, when I attended the first-ever Global Pro Bono Summit, hosted in NYC by Taproot. Our last exercise was to figure out – in 15 minutes, no less — how to transform the pro bono marketplace into a $20 billion economy by 2020. We burned up some post-it notes on that, let me tell you.

Those close to Aaron knew he was already at work on the Purpose Economy, writing a book while making the transition to Imperative. Ever watchful for news of the book release, I noted the announcement by Imperative just this past week of the Purpose 100, a compilation of people throughout the world who are deemed to be “transforming our innate need for meaning into the organizing principle for innovation and growth in the American economy.”

In a culture obsessed with the “awards season,” it’s refreshing to see people recognized for their bravery, creativity and tenacity in pursuing something larger than themselves.

I encourage you to spend a few moments with this list and consider the ways in which these remarkable human beings have channeled the talents, experiences and relationships they’ve cultivated in their lives into a force for good.

Then get out a sheet of paper and start looking for your purpose. It’s there, just under the surface, waiting for you.

Turning Oh No! to Oh Yes!

Caravan is an online store that brings its customers very swell digital artwork downloads at very reasonable prices. It’s the brainchild of Alma and Mike Loveland, and Melanie Burke, art director/designer types who get great joy from making (and sharing) beautiful things. And it shows.

They’re also very smart marketers. Take this morning’s email, for instance.



Caravan turned a tough couple of days into serious customer goodwill with this fabulous giveaway targeted to the very customers who experienced the frustration of technical issues. They no doubt recovered some purchases that were long gone, and they offered a wonderful promotion to subscribers who may not have even been aware of the server overload in the first place.

What a great lesson in recovery marketing. Bravo to them.

NOTE: Don’t you want this fun Draw Together Thanksgiving set for your family table? There is so much to love at Caravan!

We recommend being disliked.

About a year ago, several of us here at RP took an extensive personality test. One of the key metrics was “need for approval.” I pretty much maxed out the scale on this one. Since then, I’ve come to see how dangerous this trait can be. Like people, businesses want to be liked. As a result, they don’t want to alienate anyone. Focus, and you might close the door on a potential revenue stream. Announce something new, risk implying that things weren’t so great before. Not everyone likes your organization.The world is polarized. I don’t see this changing. It’s a lousy environment for political compromise, but it can be heaven for business. Controversy can lead to affinity, loyalty and passion.

Take this email from Patagonia. Pick your controversy: oil exploration, drilling, transport, gas prices, unemployment or environmental protection.

Patagonia has taken a stand on an issue. They risk offending a great many people. They risk losing customers whose livelihoods come from the oil business. No one at Trans Canada will be buying Patagonia. Yet again, Patagonia stands for something in keeping with their values. They’ll increase the loyalty among their core customers. Those customers will pay a premium for their products. They’ll be more authentic than their competition. It’s not fearless, it’s focused, and worth a try.

The Incredible Story that is Arrested Development.

I knew Arrested Development had a loyal following before I saw the show. In fact, while it left the airways in 2006 — three short years after its debut on network TV — we didn’t hop on board the crazy train until a full six years after the show’s demise.

In days, Netflix is bringing the beloved series back to life through 15 new episodes. What’s most exciting is that Netflix is releasing all the episodes at once — instantly making them available for binge viewing by famished Bluth-worshipers everywhere.

In the six years the shabbily-built Bluth homestead was dark, the show inspired fans to create and consume all kinds of AD-related oddities: paper dolls, intricate recurring joke diagrams, real-life Bluth’s Original Frozen Banana Stands, an Etsy store of almost 500 items, chicken dance videos and, of course, creating awareness of Nevernude, a crippling social disorder.

As excited as I am for the show’s return, I’m curious to see how the release fares. Will Netflix crash? Will the show fizzle? Will people watch them all at once or three at a time five nights in a row? If the success of Netflix’s other original programming crown jewel, House of Cards, is any indication, fans will get a season five.

What’s completely ironic about this is that the network that originally launched the show did everything possible to kill it. Never mind the Emmy or luscious multi-show guest star Charlize Theron, either make it simpler by 20 or 30 percent or we’ll pull the plug. And they did. Only that wasn’t the end of the show. The fan base grew and festered for years.

The scrappy success of Arrested Development is as absurd as a plot line from the show. At times, it’s complex, ridiculous, fastpaced and hilarious. What can’t be ignored is that so many people want the show back from the creators to the stars to the fans. It is loved.

Only Netflix was smart and nimble enough to pull it off. A yacht that actually disappeared from a harbor full of network numbskulls.