Four Ways Brands Earn Trust

Four Ways Brands Earn Trust

Marketing

Consumers don’t want to ignore brands. We want to spend time in their stores and immerse ourselves in their websites when the experience is good. We willingly buy their products. Otherwise, people around the world wouldn’t be spending nearly $25 trillion in 2018 in the retail sector alone. But to become loyal to brands – to willingly give them our time and money over and over, and then recommend them to others – we have to trust them.

A relationship with a business is built on trust, and consumers now possess more tools to figure out which brands they can trust and which they cannot. For example, analyst Brian Solis recently assessed the results of Google research indicating that mobile searches that include “best” have grown more than 80 percent in the last two years, and searches using the phrase “to avoid” have grown 1.5X in the same span. And Google continues to refine its algorithms to provide precise answers. As Solis notes,

Among everyday consumers, trust in brands and executives erodes every year. According to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer report, trust is increasingly democratized and less hierarchical. In its most recent report, Edelman found, for the first time, that 60% of consumers view “a person like yourself” as a credible source for information about a company as a technical or academic expert. And, credibility of CEOs hit an all-time low in the series, with a 12-point decline in the last year.

Building consumer trust becomes not only an imperative for attentive brands but also a significant competitive advantage.

In addition, consumers are increasingly relying on reviews to determine which companies they can trust. According to eMarketer, online reviews are even overtaking advice from friends and families as a way to research brands. Online reviews are especially important for high-consideration products such as electronics and clothing.

How do brands earn our trust? I think brands do so by living these four attributes:

Authenticity

Brands can illustrate authenticity in many ways, but when it comes to consumers trusting brands, it’s important that companies demonstrate their values and what they stand for. Kendra Scott is a fashion brand that is built around positivity and giving back to the community. The founder, Kendra Scott, uses social media to not only showcase their quality products, but the company’s values and philanthropic actions as well. The brand organizes events for a variety of organizations and causes, which they put on display across their marketing channels. Emphasizing how involved Kendra Scott is to making the world a better place allows consumers to think of them than more than just a company that sells jewelry and other fashion products – it’s a brand they can trust.

Transparency

In the social media world that we live in, there are no longer secrets. Consumers are demanding brands to be open and honest with them. Many brands struggle with being transparent with their customers, but a lack of transparency only hurts them. Whether a brand is enduring a PR crisis or announcing a new product, it’s important for a brand to show who they are and what they can give to the consumer. Recently, I received an email from Panera Bread’s CEO, Blaine E. Hurst, commenting on the recent romaine lettuce recall. He stated, “From the moment the advisory was issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 13, 2018, we pulled all romaine originating from Yuma growing region from our cafes .  . .”

He continued by confirming that customers can rest assured that they found a new source and all Panera salads are safe to eat. He concluded the email by saying, “We hope this helps to ease your mind, and invite you to come in and enjoy your favorite Panera salad again.”

From this email, Blaine Hurst was able to build trust by being honest. He assured customers that they were safe to eat at Panera by confirming that Panera had resolved the unfortunate issue. When a brand faces a conflict that involves them or their products, it’s crucial that they are completely transparent with consumers in order to gain or sustain trust.

Consistency

It’s essential to develop standards for brand consistency, online and offline, to earn consumer’s trust. Chick-fil-A is a company that does so. My experience at Chick-fil-A, no matter which location, has been consistent each time, whether it’s at the beginning with a warm welcome from the employee taking my order, or when I’m enjoying my meal. And the brand consistency doesn’t stop there. When I come across one of their social media posts or advertisements, I can tell it’s their content without even looking at the brand name. Having consistency across your team, products, and marketing efforts builds trust and loyalty for consumers because they know what to expect from you and your products or services.

Empathy

Showing your customers that you care about them, especially in a time of need, boosts consumer loyalty and trust. I recently ordered a present for a family member off Amazon, and the dealer lost it in the mail. Amazon sent me an email telling me to contact Amazon support, and then a friendly customer service rep from Amazon apologized multiple times for the inconvenience. The same rep immediately re-ordered my item for me free of charge with overnight shipping so that I would get it on time. Amazon training their support team to show empathy allows me to feel confident ordering from Amazon in the future. Even if this issue or a similar scenario were to happen again, I could trust that Amazon would happily resolve the issue quickly. Offering empathy to a customer enhances the customer’s experience which then enables them to trust the brand.

Perhaps the best way for a brand to build trust is to ask these simple questions:

  • Are you treating your customers the way you would want them to treat every person at your company?
  • What do you want your customers to say about you? Are you giving them every motivation to do so with your actions?

Trust is earned one person at a time. But building trust starts with training your own people. Does everyone at your own company know how to earn the trust of every customer they meet?

Image source: http://www.brandingbusiness.com/blogs/building-b2b-brand-trust-through-communication

Artificial Intelligence Shapes Google’s Future

Artificial Intelligence Shapes Google’s Future

Marketing

For many marketers, Google means advertising. But Google also wants us to associate its name with artificial intelligence. Recent events illustrate how the company has one foot planted in the present and future. Can Google have its cake and eat it, too?

The Present: Advertising

The latest quarterly earnings announcement of Google’s parent, Alphabet, shows that Google remains a formidable force in the world of online advertising. Alphabet’s first-quarter revenues, $31.1 billion, outperformed analysts’ expectations. Why? Because Google is an advertising cash cow. As much as Alphabet likes to tout its forays into emerging technology, its money comes from Google’s ability to secure revenue via time-honored advertising tools such as AdWords.

Approximately $26.6 billion, or 86 percent of Alphabet’s quarterly revenue, came from Google advertising. Think about that: $26.6 billion. That’s enough to land a company in the Fortune500. Google is protecting its position by refining current tools such as AdWords while rolling out new tools to make online advertising more personal and mobile-centric. Although much has been said about Google’s struggle to make YouTube a safer advertising platform for brands, probably Google’s bigger threat is Amazon, which continues to ascend as a major search platform – and offers advertising tools of its own. As reported, Amazon is now a multi-billion dollar advertising giant. Google needs to adapt or fall behind.

The Future: Artificial Intelligence

The 2018 Google I/O event, occurring May 8-9, illustrates Google’s intent to change itself and the world around it. At this year’s I/O, Google has been pushing artificial intelligence through its products. For example, Google announced the creation of Duplex, an “AI System for Accomplishing Real World Tasks Over the Phone” in the words of a Google blog post. As Google noted:

The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated how accurate Duplex already is when he showed how Duplex can make Google’s voice assistant (Google Assistant) smart enough to place a call to a hair salon and book an appointment with a real person, sounding so natural that a human being is not aware they are talking with a voice assistant.

Google also unleashed a number of AI-based product improvements ranging from a smarter, more personal Google Maps to a customized Google News. So why the push into AI? Because Google knows that the company needs to become more than a leading search platform. Google has long been evolving as a media platform for accomplishing everyday tasks, and in recent years, it has looked to emerging technology such as virtual reality to do so. Google needs to demonstrate to its advertisers that it can keep consumers inside the Google ecosystem, and simply making search better is not enough to do that.

If Google can pull off a future defined by AI, it will protect its advertising base. But here again, Amazon looms as a threat. Amazon is making its own investments into AI to be a smarter platform for its customers, both online and offline.

The competition between Google and Amazon is good for consumers and advertisers. Consumers should benefit from more personalized services while businesses have more choices to advertise. Choice is good. And Google wants to be the first choice. Contact us to learn more about how to thrive with online advertising with giants such as Google and Amazon.

Facebook Changes the Narrative at F8

Facebook Changes the Narrative at F8

Social media

The 2018 Facebook F8 Developer Conference created an opportunity for Facebook to change the narrative about the embattled company. At the annual event, Facebook usually unveils new products and a glimpse at the company’s future. This year’s event just happened to occur only weeks after CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent two days on Capitol Hill defending the company’s approach to data privacy. So you can be sure Facebook was eager to inspire coverage about something besides Mark Zuckerberg going head to head with angry legislators and trying to assure investors that Facebook is improving its approach to protecting user data.

And Facebook delivered with a slew of announcements and demonstrations that reminded Facebook watchers of its commitment to connecting people through an ever-evolving social platform. Highlights included:

  • FaceDate, a dating feature in which Facebook members can make their profiles to non-friends who opt in to look for someone to date. With FaceDate, Facebook is reinforcing its core mission of connecting people, a mission that Facebook periodically updates as it did last year with the rollout of the “bring the world closer together” mantra. It looks as though Facebook wants to bring the world closer together one person at a time and in relationships that go beyond friending. It’s a reasonable move that doesn’t stray too far from Facebook on its best day: connecting people.
  • Augmented and virtual reality: Facebook has been marching down a path of creating augmented and virtual reality experiences for some time, as manifested by the purchase of VR firm Oculus in 2014. In 2016, Mark Zuckerberg placed AR/VR at the far end of a 10-year roadmap. Facebook F8 showed that Facebook appears to be right on schedule. The company released Oculus Go, a lightweight, relatively affordable VR headset that liberates VR from the confines of a stationary computer. Oculus Go is important because it’s supposed to make VR more affordable while delivering a reasonably high-quality VR experience. Meanwhile, on the AR front, Facebook showed off progress with its AR camera for interacting with AR content in the real world. Among other announcements, Facebook disclosed that AR is coming to its Messenger platform.

Facebook also embedded AR into the actual F8 experience, such as with an AR scavenger hunt in which participants looked for objects using their devices. Through the hunt, Facebook tested with the camera (accessible from inside Facebook) by, in effect, relying on F8 attendees as the test group. Although there is nothing inherently new about an AR scavenger hunt, the hunt gave Facebook a chance to test target-recognition technology, which unlocks AR effects without requiring you to tap on your camera app. The feature is not yet available and so F8 amounted to a beta test.

For two days, Facebook succeeded in repositioning itself as a media company shaping the future of social experiences. Some of the news coverage reflects the kind of narrative Facebook wanted to tell at F8:

Never mind that Facebook’s AR and VR experiences still come down to providing developing tools disconnected from consistently good content. What matters is that Facebook changed the narrative. For a larger rundown of everything Facebook announced at F8, go here. And contact us to discuss how to build your brand on Facebook.

Welcome to True Interactive!

Welcome to True Interactive!

Marketing

By Kurt Anagnostopoulos and Mark Smith

Welcome to a new era!

Today we officially changed the KeywordFirst name to True Interactive.

True Interactive reflects how we have evolved to become a trusted digital marketing partner that improves the performance of our clients. The KeywordFirst name served us well for many years and reflects our search roots. At the same time, over the past few years, we’ve been helping clients solve problems that extend beyond search, such as:

  • Managing digital advertising campaigns, including mobile.
  • Developing paid social strategies.
  • Managing analytics programs.

Analysts such as Clutch have noticed our evolution. In 2017, Clutch named KeywordFirst a leader in both pay-per-click advertising and all-around digital marketing — and then in 2018 as a leader for Chicago-based internet marketing services agencies. We received especially high marks from clients for the quality of our work and partnering style, as noted here.

Search is as strong as ever and remains one of our core skills. In fact, our broader experience with digital marketing has made us better at search. And now the True Interactive name reflects our present and future.

Our people and our culture remain the same. We’re as dedicated as ever to delivering results with complete transparency. True Interactive will continue to build our brand through the strength of our talent, client relationships,  and ideas for shaping the future of performance-based digital marketing.

We are excited for what the future holds!

— Kurt and Mark

Instagram Escapes the Techlash (So Far)

Instagram Escapes the Techlash (So Far)

Social media

Somehow Instagram has remained unsullied by the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that has gripped social platforms lately.

YouTube keeps getting slammed for allowing brands’ ads to run on extremist channelsTwitter continues to wrestle with the challenge of balancing the need for free speech against the ugly reality of people using the platform to spread hate and harassment. And we all know what kind of a year Facebook has been having with Mark Zuckerberg needing to appear before Congress amid concerns about the privacy of its users’ data.

And Instagram? The platform keeps making headlines of a different sort, ranging from news about product updates such as Focus portrait mode to gossipy stories about the activities of the influencers and celebrities who live on Instagram. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that CEO Kevin Systrom will take articles accusing Tristan Thompson of using Instagram to cheat on Khloe Kardashian over the kind of news coverage his boss Mark Zuckerberg has been getting.

Against this backdrop, I’ve added my own perspective for Adweek Social Pro Daily. My article, “What Instagram Carousel Ads for Stories Mean to Brands,” discusses a recently released feature that makes it possible for consumers to purchase products through a carousel of branded video and product images. As I note in the article, Carousel Ads are not original to Instagram – Facebook launched them first – but Instagram is the perfect platform for the format because Carousel Ads are tailored for mobile users in the visual age. And in the United States, only Snapchat rivals Instagram for as the de rigueur platform for the mobile, visually savvy consumer.

The Carousel Ads for Stories format means more opportunities for brands to engage with consumers and rely on Instagram as an ecommerce platform. For more insight, check out my article and let us knowhow you’ve been using Instagram for digital marketing and commerce. We’re here to help.

Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

Social media

I have heard Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional appearances this week described as the moment when social media began to grow up. And there’s no doubt that the world’s largest social network has started to sound more committed to acting more responsibly with the data of its two billion members, judging by Zuckerberg’s remarks and his prepared testimony. Assigning a $40,000 bounty for the reporting of data abuse certainly makes Facebook look determined to get more serious about addressing data indiscretions.

But despite Facebook’s stated commitment to get better at protecting its users, a simple fact remains: social media is a messy place for brands to live even as social media platforms grow up.

Amid the publication of determined testimonies and bounties, I know these things to be certain:

  • Facebook will not be immune from data abuse. Mistakes are going to happen. Determined and unethical parties are going to look for cracks in the seams. What we can expect to be different is Facebook’s reaction to problems when they happen. There remains an important distinction between a platform having airtight security and a platform that acts rapidly to address problems when they occur. Will advertisers and users appreciate the difference?
  • Facebook won’t be the only platform that experiences abuses of its terms and conditions. As I noted on our blog, YouTube has been hiring more people to train computers to police abuses on its site in order to prevent the kinds of embarrassing incidents that rocked the network in recent months, such as brand advertising appearing alongside inappropriate videos. But YouTube continues to experience lapses, such as a report about ads for adult content appearing on the site, hackers targeting popular music videos, and advocacy groups charging YouTube with illegally collecting personal information from children.
  • Facebook users will complain about data abuses and some will even #DeleteFacebook. But how many will stay off the network permanently after they realize that there’s nowhere else to go?

I’m not saying that brands should simply be patient. Brands and users should expect more vigilance out of all their social networks, including Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and all the others we call home. But we need to be realistic. These networks, especially Facebook, remain free because they accept advertising. And to play ball with advertisers, they’re going to share user data – which, when done well, brings about a better user experience. But with the sharing of data comes potential for abuse. And let’s not forget these free platforms are pretty much open to anyone who meets their soft requirements, and advertisers have to accept the consequences, both good and bad.

Advertisers, buckle in. You’re in for a bumpy – but profitable – ride. Remember, these networks offer rewards to those who understand how to use them for targeted, timely advertising. Contact us. We’ll work with you to do just that.

Research Firm Clutch Ranks True Interactive a Leader for Internet Marketing

Research Firm Clutch Ranks True Interactive a Leader for Internet Marketing

Marketing

I am pleased to announce that True Interactive been ranked by research firm Clutch as a leader among Chicago-based internet marketing companies. The ranking marks the third time Clutch has evaluated True Interactive as a leader in 2017-18 – including the categories of Chicago-based digital marketing and pay-per-click agencies.

The ranking validates our evolution from search specialist to marketing partner. True Interactive is the independent alternative to large agencies.

The Clutch report is especially meaningful for two reasons:

1 The evaluation is rigorous and objective

Clutch is an independent a business-to-business research firm. The company evaluated and ranked Chicago-based internet marketing agencies using a proprietary research methodology that incorporated factors ranging from the agency’s market presence to client reviews.

2 The ranking is based largely on input from clients

True Interactive’s clients provided strong reviews of our capabilities and work style. Here is a sample of the input:

  • “They excel in attention to detail and are personally invested in our success” — a luxury resort provider.
  • “It’s been nice to know that we can have a partner that will adapt to us and not charge extra for every little item” – home improvement company.
  • “Their learning process has been continuous, and they’ve never taken the one-size-fits-all approach for us” – retail company.

Clutch’s research also noted the breadth of True Interactive’s skills in areas such as digital strategy, social media marketing, and pay-per-click advertising. The complete True Interactive profile, including client reviews, is available here. In addition, here are all the companies ranked.

True Interactive is proud to be a trusted partner that builds brands through digital. We are working hard to earn the kind of feedback that our clients have provided Clutch. Contact us to discuss how we can help you improve your digital performance.