We wrote this over a decade ago, and ever since we’ve been discovering and inventing new ways to organize and inspire word-of-mouth in social networks and beyond. Enjoy!
We’ve all heard the expression, “Word of mouth is the best advertising.” We’ve seen brands built seemingly on strong word-of-mouth alone. But what’s harder to see is the contribution of strong word-of-mouth to brands with significant traditional advertising budgets.
Two hundred million dollar advertisers with negative word-of-mouth are not uncommon, and without fail the word-of-mouth negates the advertising. On the other hand, strong word-of-mouth will multiply a budget, making $15 million work like $150 million. Just consider Starbucks, Crunch Fitness, and JetBlue Airways.
How can you manage word-of-mouth? Start with your heaviest, most loyal users and turn them into Brand Advocates. These are people so passionate about the brand they can’t help but express themselves in your support. Know them. Know what they’re saying. Use planning to learn their word-of-mouth strategies for advocating the brand. Then devise programs to support those strategies.
Those are the words of Josh Udashkin, the CEO and founder of luggage company Raden, and although it may feel weird to group luggage and Apple in the same sentence, that’s exactly what he wants you to do.
So, when it came to designing his own product, Udashkin picked Kenneth Sweets, the principal designer behind the Apple-owned Beats Electronics (formerly Beats by Dre) as the man for the job. The result of that collaboration was a beautifully designed suitcase that’s boldly minimalistic. Unlike most of the antiquated luggage industry, it doesn’t feature any unnecessary zippers or awkward and clunky compartments. Instead, it’s fearlessly simple. It’s iconic.
But Apple is not Udashkin’s only inspiration, and if you take a closer look at the other brands that he has modeled Raden off of—Dollar Shave Club, Casper, FitBit, Everlane, and Dyson—a common theme begins to emerge.
After living out of a suitcase himself, Udashkin noticed that the luggage industry was one of the few remaining categories where industrial design and technology had not yet been married, and thus the inspiring idea of Raden was born. A “smart” bag that could pair technology with design to offer a delightful consumer experience for the plugged-in passenger.
Like Warby Parker and TOM’s, Raden subscribes to the direct-to-consumer business model, using technology to cut out the middleman. This has allowed them to sell premium suitcases at an affordable price. Everything from the wheels to the case screams luxury—yet the Raden suitcases range from $295 to $395.
And like many of the aforementioned brands, Raden thinks “Big Brand.” They know that every single brand touchpoint is an opportunity to create a positive interaction with the consumer and therefore design each of those touchpoints in ways that enhance the overall user experience.
For example, Raden suitcases arrive at your doorstep in a bag that also acts as a laundry bag, offering their passionate consumer base with the option of separating their dirty and clean clothes while traveling. Inside the suitcase, you’ll find a sleeping mask and headphones.
It’s these type of small iconic actions that really help to dramatize their brand. It’s what takes normal consumers and turns them into brand devotees. It’s what propels companies like Dollar Shave Club to billion-dollar evaluations. And it’s what makes Raden our Inspiring Action Brand of the Week.
But the package design is just the beginning. Both products—the A22 Carry and the A28 Check—feature built-in chargers, solving the pain of having to survey a packed gate for an outlet to become available or, worse, having a dead phone and/or tablet on a long flight. With the Raden, you can charge your devices anywhere.
The handle at the top of the suitcase doubles as a weight sensor so that customers can travel worry-free of last-minute overage fees, which, if you’ve never been forced to incur, tend to be ridiculous.
To activate the integrated scale, you’ll have to download their app.
App? Yes. Raden’s mobile aspect is where it truly solidifies itself as the leader in travel tech.
The app, which is free, contains a plethora of features that are designed to rid the consumer of any traveling woes. There’s a location awareness feature so that you know exactly where your bag is at all times. Now, instead of waiting around at the baggage claim for 15 minutes, you can go and grab a coffee and relax until you’re notified that your Raden is arriving.
The app also lets you know the weather and status of your flight, the closest route to the airport, and the length of the security line. And, like everything else Raden, it’s designed with the consumer in mind. Easy to navigate and crafted for a delightful user experience.
In its first four months, Raden sold $2 million worth of suitcases—and it hasn’t showed any signs of slowing down.
It feels good. For so long, we lived a double life, whispering direct words to our business friends while curbing our language around our creative friends.
We weren’t being overcautious. We needed these people to deliver the creative work that would drive the direct revolution. And we knew our target audience. As one creative director memorably said, “Whenever I hear that word, I lose my erection.”
Well, today we have a message for that creative director, his attitude, and every other vestige of the 20th century:
We’re direct. We’re erect. Deal with it.
There aren’t many creative agencies showing up on Inc.’s list of America’s fastest-growing private companies. We’ve been on the list three years in a row and running. We would have been on it for each of the previous ten years, at least, if only we’d had time to submit our audited financial statements.
Are we having trouble keeping it up? Absolutely not.
We’ve been a thriving, growing independent for two decades because we chose the right wave to ride, and because we kept paddling. That wave was the direct revolution. The direct revolution that is replacing middlemen with platforms, obliterating the hard distinction between consumers and marketers, and threatening traditional players in every marketing category.
Back then, people saw direct marketing as the Thighmaster and the Juiceman, but we knew direct would be Netflix, Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, Airbnb, Uber, Casper, and Betterment. We knew it would also be companies like Weight Watchers and American Express that were founded in another era but are finding ways to leverage the new platforms to modern-day marketing success.
Today, people want to deal directly with other people, and they’ve come to expect transparency and seamless connectivity. They want a direct experience. And today, creative people want to create direct experiences. They love designing actions that connect and deliver the brand experience through technology. They love building the brand in the interaction. Today, their biggest ideas are mobile, social, and responsive.
Today, we’re helping the pioneers of the direct economy in cultures dominated by technologists and financiers by connecting them with the people who can build their strategies and technologies into brands. Today, more strategies are becoming category-disrupting brands because of the creative people they rub up against.
And today, we’re at the table, redefining modern marketing and building the world’s leading brand response agency.
Today, we’re driving brand value up and cost-per-acquisition down.
Today, we’re inspiring action, and proudly direct.
If you want to run a first class marketing organization, benchmark against the category leader. Right?
Look at your category and you’re likely to see this common landscape: A market-share leader whose marketing is effective and probably conservative; a host of other players who more or less imitate the marketing tactics of the market leader; and then, maybe, one “challenger” who is the “idea leader” in the category.
Time and the market have proven that these idea leaders frequently become share leaders. Look at Charles Schwab in the brokerage category. Or Southwest and JetBlue among airlines.
The “idea leader” road is not for the faint of heart, but it’s more likely to succeed than shadow marketing the share leader. Besides, it’s a lot more fun.
Clichés. Hoary old ideas that won’t die. Every category has them, along with marketers to whom they are sweet music and the be-all-end-all of “what works.” But what happens when all the old ideas stop working? Or when your formerly great idea has been so widely copied that it’s not your idea anymore? Or what if you are just one of those daring marketers who aims for something more than cliché results? How do you get people to go along?
Try a Ritual Burning of the Clichés. Call your team together, including your agency partner or partners. Ask everyone to bring their best examples of category creative. Together, brainstorm an extensive list of clichés. From “free toaster” to “skinny model,” every category has them. Once you have a list, your team may find it very satisfying to actually burn something. It could be the whole pile of clichés or just the worst of the bunch. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. Think of it as lighting a fire under the organization.
At some point, it happens. The consensus begins to build that your campaign is a bit long in the tooth. Your attempts to freshen it up and tweak your way to ever-higher levels of ROI are yielding smaller returns, or worse. Plus, let’s face it; the people you work with are sick of it.
Do you take your “old friend” out to the back of the barn and shoot it in the head? That’s the way most advertisers do it. They work up a new campaign, either with their current agency or through a pitch process. They “test” it using a couple of focus groups and then roll it out. Unfortunately, this process yields more suffering than success.
Take a page from the direct marketer’s playbook. Test your new campaigns for real using matched sets of geographic markets. Identify two, three, or four similar markets and run an entire test campaign in 1 to 3 of them while you run your current/control campaign in one. Then track the results. When you have a clear winner, roll it out nationally. Yes, it takes a bit longer. But, remember that tortoise…
A lot of our clients here at DiMassimo Goldstein are direct-model. I know. I know. That sounds awful, right? That word — “direct!” — strikes fear in the hearts of us modern marketers. But that’s because many of us are thinking about it from the wrong side. Sure, direct-model brands sell directly to consumers. And they have for hundreds of years. This has led to some of the worst advertising in the history of advertising. The Snuggie. The Clapper. Encyclopedia Brittanica.
But think about direct-model consumers. The ones who keep coming back, that is. They are more apt to feel like they’re part of the brand. Like they’re in a club. Maybe it’s a Dollar Shave Club. Or maybe they’re season ticket holders to a sports team. (Yes, sports teams are direct-model businesses.) Or maybe they’re Tesla drivers. Or BMW drivers.
Direct-model consumers are also more willing to want to be a part of the marketing message. In fact, they take it upon themselves to be a part of it. On YouTube. On Instagram. On Twitter. And, while you can’t script what they say, you can harness them to craft the right message for prospects who might be just like them but haven’t tried your brand yet.
That’s just what we did for Weight Watchers this year. They wanted to celebrate their members losing 15% more weight on the new Beyond The Scale plan. But more importantly, they really wanted people to notice that there was a new Beyond The Scale plan. So we sent out a package to key members. In it was a rough script based on things we’d heard on the internet: How the change to the new plan was scary. And how at first they didn’t like it. And, finally, how it worked. Of course, we didn’t force them to read the script. We also asked them to tell their own weight loss stories. And to tell us what foods they loved the way Oprah famously loved bread.
Were we crazy? We were asking a bunch of non-directors to film themselves using smartphones and webcams. We had no idea what we’d get back. We even asked them to capture footage of themselves doing exercise and cooking healthy foods. This is what production companies call “B-Roll” because it generally goes under voice-over and is used to give the film a wider range of visuals. Were they ready for this?
Of course, we had cast real consumers before. We had made documentaries about them. We had done testimonials. We had even used phone interviews as the voiceover on a campaign with real traders for our Tradestation client. But we had never handed over the whole production to them.
But guess what? It worked.
Not only did they know how to frame the shots and do multiple takes (thank you selfie culture), they loved every minute of it. In the end, we had a spot featuring real consumers (some were even famous YouTubers) that actually felt real. We had people sharing and liking the spot because they recognized friends and people they followed on social media. And it literally cost zero dollars to shoot. Zero dollars. Best of all, when we edited it together with music, it truly felt like the celebration of real success we had always wanted.
We started joking that maybe we had created a new genre of ad. But what would we call it? Ladies and gentlemen, DiMassimo Goldstein presents: The Selfifesto®!
So, how are you engaging your customers in your advertising? Let’s chat. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org