Do e-commerce sites have phablets to thank for building brand trust?

January 15th, 2016 by Jessica Bettendorf

phabletsAs mobile device usage grew last year, so did online shopping. According to GeekWire, 40 percent of online sales took place through mobile devices. A huge part of this growth was due to the smartphone/tablet hybrid or “phablet,” such as the iPhone 6s Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which begs the question: Without the ease and convenience of smartphones, phablets and the corresponding apps, would e-commerce sites like Wanelo and Etsy be able to increase customers and therefore build trust in their brands?

Phablets are essentially super-sized smartphones with, typically, 6 to 7-inch screens or slightly smaller tablets. With their enlarged screens, phablets enable users to check email, complete work assignments, with apps like Microsoft 365 and shop online. It’s much easier to do all these things with the phablet’s larger screens as opposed to the roughly 4 inch screens on traditional smartphones.

Take the massive, “digital mall,” Wanelo for instance. The online shopping site features 12 million products that are posted online by users from more than 300,00 stores, ranging from big brand retailers to individual sellers.

Wanelo is simple to use and slightly addicting. One may find themselves spending hours glued to their phablet, browsing the millions of different products available, from clothing, makeup and jewelry to home décor. The Wanelo shopping app has made it, dare I say, too convenient and too easy to spend money. With the wide selection and vast array of eye-catching goods, coupled with ease and convenience, Wanelo is a retailers and consumers dream. However, would the e-commerce site have been able to blossom had it not been for mobile devices and their corresponding apps? Maybe not.

Let’s take a look at the e-commerce site, Etsy for example. Etsy is an online shopping site that offers handmade and vintage items, such as art, clothing, jewelry, home goods, toys and much more, with all vintage items being a mandatory 20 plus years old. The site is essentially an online craft fair, offering sellers their own personal storefronts. Etsy has been around since 1998. But, it didn’t break the one-million-dollar mark until 2007; that’s roughly around the time that smartphones began to gain popularity – coincidence? As of December 31, 2014, Etsy had 54 million registered users and growing.

So, what do you think? Are online shopping apps like Wanelo and Etsy trustworthy because of their reputation, or do they have phablets and apps to thank for making it easier to shop?

Does PR Overhype Unicorns?

November 30th, 2015 by Rob Goodman

unicorn8Interesting article in a recent Economist about the hype surrounding high tech start-ups. The article, The Fable of the Unicorn, discusses a Silicon Valley darling called Theranos. The company has created a new type of blood test technology that could possibly turn the industry on its side. According to the Economist, that is a $75 billion a year industry so we’re talking about big money.

_76894099_theranos-logoThis article, and many like it that I’ve read over the years, highlights a big issue in the public relations industry—What responsibility does a PR manager have to give honest feedback and perspective to both the company’s executives and to the market in general? If the goal of a CEO is to build the valuation of the company, how much hyperbole is allowed? Lying can get you in to trouble, but is it a lie to merely hype the new company or product and paint a vision of where the company can eventually be?

“Yet in other ways Theranos evokes a central theme in today’s tech industry: startups which promise to disrupt lucrative businesses and become valued on the basis of fantasies about their potential, rather than present reality. Investors are so keen to get a piece of any sexy-sounding startup that they lap up entrepreneurs’ hype—and anyone who asks awkward questions risks being cut out of the funding round in favour of someone more trusting.”—The Economist

Our industry is full of examples of companies or products that were over-hyped only to crash and burn. The issue of FUD is also a part of this but that will be for another blog post down the road.

Promoting a company or product in order to gain attention and build valuation or secure investors is part of our job. To me the question becomes, who are we responsible too? I know that if I was working with a CEO or CMO who wanted us to over-promote something, or outright lie about it’s potential, I would have a problem with it. We always counsel our clients to be ethical and we expect them to behave the same.

Anyone who has had to give someone constructive criticism knows how awkward it can be. Imagine if you were working with a CEO or CMO and you knew they were bending the truth or outright lying, what would you do? Have you ever had a similar experience?

Why is it so hard to get sales and marketing to play nicely together?

November 19th, 2015 by Rob Goodman

I’ve never quite understood why it’s so hard to get the folks in the sales department to work closely with the PR team. I’ve worked with many big technology companies, including Oracle, Microsoft, and Apple, and rarely have I ever had an easy time engaging with the sales team. It’s a very strange relationship even though it’s really a symbiotic relationship—both sides can benefit from working with the other.

One theory I’ve heard is that the people in each of these departments are fundamentally different personality wise.  Chief Marketer Magazine had an interested article that focused on what each side brings to the table, using a Kirk and Spock analogy:

Spock represents the logical, data-driven (machine-like) approach to decision making, while Captain Kirk Kirk and Spockrelied mainly on his training, experience and instincts to get the crew out of a tight spot. Ultimately, the Enterprise completed its mission because Kirk and Spock often collaborated to find the right answer together—demonstrating how successful man machine collaboration could be.

The key to success is collaboration. When I’ve run into roadblocks with sales reps refusing to share customer examples, it’s usually because they don’t want to lose control of the relationship with the customer. Plus, they don’t want someone from the PR team messing up the company’s standing with the customer—both of which I completely understand.

When I work with sales reps I go out of my way to outline exactly what I would like to do with the customer, how it would benefit both the customer and our company, and include them on all communication. It sounds pretty simply but, in fact, it takes discipline to make sure you don’t lose sight of the bigger picture beyond your PR needs and the sales reps’ needs—the importance of keeping the customer happy for the long-term benefit of the organization.

UDWhile I’ve had success placing customer stories for our customers—Urban Decay and Geberit come to mind as recent examples—and with placing customers as speakers at industry events, it’s critical that the PR team takes the time to develop a relationship with the sales team so that they trust what you’re doing and believe that what you’re doing is in the best interest of the customer first and your company second.

Do you have any good success stories about working with your sales reps and customers?

How to communicate effectively when “you know too much”

November 17th, 2015 by Anne Schneider

presidential debateWatching the presidential debates, I have found the diversity of communication styles from candidate to candidate to be a fascinating study in spokesperson strategies and how they represent a brand. What traits make a spokesperson successful and what may not work in front of the camera or a journalist’s pen?

When you set aside the issues, what’s left are the basic elements of communication, or the strategies a spokesperson employs to convey their point of view and influence their audience while representing the company brand (or party image, in the case of presidential race).

Although public relations has evolved dramatically during the past 10 years, the basic guidelines for being a good media spokesperson have remained the same (with some tweaks). Below are some of the basics that you may already know but I hope they serve as a helpful reminder to anyone who plays the role of spokesperson, whether it’s a quick answer to a few questions or a longer, in-depth interview. As a spokesperson, you represent the company brand at all times, so how do you stick to the key tenants without going off track?

  • Remember, you know too much. You are an expert about your subject matter. So much so, that you likely have a level of understanding that is many levels deeper than the journalist. If you try giving them too much information, you will probably bore them and they may pick up a tangential point you may have mentioned instead of the topic you imagined would be the focus of the article. So keep the conversation simple and focused. This leads me to the next point…
  • Stay on message. There are many strategies for doing this, but in short: Say what you want to say, and then say it again. In other words, identify your core message and supportive key points before your presentation. Then, keep your core message simple and repeat it often so it sticks. You may give a lot of examples and scenarios to help explain your point, but always return to your core message. Another good way to wrap up your interview is to use numbered steps to outline your key points. For example, “ … the three main things I want to leave you with today are 1) …. 2) … 3) …” It may seem obvious, but reporters often appreciate the clear, concise recap.
  • Engage them in the conversation. This seems self-explanatory but when you have a lot to explain, it’s easy to start lecturing. If you feel this is happening, ask questions to make sure you’re not losing or boring them with too much detail.
  • Act as if you’re talking to your most important customer. Although you may be talking to one person, the end result may be an article describing your comments to a majority of your customers. You want it to sound respectful and concise.
  • Silence is golden. Don’t babble on uncomfortably if you get flustered when they stop asking questions. Just stop talking. This gives pause for questions and gives the journalist time to take notes. Also, remember that the questions the reporter asks reveal where he/she is going with their article and may flag areas of concern that you will need to address.
  • Set expectations accurately. No one likes to be let down or lied to, and it’s a real bummer when products you purchased don’t work as described. Be honest and deliver on your promises. Otherwise, you’ll start to sound like a presidential candidate and no one will trust you – OR your brand.

How do you represent your brand during media interviews? If you need help, give us a call! We have media training experts ready to help.

Enterprise transformation – Is it real this time?

November 11th, 2015 by Editor

Over the past 20 years or so that I’ve been involved in the enterprise software industry, I’ve heard endless predictions about how the industry is going to dramatically change and how this technology or that technology, or new delivery models like software as a service are going to put the established vendors out of business.

As far as I can tell, not that much has actually changed. Sure enterprises are using some cloud apps and improving mobile device support. But where the rubber actually meets the road, enterprises are still running their own infrastructures and closely guarding their content and data behind layers of IT administrators. The players aren’t changing much either, with Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and SAP accounting for the lion’s share of revenues.

IDC FutureNow, for its 2016 industry predictions IDC is saying that converging technology forces – primarily mobile computing, cloud services, big data and analytics, and social networking – will lead to wholesale digital transformations that will essentially blow up everything we know about enterprise software today. As enterprises embrace emerging technologies, IDC predicts we’ll see the creation of what it’s calling the “DX economy.”

According to IDC, besides determining the winners in nearly every industry – the companies that embrace the new technologies will win while those who don’t will lose – the DX economy will fracture the enterprise software industry. Per IDC’s press release about its research:

Nearly a third of today’s IT suppliers will be acquired, merged, downsized, or significantly repositioned. In this environment, enterprises will have to constantly monitor and assess the solutions offered by their suppliers and partners and be prepared to realign these relationships as needed.

Talk about disruption.

But the big question is whether IDC is right. Is this the moment when the enterprise software industry truly changes, or is this just another hype cycle?

Both sides have a case. On one side, you have the massive investments enterprises have already made in hardware and software which simply aren’t going anywhere. On the other, you have increasingly tech-savvy customers demanding a more cohesive and personalized experience than ever before. There’s also the much-discussed Internet of Things (IoT) that IDC says will be a “fertile area” for DX.

There’s little question that digital transformation is one of the hottest topics in the enterprise space today. But is it real or just another passing fad? Let us know what you think.

In your spare time, be sure to head over to IDC’s FutureScape landing page to soak in a series of 33 on-demand presentations covering many different industries and market segments. Full disclosure: I have not actually watched them all, but many do look promising. I’m interested in learning what’s up with wearables, for instance.

Too soon for holiday cheer?

November 9th, 2015 by Jessica Bettendorf

Starbucks has officially unveiled its bright red holiday cup, which begs the question: Is it too early for brands to begin pushing out their holiday products?


Other companies are jumping on the bandwagon with early holiday promotions as well. If you peruse the mall or shop at Target you’ll inevitably see holiday decorations popping up everywhere. On the other hand, some companies like REI are skipping the Black Friday madness altogether.

Where do you stand? And what could early holiday marketing do for a brand? Some believe it could make a brand appear greedy by pushing holiday-inspired products on the consumer too soon as a way to boost sales. However, from a business perspective, it does appear to work. Early holiday promotions seem to inspire people to begin their holiday shopping much earlier than they normally would. Also, some people actually do prefer to get all their holiday shopping over and done with early.

On the other hand, some individuals and companies feel it’s way too much too soon. Let’s take a look at REI. The outdoor giant is choosing to close on Black Friday and give their employees a day to go outside and play in order to honor what their brand represents.

Whether we choose to accept it or not, it appears that pushing holiday products early has never seemed to hurt a brand’s reputation. So, consumer brand companies continue to do this even though we as consumers may not like it on an individual basis.

With the case of Starbucks, the bright cheery red cup flicks on a switch in some loyal coffee drinkers’ brains, signaling the start of the holiday season. That cup is genius from a marketing perspective; people see it and think Starbucks and holiday cheer as one entity. They are pulled like a magnet into shelling out four to five dollars for a peppermint mocha, gingerbread latte or any of the other holiday-inspired beverages.

Throughout social media there’s a variety of different opinions. Many people think it’s way too soon, while others are excited for the holiday to begin. When did a bright red paper coffee cup signal the start of the holiday season? It took years, but this is just one example of effective branding. People see the red Starbucks cup and think delicious, comforting, warm holiday cheer. It’s so simple and yet so devious.

Then there’s REI. A company that’s being applauded by some for essentially boycotting Black Friday.

Where do you stand on early holiday promotions?


How to Practice Radical Honesty

November 5th, 2015 by Anne Schneider

FORSSA, FINLAND - MAY 17, 2014: Sign Volkswagen against blue sky. The Volkswagen Group delivered over 9 million vehicles in period from January to November for the first time ever in 2014.

The Volkswagen scandal serves as the most recent reminder that it is important to be honest with your customers. Once a company has been “outed” by the media—or anyone other than itself for that matter—they have a long and arduous uphill battle to regain brand trust.

Back in the days of the TV hit show, Mad Men, the corporate “spin machine” might have churned out a well-crafted response in a time of crisis and then the public may have given a collective sigh of relief, as trust in organizations was fairly high at the time. But as authors of the recent Harvard Business Review article, “Volkswagen and the end of corporate spin” point out, the public today, as a general rule, errs on the side of mistrusting organizations. Although people can be quite forgiving, organizations seem to be starting at ground zero on the trust barometer scale, and must earn their customers trust over time.

The article points out that those feelings of mistrust, coupled with the landscape of social media along with other factors, has completely transformed the environment in which we must communicate today. The authors suggest that corporations take the notion of “corporate transparency” one step further, employing what they call “radical honesty,” whereby one is proactive about its transparency, making everything publicly available, and quickly.

While “radical honesty” may not seem like your cup of tea, we agree with the authors that, in today’s world, an organization’s truth not only will get out, but it probably already is out. In the spirit of this belief, the article provides some excellent general guidelines to communicate effectively in today’s brave new world:

  • Straight and soon. Get the story out honestly and quickly – always assume you have less time than you think.
  • Flood the zone. Use many channels – you need to connect with different kinds of stakeholders, different generations, genders, cultural backgrounds, with different communication habits.
  • Good, bad, and ugly. Encourage honest conversations about both hopes and fears. Remember that power relationships sanitize information that gets to the top. Ensure people can bring bad news, not just good.
  • Distill and simplify. Keep communication simple and relevant, don’t drown people in irrelevant data.
  • Repeat. Find ways to reiterate the message and build feedback loops. Remember that trust builds slowly and quickly fades once the message stops, or when people see or hear contrary data.

At McKenzie Worldwide, we help our clients communicate their authentic brand voice to customers, as well as guide them through this new world of communication—during day to day operations as well as in times of crisis.

What are you doing to help “keep it real” with your customers? If you need help, give us a call!

Building Brand Takes Bold Action

October 30th, 2015 by Rob Goodman

REI logoI’m really impressed when a company talks the talk and then walks the walk. Recently REI, the nation’s largest consumer co-op and specialty outdoor retailer, announced that it is going to close its doors for Black Friday. The company said it is going to pay its 12,000 employees to do what they love most – be outside. Why give up one of the busiest days in retail? To stay true to its brand.

Is this simply a public relations stunt? The industry magazine PR Week went so far as to publish a headline that read “REI: Our plan to close stores on Black Friday is no PR stunt”—so I guess it’s not just a stunt.

Outdoor camping Two things about this announcement caught my eye. First, regardless of whether or not it’s a stunt, the move is getting people to talk about the company—industry buzz is always a good thing. Personally, I hate what shopping has done to Thanksgiving so I’m now more inclined to take a look at REI’s merchandise since I respect the move.

Second, it’s all about the brand. REI is all about the outdoors. As it says on the company’s “About REI” section, “But no matter how large we grow, our roots remain firmly planted in the outdoors. Our passion for outdoor adventure is clear, whether you visit any of our stores across the country, phone us, or interact with us online.”

The company values the great outdoors and wants to help people to enjoy what nature has to offer. Rather than promote huge savings or getting people to look at the next outdoor gadget, the company took a bold step and showed the world that there’s more to life than shopping.


Building Brand Takes Time

March 11th, 2015 by Rob Goodman

Wikipedia logoThe name of the McKenzie Worldwide blog is “Brand Trust Visions” and that name was created after much discussion. If it’s truly our mantra, then we obviously must feel that building brand is very important for companies of all sizes. However, it’s also a term that can mean many things to many people. For this discussion we’ll focus on the idea of “brand trust” which, according to Wikipedia, is about creating “…the foundation of a strong brand connect with all stakeholders, converting simple awareness to strong commitment.”

dmn_logoFor consumer products, like Coca Cola, creating their brand awareness comes from word-of-mouth and a truckload of advertising. For television shows like Lost, DM News editor Elyse Dupre says it’s important to leave consumers wanting more. She goes on to say that creating a sense of community, by providing a place “where consumers can talk about their brand freely”, such as an online chat room, goes a long way toward building trust among customers and potential customers.

But building trust and a strong brand image for technology companies can be tricky. For instance, Gatorade or Red Bull are consumer goods that you can touch and taste and have qualities that can be measured and a coolness factor that, frankly, can’t be measured. But what about technology vendors? How can a cloud storage vendor build its brand when their offering isn’t tangible?

e-Spirit logoOne way for technology companies to help build their brand is by leveraging happy customers and turning them into what we like to call brand ambassadors. Whether it’s writing about your customers on your company blog, as e-Spirit did with customers Geberit and Hamburd Süd, or jointly delivering a presentation at an industry trade show with one of your customers, the ultimate goal is to transform new and existing customers into enthusiastic brand ambassadors. How do you do this? Well, e-Spirit discussed this concept in an article (which we helped them write) that appeared in CMSWire titled Turn Touch Points into Trust Points.

Here are three steps that were discussed in the article:

  • Integrate website content with your e-commerce site
  • Help your content creators do their job
  • Get personal, but don’t stalk

Those are just three ideas about how to build brand but they’re important to a Web Content Management System vendor like e-Spirit.

How’s your company’s brand trust level? We’d love to help you build more trust in your brand…which is always a good thing.

When a key editor needed video content, Tektronix (and our agency) delivered

February 20th, 2015 by Megan McKenzie

One way that you can build trust in your company’s brand and continue to strengthen your relationship with the editorial community is to help out those hard-working editors who cover your company and its products whenever you can. Editors are typically short on time, yet they always have lots of content that they need to generate for their online publications. Therefore, providing them with useful video content that is compelling, news-style and professionally produced, such as the remote video interviews that we recently helped manage and produce for our client Tektronix, is just a good thing.

We recently worked with our Tektronix clients to develop two CNN-style remote interview videos for Martin Rowe, senior technical editor at Electronic Design Network (EDN), of him interviewing an expert at Tektronix. The objective was to help Martin give his readers/viewers who were unable to attend this year’s DesignCon a great overview of a few of the important technology issues that were going to be discussed at the show

In the videos, Chris Loberg, senior technical marketing manager, at Tektronix was interviewed via phone by Martin Rowe about trends as well as 100G standards and measurements. The videos were posted on EDN and featured a Q&A interview with Martin.

Martin loved the videos that we produced and he received such positive feedback from his colleagues at the publication that we expect we’ll be helping them out with many more videos to come.

Remember, thinking creatively about the best ways to help our editors and our clients is what we enjoy doing every day.  Please give us a call if you would like McKenzie Worldwide to help you build trust in your brand!



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