Archive for the ‘The 3rd Button’ Category

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Like to Watch

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Watch what I do; ignore what I say.

Watch your customer. Just stand around and quietly observe. Retail expert Paco Underhill (a man worth talking to) has made a very good living out of simply watching people shop, asking a few intelligent questions, mixing in a healthy dose of experience and intuition, and forming conclusions.

Beware of the Hawthorne effect (i.e. once people know they’re being observed they change their behavior). Only after you’ve formed a sense of how people behave should you start asking questions. How their answers match (and don’t match) their behavior is where insights often reside. Why do they say one thing and do another? What can you do to take advantage of this attitudinal gap?

For years, consumer research told Kellogg’s that our customers religiously read the nutritional label when selecting cereal. Does that smell right to you? The real-world approach was to stand in a few aisles and watch the process. Not surprisingly, very few shoppers took the time to even scan the nutritional content. But, of course, they want to be seen as good consumers and parents, so they tell us that they did.

Combined with the notion of “brand as experience,” I think there’s a lot to be gained by regularly watching your customers walk through the experience you’ve created. Watch and learn.

In the same line, television ratings are also a joke. The important question to ask is not “What did you watch,” but “What did you do while you watched?” As we all know, viewers typically flick the channel changer at commercial breaks, making that program’s rating irrelevant to whoever placed ads during that break. These real behaviors matter.

As they search for insight and opportunity, marketers are even daring to go where no one has gone before- into the bathroom. Consider the highly successful extension of Mr. Clean by Procter and Gamble. Ever impressive in their observational work, P&G made sure to observe people first-hand. Researchers were reportedly amazed to learn that people dreaded cleaning the bathroom. They discovered that some people even cleaned their bathrooms in raincoats and boots, just to avoid contact with that specific filth.

Even with a preconceived idea that people dislike cleaning, there was absolutely nothing like seeing the real thing. As a result, Mr. Clean MagicReach was created and the painful experience was alleviated.

So, watch and listen to real people before you interfere with that reality by asking your questions- as insightful as they might be. Get the real story. Read or listen to Paco Underhill for more detail and lots of inspiration on this subject.

As the old aphorism says, look before you leap.

Austin McGhie is head of Sterling Strategy – stay tuned for more of his thoughts on the Customer, Positioning and the Future of all this stuff coming to the 3rd Button in the New Year.

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Sterling Buzz…

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

We’re happy to announce Sterling’s win for several of our latest designs in the American Graphic Design Awards!

Click here to see all of our winning designs. For questions and more information on any of Sterling’s designs please reach out to us here.

DVX Identity Design for American Standard - Designers: Kim Berlin, Michael Dabbs, Isabel Babcock

DVX Identity Design for American Standard – Designer Team: Kim Berlin, Michael Dabbs, Isabel Babcock

Clutch-N-Clean design for Kimberly Clark - Design Team: Stephanie Krompier and Gabrielle Cuoccio

Clutch-N-Clean design for Kimberly Clark – Design Team: Stephanie Krompier and Gabrielle Cuoccio

Hershey's Miniatures for The Hershey Company - Design Team: Maliva Baker, Marisa Balmori, Michelle Lee, Michelle Hoffman

Hershey’s Miniatures for The Hershey Company – Design Team: Maliva Baker, Marisa Balmori, Michelle Lee, Michelle Hoffman

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Now UP! on Design Matters…

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Check out the latest episode of Design Matters where Debbie chats with Ji Lee, communication designer at Facebook and famous creator of the Bubble Project.

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Learn more about Ji Lee and listen to the podcast here<<

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Introducing On the Future

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

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While you may read about a lot of trends as 2014 winds down, we’re happy to introduce On the Future, our first forecast of product and brand trends for 2015 and beyond. As you’ll see, our report is quite different. It goes beyond the coming year to see what brands and products will be up to several years from now. We deliver this in what we call Sterling Futurecasts. Each futurecast in an actual illustration depicting a product, service or item we believe will be brought to life thanks to the convergence of many aspects of our current reality.

Using a cross-section of cultural anthropology, market research, trends observation and forecasting, and industrial and experiential design, some of the Sterling Futurecasts include:

Urban Defense

The over-population of urban environments and the creation of more mega-cities will drive the creation of health and wellness products that help consumers navigate and fight environmental challenges. Sample products include pockets embedded with a silver-based antimicrobial nanotextile that sanitizes your hands on contact.

Augmentality

Wearables that track the steps you take or the food you eat are already falling behind the true potential for the convergence between health and technology. Future products will allow for up-to-the-minute reports on your blood composition in order to recommend changes to your diet and exercise regimen.

Frugeois (pronounced Froo-ZHwa)

Millennials and the generation that follows have each experienced the recent economic recession in their own way, and each has learned that conspicuous consumption and careless spending never ends well. For them, being frugal and finding new ways to reuse and repurpose what they already have is paramount.

We invite you to download the report and let us know what you think the future holds.

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The Importance of Why

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

You know the who, the what, the where and the how, but it all starts with the why.

It seems as if I’ve been running into this kind of situation a lot lately. The marketer has a ton of research on the customer, possibly all the way down to a working CRM model. The marketer also knows, from research that might range from huge segmentation studies to lots of highly creative qualitative work, what the customer thinks- of the product, the brand, the market and the competition.

In other words, the who and the what are well understood- but not the why. To me, the why is all about context- the real-life context into which our products and services must somehow fit.

Why do your customers do what they do, think what they think, and say what they say?

If you really want to get to the bottom of the why, you’ve got to be willing to step into the real lives of your customers, the real lives that will go on whether your brand and business is there or not. You’ve got to understand how these lives are working, how deep-seated attitudes determine how customers approach your product or service. This essential context is the medium within which you must operate- the medium through which your marketing stimulus must travel if it is to create the desired response.

Yes, there are trained psychologists out there with the knowledge and tools to probe the inner workings of your customer’s psyche. Some of them are probably worth their weight in gold. I just haven’t had the pleasure of working with one of them yet. My personal bias is that while I may be missing out on some deep-seated revelation, there’s nothing I can get from a therapist that I couldn’t get from a beer with a few friends. So, with this bias as context, here’s a simple suggestion: Just talk to your customer. Conduct a set of comfortable, natural discussions with your customers, and don’t ask them anything about your business. Just talk about them. Learn about their hopes, fears, ambitions, attitudes and points of view. Just let go and don’t worry about all that marketing crap- save that for a different discussion.

Now that you’ve stepped back and learned about the why, you should be able to link this context to the “what” that you already know. You’ll find yourself much more confident as you move forward, able to leverage how your audience really feels and connecting it to what you need to accomplish in the marketplace. And the consumer, who hopefully in the course of this book became the customer, now becomes a full-dimensional human being.

Stay tuned next time for more thoughts on the Customer from Austin McGhie, Head of Sterling Strategy.

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Now UP! on Design Matters…

Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Tune in as Debbie chats-up the founders of The Great Discontent! Now UP on Design Observer.
The Great Discontent is a magazine featuring interviews on beginnings, creativity, and risk. Co-founded by the Essmakers in 2011, editor-in-chief Tina and creative director Ryan have since expanded the magazine to include a print edition and a film series.
Click here to hear the podcast<<

essmakers

Tune-in as Debbie chats-up the founders of The Great Discontent.

Now UP! on Design Observer.

The Great Discontent is a magazine featuring interviews on beginnings, creativity, and risk. Co-founded by the Essmakers in 2011, editor-in-chief Tina and creative director Ryan have since expanded the magazine to include a print edition and a film series.

Click here to hear the podcast<<

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Drowning in Information

Monday, November 17th, 2014

In the words of Rutherford Rogers of Yale: “We’re drowning in information and starving for knowledge.”

Most marketers don’t need more research or more data. They need more insight.

That may seem a small point, or even an obvious one, but I remain astonished by the high ratio of money spent on research that doesn’t lead to action compared to money spent on research that does lead to action.

Information is useless in its own right, and far too many people and organizations are satisfied with spending millions of dollars on useless information. Yes, you need to know what’s going on out there- but only if you are actually going to do something with the knowledge. Only if that information somehow yields competitive advantage.

The missing ingredient can sound trite. Insight is a much-overused term in the world of marketing. But it’s insight that you’re looking for. It’s insight that’s worth paying for- not information.

So try this: review every “research” expenditure you have. Ask the same two questions of each program or project:

-Will it lead to an action?

-Will it lead to insights that will yield competitive advantage?

If the answer is no to both questions, don’t do it. Save the money and- perhaps more important- save the organizational time and focus that can be much better spent on insight generation.

Many companies seem to be so busy processing information that they lose track of its purpose. What if all that processing time and the minds that like to do that type of processing were replaced with insight-generation time and minds that like to create insight? It’s time to find out.

Austin McGhie is head of Sterling’s Strategy team

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Now UP! on Design Matters…

Friday, November 7th, 2014

fritz

Fritz Karch became an active collector at the age of eleven and has always been an ardent believer in the benefits and pleasures of hunting and gathering. He studied art at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and for the last three decades has worked in New York City in the design, publishing, retail, and commercial photography communities as a stylist, editor, and creative director.
Fritz helped create and launch the Collecting Department at Martha Stewart Living magazine—hunting, gathering, and collecting as the Editorial Director of Collecting, a post he held for fifteen years. Simultaneously, he has run an antiques business for the last twenty-five years in Hopewell, New Jersey, where he studies and practices the art and craft of editing, gathering, styling, trading, and selling antiques and an endless assortment of elderly and recycled objects of with functional uses.

Fritz Karch became an active collector at the age of eleven and has always been an ardent believer in the benefits and pleasures of hunting and gathering. He studied art at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and for the last three decades has worked in New York City in the design, publishing, retail, and commercial photography communities as a stylist, editor, and creative director.

Fritz helped create and launch the Collecting Department at Martha Stewart Living magazine—hunting, gathering, and collecting as the Editorial Director of Collecting, a post he held for fifteen years. Simultaneously, he has run an antiques business for the last twenty-five years in Hopewell, New Jersey, where he studies and practices the art and craft of editing, gathering, styling, trading, and selling antiques and an endless assortment of elderly and recycled objects of with functional uses.

>>Click here to listen to the podcast


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Research is Reality Television for Marketers

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

tvAs I’ve said before, only idiots and crazed entrepreneurs make decisions without research. A few of those entrepreneurs are legendary, precisely because they defied business or marketing logic and did what research told them not to do. This is how truly differentiated businesses are built and how many truly differentiated brands have been devised. This is why those legendary entrepreneurs were so wildly successful. But this is also why they are so few in number.

Smart marketers play the odds. On the occasions when they bravely ignore the odds, they do so at least knowing what those odds are. Smart marketers do their homework. They’re not bound by it or held hostage by it, but they do it. You’re not an idiot when you defy logic; you’re only an idiot when you don’t know what that logic is.

You must give a high priority to getting as close as possible to the real world. Participate personally. Get hands-on as much as possible. Stay in touch with your customer.

In the US, marketers and their agencies tend to live in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. They tend not to shop at Wal-Mart, not to ride the No. 2 bus to work and not to consider Denny’s a big night out. In other words, they tend to be out of touch with their average consumer.

At the 2004 Academy Awards, held in March 2005, host Chris Rock did a remarkable thing. He took the television audience away from the beautiful people in the theater audience and to a nearby Cineplex, where he interviewed real moviegoers. None of these people had seen any of the best movie nominees, and most of them cited Saw, Barbershop and White Chicks as the best films of 2004. You can fight reality if you’re on a mission to raise the entertainment bar, but you’d better embrace reality if you’re a marketer.

So what to do?

Hire a company to conduct ethnographic-style fieldwork for you, and insist on coming along. Spend time with people in their homes, at work, on shopping trips. Our strategists often like to talk to people in “friendship pairs,” so they’re more comfortable with the process and more likely to call BS on each other. (There’s at least as much BS in reality-based marketing research as there is in reality TV.)

And do not- do not- mistake focus groups for real life. Recruiting a bunch of people from a database and setting them in a room with strangers, a moderator and a two-way mirror is about as far from reality as any of us will ever get without pharmaceuticals. People who agree to do this for money cannot be considered representative.

For reality you need to get back out into the real world. The closer you get to reality- to real customers moving through real lives with real feelings, fears and desires- the closer you are to the kind of insights that can really make a difference.

Austin McGhie is head of Sterling Strategy – stay tuned next week for more on the difference between data and insight.

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Sterling Buzz…

Friday, October 24th, 2014

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We’re happy to share the findings of some fascinating research conducted by Google in partnership with Ipsos and Sterling Brands! Now we can say without a doubt, that digital research has become more important than ever in combination with in-store shopping and linking consumers to local stores.

“Eighty-seven percent of shoppers research before visiting a store, 79% search during their visit and 35% look after, according to research released today by Google, based on an online survey of 6,000 smartphone users conducted in partnership with Ipsos MediaCT and Sterling Brands.” -AdAge

Click here to read the full findings from the study

And in a related story published by AdAge, retailer Macy’s has used these Google digital search findings to bolster local inventory ads to highlight what’s in local stores for shoppers who use devices to plan and complete a purchase. Read more on that story here<<