December 22nd, 2009

It’s been a big year, but what’s ahead

Matt and Ben at PluggedIn have made a few predications about the year ahead, many of which I agree with.  For us at Latitude it’s been a big year and it’s always good to take time to reflect on what has happened when looking to the future.

It was only a couple of weeks ago I was reminded of an article I wrote early last year in Research News about online qual and looking back on it highlights how much things have changed in the last 18 months.  At that time, it seemed I was the only one in Australia talking about online communities.  Fast forward 18 months and the buzz words at this year’s AMSRS conference was online communities.  So if you didn’t know what they were, you do now and if you weren’t thinking about them, you have started to.  The latest prediction is no surprise to us –  MROCs will be big news next year.

Today it seems everyone has a different definition for what these are but over the next year I’m sure clearer definitions will emerge and we will stop comparing apples and oranges.  We’ve seen some people talk about MROC’s, others use the term online research communities and then there are those who talk about online community panels but as time and experience emerge it will become clearer what the differences are.

We’ve seen a couple of big players enter the Australian market and the global players scrambling to get on board, but over the year we at Latitude have been working with a fantastic set of clients who are ahead of the curve.  From FMCG icon brands to banks, well know Australian drama series, luxury cars and retailers we’ve covered the spectrum of diverse conversations with equally diverse audiences.

The beauty of our real time 24/7 connection to consumer conversations emerges as brands goes through a product recalls, competitors experience PR nightmares, social media trials go haywire and through it all we are getting immediate responses from consumers as they see it.  The timeliness of the feedback procees is one of the biggest benefits for our clients.  So there is no doubt in my mind that more clients (big and small) will see the benefits of online research communities and it will fundamentally change how research is integrated into their business .

And I take this opportunity to thank the fanatastic team of researchers, clients and community members I get to work with everyday.  Without you, this would be no fun!  And here’s to continuing the ride in the year ahead.

December 16th, 2009

2009 – The year of brands living dangerously

by admin | Tags: , | Category: Branding , Comment , Social Media

    1092504_thin_iceThis year is going to deliver a bumper crop of Australian brand faux pas to all those marketing lecturers and brand consultants who have a book idea in the making. Actually, just in the last 2 months, we’ve seen some spectacular mess-ups which have left many of us in the marketing world wondering why, oh why, these things are happening.

    Interestingly, a lack of social media understanding on behalf of advertising agencies and the companies in question has played a huge role in fanning the flames under each one of these cases.

    Kraft’s iSnack2.0 debacle seemed to reflect a misunderstanding about where the world of communications and technology is at. It made an unintended joke of something we’re really quite serious about, our Vegemite. And the community bit back with YouTube spoofs, cartoons, countless online comments, and national and international media attention.

    A second, and more recent case is that of Toyota’s Yaris advertisement, not an Australian brand per se but created for the Australian market. Toyota choose to work with Saatchi&Saatchi, who began by inviting people, via Facebook, to create an ad for Yaris. There’s a long story, by Tim Burrowes on Mumbrella, about how the final ad came to be chosen (and it wasn’t from the original Facebook call to action which received no interest) which you can read here. Essentially they managed to select something that was puerile, offensive and damaging to the brand. As Burrowes points out, advertising agencies need to understand how social media really works and “start learning about it for themselves, rather than using their clients as guinea pigs”. Somehow in the rush to use social media, everyone involved forgot about maintaining the integrity of the Toyota brand.

    Finally, a disaster close to our hearts given we’re talking about banking in one of our own online research communities. Westpac, within a week, managed to up its interest rate by almost double the RBAs rise, then go on to explain its actions with a naïve animation and poor media performances from its top executives. In the past actions like this might have blown over quickly, but with the video available online in so many places, Westpac has not only managed to alienate its own mortgage customers, it’s managed to taint its brand for the wider market. And, for all the other banks, Westpac has just delivered a nice Christmas present – by sliding a couple of rungs down the brand reputation ladder.

    Other than providing us with entertainment and ‘oh my goodness’ moments, these brand disasters surely point to a need for companies to stop and think more seriously about creating sustainable and respected brands. And not treat customers as monkeys.

    December 9th, 2009

    It’s social for a reason!

    by admin | Category: Social Media

      A friend recently explained to me that since the advent of Facebook her wardrobe budget had shot through the roof.  “I simply can’t be tagged wearing the same clothes all the time!”

      Key learning? Social media is starting to shape the decisions we make.

      From product reviews on YouTube, to branded iPhone apps, marketers are prescribing social media as the cure for switched off audiences. This is made apparent in David Siteman Garland’s 10 Big Marketing Predictions For 2010. Over half of his predictions, based on interviews with marketing professionals, involve the use of social media in one form or another.

      It is too easy to get caught up in the buzz and jump on the social media bandwagon just because everyone else is. However, merely having an online presence is not enough.  Consumers don’t care that you’re online. It is how you interact with them that adds value to your brand. The technology is simply the vehicle, not the destination.

      At Latitude Insights, we use social media to help build relationships, but we don’t expect the technology to do it for us. Our communities are just as much about members as they are about research. This is because the richest conversations come from members feeling engaged.

      So, whatever your online activities are, think about what your consumers are getting out of it. Always remember that…

      “Social media and networks are powerful mediums, but only as good as the humans who use them”

      -Brent Leary, Business Technology Analyst

      December 7th, 2009

      Research News Article on MROCs

      coverThe latest edition of Research News features an in-depth article on the rise of MROCs in the Australian research industry. Latitude Insights has been highlighted as a leading boutique agency who specialises in online qualitative research, and there’s a number of quotes from Dianne Gardiner, Latitude Insight’s CEO, included. You can read the article online by clicking here. Our client, Zoe Aitken from Cadbury, was also interviewed for the article, in which she talks about the benefits of immediacy and the depth of insights generated from this methodology.

      There’s an interesting discussion about community size and response rates with Vision Critical talking about communities of 6000, and Communispace having 300-500. But then later on in the article, Kris Hartvigsen talks about participation rates of 40-50%. This is where we differ – with smaller, more engaged communities. If we had a 50% participation in a discussion we’d start to look into why members were not as responsive as expected. We don’t want to have conversations with only half the people in the ‘room’.

      The good news for all of the agencies who are leading in this area, that there is a strong expectation that online communities will take off in 2010, and will be driven by clients looking for new ways to talk to their customers. And we’re ready to get the conversations going.