Sunday, June 22, 2008

Testimonials - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

What's the power of a testimonial? Does it depend on the product? Does it depend on who it comes from? Does it depend on where you find it? Does it depend on how it is delivered? These are all things I have been pondering as we decide to solicit testimonials from our residents. The testimonials we use need to be as powerful as possible and must be genuine.

In the apartment business the largest forum of testimonials is
. At this website anyone can create a post that rates a particular community in different categories and then allows for an open essay to praise or bash the property. After surveying our residents about what websites they use as resources when searching for a new apartment home, was one that seemed to pop up frequently as a write in for the "Other" option. After seeing that I dove back into to see what all the fuss is about. What I found is that people have a lot of passion about where they live. Whether they love it or hate it, they want to write about it, defend it, slam it, or just be heard. The only concern I have with this site is how honest and genuine it really is. It's easy to see when a property manager or leasing associate tries to post something positive or as a defense post against someone that has slammed the property. From the other side, I also can see how negative posts can be taken way out of context and can be exaggerated to the point where they are not very credible either. While many of the resident's surveyed indicated this website was a resource they used, my next question for them would be how much weight they gave to what they found.

This being said, I think what we are seeing on and many other online stores is that customers are sharing their opinion about products and this will continue to be the trend. People have a lot of passion about the products they own/rent and we can't ignore it. The way I see it, is that it's the responsibility of the marketers to insure there are more positive posts and testimonials out there than negatives. It's also our responsibility to make sure that our customers are more likely to find positive posts. Things can turn very ugly online if you make mistakes and don't make an effort to fix them. Before the Internet it was much easier to ignore bad word of mouth, but now that bad review lasts a lifetime. What are you doing to insure your product, brand, etc. has a positive position online?

Friday, June 20, 2008


For those of you reading that are not golf fans (or even know who Tiger Woods is), let me just simply explain that he is one of the most influential and incredible sports figures today. Last weekend and in a playoff on Monday with Rocco Mediate Tiger showed us again why he one of the most amazing talents in sports. Not only was he coming off of knee surgery, but during the 5 day/91 holes of golf he played he reinjured his knee and created two stress fractures in his leg. Oh, by the way, he won his 14th major championship even while going through these physical struggles. If that's not determination and perseverance I don't know what is. Unfortunately, these injuries now are season ending for Tiger as he will be having reconstructive knee surgery and will miss the British Open, PGA Championship, & Ryder Cup, in addition to other tournaments he scheduled to play in.

That all being said, I think there is a lesson to be learned from this icon of sports as I'd like to make this story relevant to marketing of course. The question I ask is, "When do perseverance and determination actually hurt your brand?" Due to the season ending injury that perseverance caused in this situation I think, Nike, Gatorade, Buick, Accenture, EA Sports, Gillette, and the PGA Tour are going to lose out a bit. The "Tiger" brand will still be strong and make a come back, but without his face appearing in highlights on ESPN how will this effect these brands that rely on his image in more than just advertisements. As the number 1 player in the world Tiger not only helps increase attendance at tournaments, but also helps to increase television viewers.

With no Tiger for at least 6 months it will be interesting to see if these advertisers and sponsors see an impact on their business. This could be a true marketing analyst's dream. Take away your premium spokesperson for 6 months and see how it impacts sales. Think of the millions of dollars each one of these companies spends to have Tiger help promote their products. I see two scenarios. 1. There is little to no impact at all because Tiger is such a recognizable icon that even a picture or advertisement continues to help these brands. or 2. Consumers begin to lose the connection they have with Tiger and the brands he represents and these brands suffer for at least 6 months. I'd like to see what these companies plan to do over the next 6 months to help sustain their brand recognition with Tiger. If I were them I would be afraid that he will somewhat disappear during this period, and the excitement that surrounds his golf play will not help to support these brands the way it does when he is out amazing us with his greatness.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

$4.00 Gas & Some Other Thoughts from the Nerd

So, gasoline is hovering around $4.00/gal. and it had me thinking how marketeers can somehow make a positive out of this negative. Not in a stupid way like the way car dealers are advertising the obvious, like mpg/fuel economy on compact cars and hybrids or by trying to give away free gas when you buy a car. These are all basic or gimmicky and are short term solutions. What I'm asking is how can we take a product like, ohh ... let's say apartments for example, and help market them as a positive for fuel consumption.

For example, maybe an apartment community could have signs or something that say, "If you lived here you'd save at least $80/month instead of driving 15 miles further to get home." Just one pretty cheesy example, but that $80 is another tank of gas in your gas guzzling SUV brotha.

That has me thinking again about housing (as that is my biz). I recently was interviewed for an upcoming article in a local free publication called House & Home. The article is about housing development in the downtown Indianapolis area. One question I was asked is if we thought that having the Super Bowl come to Indy would make a positive impact or change the way we look at our business. Although my response was that we currently have not had a rush on our apartment community, The Waverley at 151, we're optimistic the game will have some type of influence on our community that's just a few blocks away.

Now, you might be asking, "What the hell does that have to do with $4.00 gas?" It actually has me thinking that the bigger impact for a property such as The Waverley could be the increasing prices in gas and not something that will come and go like a Super Bowl. A convenient location of a home or business could become a critical selling point, if not a main feature or amenity. Do real estate developers and businesses consider fuel consumption in a proforma or a business plan? Will it over the next few years become something that is a key component to starting a business, getting a loan, or just conducting business in general. As a society will the majority of businesses just ignore the issue and continue to raise prices or add fuel surcharges, or will we actually take a step as marketeers to help companies develop a marketing/business strategy that effectively promotes fuel conservation in order to maintain favorable pricing to the masses? What is your company doing?

- Mark

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