Tag Archives: Chipotle

Should Social Media Have a Place?

This is a question that seems to pop up a lot: Is there a place for social media in a “boring” business like insurance, plumbing or trucking?

While I do believe nearly any business can benefit from some social media presence, we do need to take a rational look as to whether it should really be a priority in the marketing mix for a “boring” business.

Are you a conversational business?

Let’s re-frame this word “boring” and put it this way: “Do people normally talk about you over the dinner table or at a party?” If the answer is “yes,” then social media should probably be a top priority for you. If it’s no … well, look at your budget options carefully to see where social media might fit in.

There have been a number of studies out there about the “conversationability” of a business and the connection to social media success. Not surprisingly, there is a hierarchy of conversationability – more remarkable products like sports teams and Hollywood movies are talked about twice as much as less remarkable brands like banks and over-the-counter medicine.

In a study of organic Facebook reach conducted by AgoraPulse, the company found that, across 8,000 companies, there was definitely a pecking order of conversationability. Organic reach is the content that is naturally connecting to customers without any promotion. Here is a list of the industry categories with the highest organic reach:

Amateur sports teams

Farming/agriculture

Fashion designer

Professional athletes

Music industry

Building products

Professional sports teams

Photographers

Zoos and animal-related businesses

Television programs

And here are the industries with the lowest Facebook organic reach:

Appliances

Books

Telecommunications

Household supplies

Tools and equipment

Phone/tablet

Chef

Musical instruments

Industrials

Transportation and freight

There is an implicit hierarchy of conversation popularity across industries. If you are in sports, entertainment or any of the other industries in the first list, there is an implied, fervent fascination with your content. There is something that people find naturally remarkable about you that gets rewarded with content transmission. If you’re in the second list or somewhere in between, you have less of an organic opportunity for social sharing … not necessarily because of the job you’re doing with your content, but because your products just aren’t naturally conversational.

Are you conversational … or could you be?

There is another option. If you’re in an industry with relatively low organic reach, can you become remarkable? It doesn’t come easily or cheaply, but it is possible, as evidenced by the series of “Will It Blend?” videos produced by BlendTec blenders. A blender isn’t the most remarkable product, but the brand made it so through its wacky challenge … ripping apart the most unusual things (golf balls, an Apple watch) in its powerful blender.

One of my favorite examples of a company overcoming a low place on the remarkability continuum is the Chipotle restaurant chain, which sells burritos and tacos—nearly commodity products in the food business.

Chipotle began producing two-minute animated mini-movies telling a story of the restaurant as an oasis of natural goodness in an otherwise bleak and dystopian world of processed food. The first episode, a clay animation video with a soundtrack of Willie Nelson singing a Coldplay song, was extraordinarily popular with Chipotle’s youthful audience and garnered nearly 9 million views in a year. The next year, the company went a step further by creating a free smartphone game to go with a new video. It had 4 million views in the first week.

Reality check: All this was created to sell burritos. It wasn’t easy to become a conversational brand. It wasn’t cheap, either. But it worked, and Chipotle’s stock and market share soared. That’s the nice thing about remarkability: You can apply it to almost anything.

The key to finding your remarkability is to think about what makes you surprising, interesting, or novel. In my book Social Media Explained, I suggest that marketing strategy needs to begin by finishing this sentence: “Only we …” That’s a tough task, but it’s the essential path to discovering your remarkability.

In the case of Chipotle, the “only we” was creating a story of health and sustainability, a story far bigger than mere burritos and tacos. They broke a pattern of what people expected from fast food.

But wait…there’s more

At this point, you might be thinking, “My business is boring and unremarkable and I’m not about to be a Blend-Tec or Chipotle. Why would I participate in social media?”

There are a lot of reasons, and here are a few:

Public relations – It’s likely that some aspect of social media has to be incorporated into any plan for media relations, crisis planning, event planning and community relations.

Word-of-mouth advocacy – Social media opens up an entirely new way of identifying and nurturing powerful online advocates for your brand.

Cost savings – Social media represents an extremely cost-effective communication channel. Most research shows that, in terms of many traditional measures, the results are as good, or better, than paid advertising. There are many opportunities to leverage existing content and marketing materials across vast new audiences.

Customer service – You may not have a choice about this really. Social media has become a very popular way to complain about poor products and services. It’s the new 800 number. Are you going to answer the call?

HR and recruiting – Social media, and particularly LinkedIn, has transformed the human resources function. One professional told me that a candidate’s “social media footprint” was more important today than a resume! Whether you are trying to find talent or be found, social media is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Internal process improvement – Tapping into the free tools and information on the web can help unleash employee productivity, collaboration and problem-solving.

Lead generation – Even setting up a simple Twitter search can help you find customers looking for your products and services…even if you’re boring.

Reputation management – The largest brands have social media “war rooms” set up so they can monitor conversations and sentiment about their products and brands in real time, at any spot in the world. Today, you need to be tuned in to the conversations and respond quickly or risk problems going viral.

Research and development – An active customer community can be a gold mine of new ideas and suggestions for products and innovations.

SearchGoogle is now showing tweets more prominently in search results. And you are just as likely to be discovered via your LinkedIn profile, blog post or video as on a website. An entire generation is finding businesses and services through Facebook search.

Social proof – In a world of overwhelming information density, we may look to clues from others to make a decision. How many positive reviews do you have? How many “likes” or followers do you have? It might sound weird, but people make decisions to connect to a company based on these badges of social proof (there is an entire chapter on the connection between social proof and content success in my book The Content Code).

The Trade Show Dilemma – Have you ever had to sit at a booth during a large industry trade show? Why did you do it? Because if we weren’t there, people would think something was wrong. We would be ostentatiously absent. In this day and age, not being on Facebook or Twitter sends the same message. It shows you “don’t get it.”

The Net Generation – Your next pool of employees, customers and competitors prefer to use the social web over any other form of communication. You might enjoy reading a paper copy of the Wall Street Journal each morning, or even looking at an online version of your favorite news site. But nearly half of Americans under the age of 21 cite Facebook as their primary source of news. The social web is where a generation is going to connect, learn and discover. Ignore this at your peril!

So the short answer is “yes.” There is a place for social media, even in a boring business, but your “conversationability” may influence how much effort you put into it. Comments?

This article was first posted on business2community.com

McDonald’s: a How-(Not)-to on Innovation

McDonald’s is in free fall, in the U.S. and abroad. Sales in the U.S. were down 4% in February, continuing a slide that cost Don Thompson his job as CEO at the beginning of 2015. The McDonald’s promise of a uniform food and dining experience wherever you see the Golden Arches across the globe has quickly become a liability. Consumers are demanding choice, freshness and more transparency about the ingredients that go into what they’re eating — all things McDonald’s has in short supply. Those videos on how McNuggets are made aren’t helping much, either.

How did McDonald’s miss the boat? The slow-moving car wreck of a declining McDonald’s is déjà vu for marketers who have watched other industry-leading brands squander their equity by failing to adapt to changes in tastes. Blockbuster and RadioShack are just two of the many examples of companies that stood fast, or made only cosmetic changes, as their industries were innovating and shifting below their feet. Whether the products were comfort food, videos or cheap electronics, each company took too long to realize that people weren’t buying what they’re selling any more. Chipotle, Panera and other fast casual restaurants have quickly grown over the last 10 years, but, even though McDonald’s used to own part of Chipotle, it still stopped innovating and missed the looming threat.

Define dying. Even with the recent sales declines, McDonald’s still generates nearly $100 billion of revenue a year, so reports of its actually going out of business won’t be coming anytime soon. But the company is squarely on the wrong side of current eating trends. After expanding the menu to try and provide “something for everyone,” the company is now shrinking the menu again to focus on traditional core offerings. It will all be to no effect if the company isn’t able to re-imagine and re-invigorate the dining experience. Simply having salads on the menu isn’t enough. Nobody really wants to get a Caesar salad from McDonald’s to start with, especially not when it has more calories than the iconic burgers. And the rise of gourmet casual burger chains like Shake Shack and Wahlburger’s has made even McDonald’s core burgers look much less appealing than they did in the past. The patient is still breathing, but there are few signs of improvement.

It could have been different. The McDonald’s brand used to stand for tasty (if not necessarily healthy) food, a fun environment and a little piece of Americana. When I was a kid, I remember that rare times we got to go the McDonald’s down the block on 96th and Broadway as a real treat, complete with a Happy Meal and a toy. By comparison, last year I was spending a Saturday with my boys and wound up in a neighborhood where a McDonald’s was the only option for us to grab lunch. Instead of being excited, my four-year-old solemnly told me, “You know this food isn’t good for you, Daddy,” as he picked at the burger and fries in front of him. And he loves burgers. Times have changed, but McDonald’s really hasn’t. Instead of window dressing changes like substituting apple slices for fries in Happy Meals, the company needs to rethink the menu and value proposition, especially for families.

How can McDonald’s be put back together again? The best companies don’t shy away from market changes. They face changes head-on. It’s hard to remember now, but Netflix was once completely focused on renting DVDs by email. Instead of fighting the streaming revolution, Netflix embraced it wholeheartedly and now makes much more from that part of the business (though the company still has 6 million DVD subscribers in the U.S.). Demands change, and even the most entrenched market leaders can see it all slip away quickly; just ask Blackberry. McDonald’s needs to change its strategy, food and even the look of the stores if it wants to keep up. It won’t be the same old McDonald’s any more, but it might just help turn the business around.