Call me an extrovert, call me outspoken.
YES—I’ve called Kotex to quite kindly complain that I was upset by not getting pink tampons in my little black box of assorted sanitary products. (And YES, I find it funny that I had to click the word “insert” to add that photo on your right).
Claim I’m irrational or simply ridiculous.
YES—I’ve called Hidden Valley to inform them about how frustrated I was with the production inconsistencies among their squeezable ranch dressing bottles (i.e., Some bottles actually have the hole in the top to squeeze out the dressings, and others merely have an imprint, an innuendo, if you will, on the cap of where the hole should be, yet there is no actual hole over the opening of the bottle). To which their reply was, “Well, some of the 16 oz bottles have them, and others don’t.” Since when are mechanics a variable in assembly line production? Odd.
Call me what you will, claim what you desire, but regardless of how you judge me (empathize? relate?), you and I share a common ground: we are consumers. We are unique individuals, and unique to the brands that surround us. Successful brands are able to reach beyond the surface of this notion and strive to really understand consumers on a deeper level—allocating time and resources toward effective, data-driven target marketing. They want to know who their primary end users are and what mediums will reach them.
Brands who truly know their customers speak to them and recognize their needs. How? They listen. By regularly engaging with consumers, and facilitating positive interactions, brands build trust and loyalty, establishing a strong foundation for long-term B2C relationships.
With that being said, I’m admittedly a consumer who wants to be heard. Customer service 1-800 numbers and e-mail addresses on product labels are there for a reason—and, should something go awry, are intended to be used. So if you ask me—well, you don’t have to. I’ll tell you here and now that I’m in no way ashamed of reaching out to a brand/company when I have any sort of product complaint. I’m sure every now and then companies wouldn’t mind hearing positive reinforcement from a local, vocal and satisfied customer—but unfortunately, I’d have to argue that in most cases problems precede praise.
Example: We all love Apple.
Golden Delicious is my favorite. Ok, I’m biased because I love to surround myself on my bed with all of my iDevices an arm’s length away, in awe and admiration of innovation at it’s finest. Regardless, let’s use this particular brand as an illustration. I love Apple and am constantly raving about their products to friends, family and colleagues. I have a MacBook Pro, iPad, iPod(s) and iPhone. Am I going to call Apple if my iPhone breaks or stops working? Unequivocally yes. Am I going to call to chit-the-chat about my obsession with their brand? Eh—unlikely.
Case and point: problems precede praise.
Thought: Wouldn’t it be interesting if it were the other way around? And instead we only called our favorite brands and companies not to report missing pink tampons or vent about product packaging inconsistencies, but rather to commend them for all the things we love about their product or service. It would change the whole nature of customer service, as we know it. And make many [customer service] representatives’ jobs a lot less difficult and a lot more enjoyable.
With all of that being said, I took it upon myself as a dissatisfied, frustrated, yet brand loyal customer to reach out to ConAgra Foods about my issue with Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn. Thought you might enjoy reading about my experience. And just so you know, one of their reps got back to me the next day. Read my letter and their reply to follow.
To Whom It May Concern,
I am very brand loyal when it comes to microwavable popcorn. I’ve tried Act II, Pop Secret, complimentary bags at hotels, and then some. But it always comes down to my love for the quality and original taste of Orville Redenbacher’s 94% fat free varieties—smart pop and kettle korn, particularly. I’ve never had a problem with the product until recently. We typically buy the bulk boxes of the standard size popcorn bags at BJ’s Wholesale Club. Not only for the great price, but for the convenience of having a stash of my favorite late-night snack readily available.
Recently, I’ve noticed that practically every bag I pop, bursts open and explodes in my microwave. That is, I press the pre-programmed “popcorn” button on my micro, which is supposedly intuitive, only to have the bag not open fully, get stuck on the turntable, and in an failed attempt to expand from the pressure and continual heat, burn a huge black hole through the bag. Literally. As you can imagine, this is a mess, annoyance, and honestly, inconvenience. The inability of the bag to give, or expand evenly (or at all, for that matter), causes hot, unpopped kernels to fly out of the bag and scatter throughout the microwave. At the same time, the giant black ball of popcorn—the nucleus, if you will—continues to burn and enlarge on the inside of the bag. But the bag won’t budge. Ultimately, this affects the editable, popped kernels, which are now burnt and singed from the burnt “nucleus.” And the rest of the bag, aside from what little is actually unaffected, is inevitably, unpopped kernels.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that a good 1-2 tablespoons of kernels will always remain unpopped, in any given bag of microwavable popcorn. I’m ok with that—though it is a frustration that can at times outweigh even the great nutritional value of my favorite go-to snack. But the fact that nearly every bag I make these days leaves a mess in my microwave, let alone more than half of the bag entirely inedible, is a problem.
We’ve tried microwaving the bags by manually entering times and using the instructions on the product’s packaging. (And I can assure you, as an avid popcorn popper, I am putting the bag in with “this side up.”) We’ve even tried a Reader’s Digest tip of placing the microwave bags in the freezer prior to popping—which actually proved a temporarily effective solution. However, I just haven’t been having any luck lately.
If there’s any way you can advise, I would appreciate hearing back from you. I want to continue using this product. I love the taste, I love the brand. But if I can’t find a satiating solution, I may have to set aside my oath to Orville, and sacrifice the quality and taste I’ve come to love for a brand that promises the perfect pop.
I look forward to hearing from you soon, and thank you for your time.
“I am so sorry to hear that our Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn is not popping correctly and leaving a mess behind for you to clean up! I am thankful you emailed us so I can get all of the details you supplied over to our Food Safety and Quality experts. Krystina, please know this isn’t the experience we want you to have with our products so those details will be very helpful for us. Thank-you so much for your loyalty to our brand. I am sending coupons your way via regular mail, please give us another try.”
“I sincerely hope that the information I provided will help your quality experts remedy the popping issue. Thank you for the coupons as well—I will certainly give Orville another try. Maybe the box we bought had defective bags. I appreciate your help and the great customer service too.”
Dear “Running Shoes Guru” (literally),
Hi! I stumbled upon your website in absolute delight of such detailed reviews of the Mizuno Wave Alchemy 11 running sneaker. I have been dying to sport my first pair of Mizunos and found these shoes for $40 at TJ Maxx! I was super excited because the deal I got was incredible, now as far as support and proper fit goes, that’s my primary concern.
Quick background. I started running a few years ago. First wore Nike Air Max’s (2009 model)—big clunkers that I absolutely swore by. Problem was, they ultimately gave me calf pain, shin splints, and arch problems because they weren’t supportive enough. They were my actual shoe size, 9.5. I ran my first and several other 5Ks in them, then my first half marathon.
Side note: The calf pain could have also been due to trying to incorporate Vibram Five Fingers into my training and pushing too hard during the initial “break-in” period. (I was intrigued by running more minimalist and got a pair for Christmas, but ultimately came to realize how much arch support I really need).
I wanted to get more serious, and after a year of solid mileage in them, it was time for a new pair. So I got my gait checked at a running store, which led me to discover the detrimental extent of my over-pronation. They put me in Brooks Adrenaline GPS, which I tried to break in on a treadmill and hated. SHIN SPLINTS. So painful. I gave them a few more wears, and gave up ultimately because my legs felt like absolute anvils.
But, I needed arch support. That was key. Medial arch support, and preferably, a wide (D) width shoe. So the awful customer service experience, and miscommunication from each employee about their return policy of that same running store that put me in Brooks, led me to a new running store. Gait checked again, told them I hated Brooks—so they put me in New Balance 860s (2011), size 10, D width, medial arch support with that gray block on the inside of the shoe to prove it. I wanted to hate the shoes because they were hideous-looking, but in fact, they helped correct my form and improve my speed (for which I’m very grateful). I ran my second half marathon and PR’d, shaving over 20 minutes off of my first half [marathon] time!
BUT, I have Morton’s toe. Per their “professional opinion,” they wanted to put me in a 10.5 from the get-go—aka a full size up from my normal shoe size to accommodate for the half-size foot swell while running. But I naively insisted a 10 was the perfect fit. The tips of my second (Morton’s) toe turned black and callused a few months ago, and now the nails are both pitch black too, and without being grossly descriptive, erupting from the nail beds.
Now running more than I ever did in the Air Max’s, and currently training for my third half marathon, I’ve racked up ample mileage in the NBs, which leads me to the point that I’m in the market for new shoes. I’d like to buy new shoes and start training for my first full marathon in them—and would love a shoe that is slightly on the lighter side, but supportive enough in the arch. Going by the professional opinion from the second running store, a size 10.5 is probably best. And TJ Maxx led me to find the Mizuno Wave Alchemy 11s, in size 10.5! I also thought the Asics GT-2170s, size 10, were very comfortable, but don’t really know if they provide the same amount of support as the NBs, which is a must.
So, after all of that—and I do apologize for the lengthy comment—I would love to know if you think the Mizunos I bought will be a good shoe for me? Or, perhaps, maybe it’s worth it to get fitted again at the second running store. Thank you so much for listening and I am excited to hear your reply!
Mom: “What are you doing, Krystina? Are you ready to leave?”
Me: “I’m tweeting Johnson & Johnson. I’ll be ready to go in a minute.”
Mom: “Why? They’re not going to respond.” (She said something to that effect).
Me: “Actually, I’ll have you know that I tweet Wegmans regularly, and they literally respond to me within 30 seconds. And I’m tweeting J&J because I can’t find my Lavender & Chamomile Melt Away Stress Body Wash. I’ve tried CVS, A&P, Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond; it’s not anywhere!”
Mom: “Maybe it’s discontinued. You know they do that with products you really love. They get rid of them all of the sudden and it’s really annoying.”
Me: “I know. It’s infuriating.”
* * *
That was the conversation I had with my mother prior to her sass and my satisfaction. Her sass, because she never thought J&J would reply to me; my satisfaction, because I did indeed get a reply:
While that wasn’t exactly the reply I was hoping for, the point is that I got a reply. I heard back from J&J, felt valued as a customer, and more importantly, was provided with a recommendation (i.e., a comparable replacement) through a real-time interaction:
A company that has—ahem, has and
uses effectively uses—a Twitter account is doing something right. If there was any doubt in my mind about switching to a new brand of body wash in the absence of my favorite J&J product line, that Twitter reply “melted it away.” J&J kept me there, beside their brand, before I could even think about leaving. Translation: they valued the brand loyalty, kept the customer and maintained the relationship. In less than 140 characters.
Social media is booming this day and age, and the segment of corporate America that’s willing to be a part of it is undoubtedly moving in the right direction. Consumers want to interact constantly. We crave to communicate through apps, smartphones, texts and tweets. We yearn to be listened to and expect to be heard. And truth be told, that need for immediate engagement with the brands we use and companies we love spans many generations and many mediums.
So at this time, I’d like to make “A Tribute to the Best Body Wash.”
I’ve used so many bottles of you, my Lavender & Chamomile friend—from my senior year of college in 2009, up until the few months before your unanticipated discontinuation in March 2012. You’ve given me the silkiest and smoothest of skin, the all-day, long-lasting, 24-hour moisture that other body washes envy but simply cannot match. A scent that soothes and melts away the stress and leaves my skin smelling so clean and so fresh. I will miss you. There will never be another like you. But before you go, I just want you to know. I was loyal. To you. Thank you for delivering on the promises on your packaging. You were a great friend.
I’m lovin’ Fage* Greek yogurt. Delicious taste, unique flavor variety, and more important are the health benefits compared to your traditional non-fat yogurts: less calories, less sugars, less carbs, and more protein.
You may or may not know the Fage brand. That’s because it’s not quite as mass distributed or commercial as your classic Chobani, which a notable majority would associate with Greek yogurt in a name-brand recognition test. Tissues—Kleenex! Greek yogurt—Chobani! You get the picture. (And for the record, you’d be in a one-person minority if you said Puffs for tissues. The only Puffs worth knowing are arguably those Cocoa ones. But per usual, I digress…)
What I want to note about Fage is the product’s packaging. On every container it says “Fage—pronounced: Fa-yeh!” (Exclamation point included). My question is, does the marketing strategy behind it work? And I would have to argue yes. It does. Every time I grab a pack—and preferably it’s cherry-pomegranate—I’m unobtrusively called to read the subtly placed text in the “power left” corner: “Fage—pronounced: Fa-yeh!” To the point where the brand name, and critical pronunciation of it, of course, stick. It gets me talking about the brand. I grab a snack pack at lunch. My rapid reply to the “What’s that?” across the table? “Fage Greek yogurt,” feeling compelled to elaborate, “F-a-g-e. But it’s actually pronounced Fa-yeh! They put it on the package too.”
Most probably don’t care to master the pronunciation of a brand of yogurt, but for me, the fruit-at the-bottom of this post lies in the brand’s marketing strategy.
A simple note about pronunciation on the packaging gets consumers talking about the brand. And what company wouldn’t want that? To build brand buzz that puts Fage on the eye-level shelf, if you will, and distinguishes it from Chobani.
I think there’s a great opportunity here—especially since I personally haven’t seen a Fage commercial since…well, ever. Although, after a little research, I found that in early March 2011, Fage debuted its first series of TV advertising in North America—taking its plain flavored yogurt to a new level: “plain extraordinary” (via Mullen, ad agency). I’ll give the commercial props on its overall design, as some of the graphics are aesthetically pleasing. However, I think Fage could put a little bit more extra in the ordinary by focusing its advertising campaign perhaps on the pronunciation of the yogurt, instead. The goal? Make the brand name stick. A humorous approach could work, if comedic messaging resonates with Fage’s primary target market. And on that note, I wonder what type of consumer Fage is actually trying to reach—since determining who to target typically comes before the how. I’d say the demographic is 20-35 year olds, at least: active, health-conscious consumers, with an interest in more nutritious alternatives to common, every day snack foods. Admittedly, an educated speculation.
So what is my point? Maybe to you this is just a nonsensical rant about yogurt. But you’ve made it this far, so hear me out. Yes, Fage tastes better than Chobani, and is more nutritious and delicious. That’s a #fact. But to me, this is more about a brand with an opportunity to leverage its existing marketing strategy in order to take brand awareness from plain to plain extraordinary. Through a more modern and targeted ad campaign, Fage can generate a viral product hype, connect with its target, and gradually expand its reach.
A refined marketing strategy will not only engage people in Fage, the healthy brand and tasty yogurt choice, but moreover encourage consumers to trade tradition (i.e., Chobani) for taste and 21st century product appeal. There’s not much more to say than “Fa-yeh!” to that.
*Curious to see what the word “Fage” meant or stood for as a brand name, I Google’d it. Turns out, it’s an actual Greek word and acronym: “FAGE, pronounced fa-yeh, is an acronym and a pun. First the acronym: F for the the Filippou family that owns the company, A for adelphi, the Greek word for brothers, G for the Greek word for dairy, and E for the word for corporation. Thus, FAGE = The Filippou Brothers’ Dairy Corporation. Now for the pun: in Greek, fage also means ‘to eat’” (via thenibble.com).