To help your brand identify what customers want and better serve them, read on for examples from L'Oréal, Temple University, and an amusement park.
This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
“Brand is the aggregate experience of the value proposition,” said Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute (for more, see The Myth of the Brand Promise: The 3 biggest reasons brand projects fail to positively impact results).
Most branding discussions revolve around color schemes, logos, naming rights and distinctive designs.
But every customer touchpoint is a brand experience…every interaction your company has with a potential customer impacts the customer’s perception of your brand. Here are some examples…
First up in this article, we bring you a story of an amusement park that created a mascot to not only brand itself to a customer persona but also deliver a better experience for that group. Next, Temple University unifies previously disparate brand interactions around the high-quality digital experience its potential customers had come to expect thanks to their experiences with other brands. And finally, L'Oréal taps into customer discussions about its product type to ensure the brand experience customers have before they purchase – its advertising – speaks the customer’s language.
In 2019, Daytona Lagoon made a major investment in two waterslides – “Kraken’s Revenge,” a 50-foot-high four-lane slide that takes riders through a high-speed skylight tunnel, as well as the “Shaka Halfpipe,” a float ride built on a pendulum-style, 50-foot-tall half-pipe design. This type of investment typically attracts older teens and young adults.
For 2021, the amusement park shifted its focus to a different customer persona and created a mascot. “Having the mascot has enhanced our promotional and marketing efforts with our younger families, which is a balance we strive for [between] our family friendly audiences and thrill seekers who love to ride waterslides,” explains Tyler Currie, General Manager, Daytona Lagoon.
To introduce the mascot, the team posted a teaser video on social media and invited customers to guess what type of creature the mascot was. The teaser video was accompanied by a press release. After the teaser video, they released a series of five riddles on social media for the customers to try to guess the mascot’s identity.
After all five riddles were revealed, the family entertainment center posted an image of the mascot, which was a Yeti. Customers then engaged in a contest where they could name the Yeti and the best submission would win four waterpark general admission tickets. The contest received 582 entries.
Creative Sample #1: Name the mascot contest for amusement park
The team selected Sunny as the winning name.
“The Yeti also gave us a reason to create a media event, which, in turn, ultimately promotes Daytona Lagoon,” said Julie Dion, President and Lead Account Manager, Dion Marketing Company (the park’s marketing agency).
Since the launch, Sunny the Yeti has attended events and was the spokesperson for the amusement park’s Water Safety Month Campaign in May. Participation in the water safety program increased by 320% this year.
Although the team cannot attribute all of its increase preformance to the mascot addition, 2021 has been a record-breaking year for attendance and revenue – 2019 was the park’s best year historically, and for 2021 year to date, attendance is up 49% over 2019.
The Yeti also makes an appearance at birthday parties by visiting the party rooms when the birthday honoree and guests are celebrating to enhance the experience of families with young children. “So far, birthdays are up 29% over 2019, which is strong considering some people are still not comfortable attending parties because of the global pandemic,” Dion said.
If you’re considering a mascot for your brand, here is one last operational tip – you may be wondering how to make a Yeti mascot costume bearable for an employee in the hot summer sun. The costume has ice packs throughout the inside of the uniform. Although the ice packs help keep the employee cool, it makes the uniform heavier to wear. Daytona Lagoon has an employee limit of 15 minutes at a time inside the uniform since it is not comfortable. The park has also recently created a hiring incentive, offering all of its employees a $500 cash bonus for working a certain amount of time over the summer, which has helped improve any staffing issues.
“The mascot uniform is visually limiting, too, which means that the mascot needs a handler to help it walk around to avoid running into anything, tripping and falling. For anyone else considering a mascot for its brand, it is important to know for budgeting purposes that two people need to be staffed each time an appearance is scheduled,” Dion said.
And don’t forget the mascot’s uniform as well. “Finding a seamstress to make board shorts for it was one of our biggest challenges!” laughs Currie.
“The opportunities to learn and have access to non-degree education is far more saturated than it was even just five years ago. Today, you can choose from dozens of providers to provide that education. You’re no longer the only game in town, you're now competing with really high-tech companies that are very sophisticated in their marketing and promotion. So, you have to keep up with some of that to be able to succeed in the marketplace,” said Nicole Westrick, Associate Vice Provost, University College, Temple University.
The university offers more than 100 non-credit and continuing education programs catering to more than 43,000 students each year. Each division and faculty at Temple had managed non-credit education independently, creating significant duplicated effort, inconsistent customer experience and ineffective program decision-making.
Each of Temple’s programs had its own distinctive website, many of which didn’t offer online registration and payment options to students. This meant that students had to sift through dozens of different websites to find a non-credit program they were interested in taking.
Essentially, there were many different customer experiences for a single brand.
So the team centralized the management of all non-credit programs into a single office and invested in a learner engagement platform to manage all registrations and programming from a single location. “We’re helping people shift their focus from administrative work to the things that really matter: program development, marketing and curriculum,” Westrick said.
“Higher education marketers having trouble engaging modern learners need to find ways to better-leverage their websites and digital properties. Generally speaking, today’s learners are looking for a modern ecommerce shopping experience, but many colleges and universities still structure their websites exactly like their campuses—students need to really dig to find information on programs or services relevant to their needs. But taking an honest inventory of your website and finding ways to highlight relevant information—like labor market data, programming and support offerings—allows prospective learners to cut through the noise and immediately recognize whether your institution would be a fit,” said Jason Fiorotto, chief marketing officer, Modern Campus (Temple’s learner engagement platform).
Temple’s staff can now quickly create unique web pages for programs without needing to know how to code. These pages are branded with Temple’s unique look and feel, and they offer students a consistent and seamless web experience. Before implementing the learner engagement platform, pages had to be built manually and, as a result, many program websites did not have any e-commerce capabilities and students had to register for courses using paper and pay course fees directly with school staff. “It allows non-credit programs the maximum amount of control in running their own programs on their own schedules and timelines while standardizing the business operations, such as taking online registrations and payments,” said Vicki Lewis McGarvey, Vice Provost, University College, Temple University.
Temple saw massive revenue gains within a single year of executing this shift. In their first full year with the new approach, they generated $9.6 million in revenue, and in their second year they are on-track for more than 30% growth from there.
“For higher education marketers struggling with conversion, that likely stems from your website not operating as a true ecommerce engine. That doesn’t mean simply offering a digital shopping cart. That means creating a robust checkout process that actively engages learners on your behalf. For example, do you allow prospective students to sign up for an automated reminder when a course opens for registration, or to add a course to a shopping cart on mobile and then have that cart remain active if they shift onto their tablet or computer? Do you have an abandoned shopping cart process that compels students who’ve added items to their cart to return to the site and check out?” Fiorotto said.
“These processes drive conversions and deliver the kind of experience that customers in any industry expect. What’s more, your system should be able to go beyond the checkout and continue delivering conversion opportunities into the future. If a student takes a course or two, the system should be able to notify them of their progress toward a certificate and compel them to continue their engagement. If a student earns a digital credential, they should be encouraged to post that on their social media profile to drive their contacts to learn more about the offering they took. These changes might seem small, but they all add up to a truly modernized learner experience,” he advised.
In 2019, L'Oréal felt the need to upgrade one of its top makeup products – L'Oréal Paris Alliance Perfect foundation. Both the formula and the product communication were outdated – multiple ingredients had emerged on the market along with competitive products made from those ingredients.
These new ingredients and products were overwhelming consumers. After implementing new formulas, the competitor brands would advertise their ingredients as the best on the market, providing almost magical results.
So the team at L'Oréal decided to research their consumers’ expectations instead of simply crafting a new formula on their own. The idea was to understand not only which active ingredients are credible among the audience, but also which particular words they use while speaking about foundations in general.
The marketing team decided to combine two research methods: social media listening and traditional questionnaires.
“For the most part, we conduct social media listening research when we need to find out what our customers say about our brand/product/topic and which words they use to do it. We do conduct traditional research as well and ask questions directly. These surveys are different because we provide a variety of readymade answers that respondents choose from. Thus, we limit them in terms of statements and their wording,” says Marina Tarandiuk, marketing research specialist, L'Oréal Ukraine.
The key value of social media listening (SML) for us is the opportunity to collect people’s opinions that are as ‘natural’ as possible. When someone leaves a review online, they are in a comfortable environment, they use their ‘own’ language to express themselves, there is no interviewer standing next to them and potentially causing shame for their answer. The analytics of ‘natural’ and honest opinions of our customers enables us to implement the results in our communication and use the same language as them,” Tarandiuk said.
The team worked with a social media listening tool vendor to identify the most popular, in-demand ingredients discussed online and detect the most commonly used words and phrases to create a “consumer glossary.”
Questionnaires had to confirm all the hypotheses and insights found while monitoring social media. This part was performed in-house with the dedicated team. They created custom questionnaires aiming to narrow down all the data to a maximum of three variants that could become the base for the whole product line.
“One of our recent studies had a goal to find out which words our clients used to describe positive and negative qualities of [the] foundation. Due to a change in [the] product’s formula, we also decided to change its communication. Based on the opinions of our customers, we can consolidate the existing positive ideas that our clients have about the product,” Tarandiuk said.
To find the related mentions, the team monitored not only the products made by L'Oréal but also the overall category. “The search query contained both brand names and general words like foundation, texture, smell, skin, pores, etc. The problem was that this approach ended up collecting thousands of mentions, not all of which were relevant to the topic,” said Elena Teselko, content marketing manager, YouScan (L'Oréal’s social media listening tool).
So the team used artificial intelligence-based tagging that divided mentions according to the category, features, or product type.
This approach helped the team discover that customers valued such foundation features as not clogging pores, a light texture, and not spreading. Meanwhile, the most discussed and appreciated cosmetics component was hyaluronic acid.
These exact phrases, found with the help of social media monitoring, were later used for marketing communication.
Creative Sample #2: Marketing communicating for personal care company with messaging based on discoveries from market research
“Doing research and detecting audience’s interests BEFORE starting a campaign is an approach that dramatically lowers any risks and increases chances that the campaign would be appreciated by customers,” Teselko said.
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