Friday, November 16, 2012

New Analysis of Brand Engagement

For each of the last four years, ComBlu, a Chicago-based company has analyzed the effectiveness of a wide range of businesses, across many industries including a few that are really parts of sectors.

The objective of all of this work is to benchmark effectiveness of engaging customers before, during and after purchases through a mix of branded online presence and communities such as various form of social media.  It is also designed to raise the level of professionalism.

ComBlu “broadly identifies community as an engagement ecosystem” that includes “offline conversations, social networks, review sites, gated brand communities and content hubs.”  The newly released report analyzes and rates 92 major businesses across 15 economic sectors and their engagement across 219 online communities.

Community-destination marketing organizations (DMOs,) where I spent a nearly 40-year career spanning three different cities, are “content hubs” at their core.

These DMOs are advocacy organizations which also aggregate, curate (a term used by the authors) and make searchable the natural, built and cultural place-based assets of their respective destination communities including visitor-related (many of whom will evolve into newcomers who almost always visit first) businesses, organizations, events, activities and features in a potential destination.

ComBlu believes that consumers seek information in as many as 10 different places before making a buying decision, and other studies show that “official” hubs such as community-destination marketing organizations, when not member-driven, are considered among the most reliable used.

Community DMOs are well advised by a statement in the report citing that:

“a social-only strategy is an incomplete line of attack, as is a “branded community-only” approach. The two are symbiotic and contribute to overall engagement. It is important for brands to understand what to do where and optimize the natural leverage between the owned and social infrastructure.”

A few communities such as Durham, NC, where I live, understand that safeguarding a destination community’s identity and reputation has always been a core element of community-destination marketing.

Even before the advent of the Internet, these community brand managers heeded the report’s admonition that organizations “need to both own the place where conversation happens AND be present in places outside their gated properties where people are talking.” To this I will add the fact that they also need to know when to intervene or to enlist the aid of the 6%-8% of internal and external audiences who, according to the study, are potentially proactive advocates.

The 1,100 community-destination marketing organizations in North America are not represented in the report’s analysis, but several industries which are part of the tourism sector are, including eight entertainment businesses, five beverage businesses, nine retailers, seven consumer product businesses, three hotel chains and three airlines, nearly 40% of all those evaluated.

At one point in the report, the analysis accurately implies that because people travel only because of the places they visit, the entities that get them to the destinations or provide a place to stay or something to do are “missing a huge opportunity to crowdsource” information about the overall destinations in which they are specifically located or to which they serve rather than just about their specific businesses.

The authors of the report astutely theorize that the percentage of businesses with cohesive strategies may have dropped this year (to 37% overall and 17% among hotels and airlines) because companies are experimenting and innovating.

I have always valued the report because it identifies and monitors not only 33 “best practices” and their rate of adoption both overall and among rock-star businesses, but it also points out five “worst practices” that are still lingering in the strategies of far too many businesses and organizations:

  • Worst Practice #1: Moderating comments, stories and photos before posting.


  • Worst Practice #2: Asking for information at registration and promising…pertinent content and never delivering…


  • Worst Practice #3: …leaving up hopelessly outdated content…[on the web]


  • Worst Practice #4: Having a banner calling out “what’s new” and never having anything new listed.


  • Worst Practice #5: Asking community members to submit their success stories but not disclosing the criteria for selection or qualification…

Click here to download the full report released this month including the “best practices.”

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