Talking about Listening

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Advertising legend Jeremy Bullmore used to do a wonderful presentation on how clients could get the best from their advertising agencies. The following is a research and insight version.

  1. Appoint an Insight Manager. Let’s call her Emma. She should be in her mid-twenties, kept at arm’s length from the core business and decision-making but extremely well-versed in internal process. Emma should only appoint research agency partners based on price and their willingness to comply with procurement rules.
  1. Commission a global monthly tracker covering all brands in every market so that every 1.7% brand “uptick” is recorded. Because the tracker is very expensive, Emma should not allow capacity to explore unexplained changes.  Be very pedantic about the house style and “socialise” the findings through an online Insight Portal with an obscure password protocol.
  1. Commission a customer segmentation to allow the “targeting” of different messages to different groups.  Each segment needs a cool name: “fashionista geeks who love blue”.  Employees should complete an online survey to find out what segment they fall into and see a cartoon picture representing their group: “Howie, 46, into Zumba and viral cat videos’. Emma will ensure that negative characteristics that might pollute the brand are cleansed: no one smokes, has tattoos or gets pissed on cheap cider at the weekend.
  1. Schedule a series of focus groups inform the “next big strategic move”. Emma will arrange for these to be booked very near her home. Anyone with a decision-making role need not be encouraged to attend but every interested party internally must be involved in a fierce debate about the recommendations in the final report.
  1. Advertising campaigns should be tested before launch.  This must be done in close cooperation with the team at the advertising agency who created the work to guarantee unbiased analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.
  1. Then, some customer surveys on specific areas – for example your call centres. Because it is clear what is important to customers, these should be tightly boxed-in allowing no space for comments that have the potential to cause internal embarrassment. Don’t worry too much that the survey takes 45 minutes to complete and is excruciatingly dull.
  1. Every brand needs an authentic voice on a subject their customers really care about.  Emma needs to commission an online survey to ask people how much they care about green, how much they prefer brands who are green and how much more they will pay for green products. As this is online, confidential and rewarded by points adding up to a few pennies, be assured that the answers will be an accurate reflection of respondents’ real views.
  1. Last and least, employees must be heard through an annual online survey.  It should start with so much profiling information that anyone with a shred of ambition will opt to be dutifully diplomatic.  Team leaders should be financially incentivised to get good feedback. The results should be shared six months later by head office and attached to vague and modest actions: “we will recycle more”.
  1. Consolidate the conclusions all of these reports – each from a different agency partner – into a 160-slide deck of pre-reading for the board meeting.  Make it a priority that this deck complies with the brand style guide.
  1. Immediately after the board meeting a PR manager should issue a triumphant press release: ‘We Are Listening!’

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