8 Email Metrics that Matter

We know today that 52% of marketers plan to increase spending on email marketing and 68% believe email is core to their businesses. Before sending your next email, pause for a few minutes and ask yourself: What is the goal of my email marketing? Is it to grow my subscriber database? Generate more leads? To convert more existing leads into customers? Whatever you decide your goal is (and you can have more than one), the next thing you need to do is figure out which metrics you’ll need to track in order to determine how you’re progressing toward that goal.

Let’s take a look at the metrics you should be paying attention to in your email marketing efforts. The lifetime value of an email address, long-term loyalty and satisfaction, health of your email list and ROI are the top metrics to measure to reach your goals. No metric is meaningless, but you should use several metrics to get a holistic picture.

1) Clickthrough Rate

Clickthrough rate is a very important metric for all email marketers to be tracking, as it gives you direct insight into how many people on your list are engaging with your content and interested in learning more about your brand or your offer.

2) Conversion Rate

The definition of a conversion is directly tied to the call-to-action in your email, and your call-to-action should be directly tied to the overall goal of your email marketing, making the conversion rate one of the most important metrics for determining the extent to which you’re achieving your goals.

3) Bounce Rate

Bounce rate measures the percentage of your total emails sent that could not be delivered to the recipient’s inbox. There are two kinds of bounces to track: “hard” bounces and “soft” bounces.

Soft bounces are the result of a temporary problem with a valid email address, such as a full inbox or a problem with the recipient’s server. The recipient’s server may hold these emails for delivery once the problem clears up, or you may try re-sending your email message to soft bounces.

Hard bounces are the result of an invalid, closed, or non-existent email address, and these emails will never be successfully delivered. You should immediately remove hard bounce addresses from your email list, because internet service providers (ISPs) use bounce rates as one of the key factors to determine an email sender’s reputation. Having too many hard bounces can make your company look like a spammer in the eyes of an ISP.

 4) List Growth Rate

There’s a natural decay of your email marketing list, and it expires by about 25% every year — which means that it’s more important than ever to pay attention to growing your subscriber list and keeping it at a healthy size. Collect feedback on a campaign through tools such as surveys.

5) Email Sharing/Forwarding Rate

The rate at which your email recipients forward or share your email with others may not seem all that significant, but it’s arguably one of the most important metrics you should be tracking.

Why? Because this is how you generate new contacts. The folks on your email list are already in your database. So while conversion is still a primary focus, this doesn’t help you attract new leads. Encourage your readers to pass along your email to a friend or colleague if they found the content useful, and start tracking how many new people you can add to your database this way.

6) Open Rate

Open rate is actually a very misleading metric for a few reasons — but most importantly, an email is only counted as “opened” if the recipient also receives the images embedded in that message. And a large percentage of your email users likely have image-blocking enabled on their email. This means that even if they open the email, they won’t be included in your open rate, making it an inaccurate and unreliable metric for marketers, as it underreports on your true numbers.

You can get some value out of open rate as a metric if you use it as a comparative metric. For instance, if you compare the open rates of this week’s email send to last week’s email send — both to the same lists — it might give you some insight since the variables are somewhat controlled.

7) Unsubscribe Rate

Unsubscribes and complaints are a good way to know if you’re reaching the right audience. Although, many subscribers who are tired of receiving email messages from your brand won’t bother to go through the formal unsubscribe process. They’ll just stop opening, reading, and clicking on your email messages.

8) Return on Investment (ROI)

ROI is a top metric to measure. Track how much incremental revenue is generated from each incremental spend.

Successful Integrated Direct and Digital Campaigns

Integrated Marketing strategy plays an important role in delivering the right brand message, to the right prospect, at the right time, via the right media channel to assist in a purchase decision or build brand awareness. This strategy requires evaluation and investment in multiple direct and digital marketing channels.

It’s about combining multiple marketing elements together to achieve an objective more efficiently and effectively than by implementing any one element alone. For instance, The GRI Marketing Group has found a formula which works for some of our direct mail clients planning a campaign. Two emails are sent out approximately within one week of the “in home” date to warm-up prospects to your offer and your brand. Another email is sent out just after the “in home” date. During this time period, banner ads are served up on the sites these prospects are likely to visit.

GRI recommends building an integrated marketing plan based on data-driven models that identify the consumer behaviors that drive profit in your business. Our data driven solutions identify profitable new prospects and reduce mailing efforts to non-responsive, non-paying names which leaves more money on the table to bring in other marketing elements.

Here are a few integrated program examples:

Premiere Global Services Integrated Direct Marketing Program Yields High ROI

A 3-tier integrated direct marketing program helped Premiere Global’s sales force close 200 high-level C-executive appointments in a 2 week period. Cost per appointment generated improved from $500 to $300 per appointment.

GRI developed a program that created awareness of the Premiere Global Fax2Mail service and generated interest for the sales force to close C-level appointments. The multi-channel effort included direct mail, email and telemarketing all strategically working together to achieve the objectives. The direct mail and email created the interest but the follow-up telemarketing was key to the sales activity that occurred.

Retail Client with Multiple Locations Drives Traffic through Print and Digital

After making a strategic decision to reduce their print budget, the client needed a cost-effective, broad reach vehicle to target consumers in high-value geographic areas.

  • Geographies within each of the trade areas were identified using behavioral-based targeting to maximize impressions and reach the client’s most valuable consumers.
  • Display ads replaced print in areas where print was not as effective and expanded reach into areas previously not covered by print advertising.
  • An integrated strategy of print and digital was used in areas where there were high concentrations of the client’s most desired customers to drive traffic.

The display ad click-through rate was .09%, well above the industry average of .04% for a network ad and proved to be a good cost-effective vehicle with a broad reach. The client’s overall spend decreased while sales held steady.

For more examples of successful integrated marketing programs utilizing data driven solutions, contact Brian Snider at bsnider@gridirect.com or call 203-261-3337 x 11.

Why Direct Mail Customers Spend More Online

The longstanding channel of direct mail is still the foundation for marketing campaigns and it compliments digital efforts as a sales medium, building a brand, acquiring leads and strengthening existing relationships. J.C. Penney recently brought back its catalog after stopping it 5 years ago. Why? They found that online sales came from shoppers inspired by what they saw in print. While shoppers are increasingly buying clothing, home goods and automobiles online, many sales are actually from catalog shoppers using the website to place their orders.

Now, retailers are rediscovering catalogs or lifestyle magazines as a branding tool that can drive sales. According to Kurt Salmon, a global management and strategy consulting firm, 31% of shoppers have a catalog with them when they make a purchase online. I know that this is true for me when I am making a purchase. All of my online holiday purchases were made after I had seen the product in print.

Today, the catalog format has changed from the old-style annual book of products into periodic lifestyle magazines that allow retailers to showcase their products. J.C. Penney found that the catalog allows them to tell more about the products and brand that is difficult to do online. Another benefit is that the catalog customers tend to be the best customers and spend more! However, I did receive a 13lb. grouping of catalogs from a luxury retailer last year which was overwhelming and caused negative feedback on the social networks. A reminder that retailers can go too far.

The reality is that in the midst of the digital age, there still is ROI in direct mail. According to CMO Council, the response rate for targeted directed mail is 4.4%, compared to email’s rate of 0.12%; 79% of consumers act on direct mail immediately, versus 45% who do the same with email; and 40% of consumers polled said they tried a new business after receiving direct mail, while 70% said they renewed relationships with businesses they had previously ceased using after receiving direct mail.

People generally trust direct mail and know how to respond to a direct mail offer without the technological savvy required by digital platforms. Today, it’s easy to use direct mail to drive purchases with new mobile and digital technologies. Integrating web (purls), mobile apps and QR codes in your direct mail pieces will boost the ROI of your campaign. Or, you can connect with your customers in unique and entertaining ways. For example, snapping a picture on an encoded print piece with a mobile phone can add new levels of a digital experience with sounds, video and gaming.

According to Epsilon, brands with a compelling message or offer that link direct and digital marketing can expect a 10 to 30% lift in conversion by combining the 2 channels.

BtoB Lead Gen Tips and Tactics

Generating leads is the biggest challenge that BtoB marketers are facing today. These BtoB lead gen tips will help you reach more prospects, engage them more thoroughly and ultimately close more sales.

  • Multi-Channel Approaches

Online…

Although email marketing is a powerful tool for reaching and engaging with your prospects online, most BtoB marketers say their average email open rates don’t exceed 20%. So how can you reach the 80% of leads who aren’t opening your messages in their inboxes? Integrating your email marketing with a comprehensive program that includes targeted display and social advertising can help you reach target prospects anywhere they travel on the web and increase conversion rates.

Website…

Only 2% of traffic, on average, that visit your website will convert on their first visit. And, according to The State of BtoB Lead Nurturing report, less than 5% of anonymous website visitors fill out contact forms on business websites. Retargeting website visitors can help you re-engage with the 95 to 98% potentials that leave your site.

How does site retargeting work?  When prospects leave your site and browse the Internet they are marked or tagged with a pixel or a cookie.  Your ads will display on the other sites they navigate, keeping your website in their peripheral vision and top of mind. Those targeted ads can display the exact product they were viewing while on your site, multiple products, or anything else you choose. These gentle ad reminders will prompt the lost prospect to return to your site and convert – often at a higher rate, and many times with an increased average order value.

Offline…

Direct Mail is evolving and can drive purchases using new mobile and digital technologies. Integrating web (pURLs), mobile apps and QR codes in your direct mail pieces will boost the ROI of your campaign. According to Epsilon, brands with a compelling message or offer that link direct mail and digital can expect a 10 to 30% lift in conversion by combining the 2 channels.

  • Customized Content to Drive Engagement:

A recent Forrester survey found that prospects are now as much as 90% of the way through their buying journey before they reach out to a sales rep. By engaging your prospects early on through targeted display campaigns that offer thought leadership content such as whitepapers, webinars, eBooks or free trial offers – you will gain a competitive edge. Create content and offers for different buying stages as every visitor is at a different stage of exploration. Some need more education (eBook, whitepaper) and others are more ready to commit (free trial, demo).

Video, as a type of content, is on the rise with its importance continuing to grow. According to a study sponsored by Vidyard, and conducted by Demand Metric to explore several aspects of video marketing and the emerging role of video marketing platform technology, 95% of this study’s participants report that video, as a form of marketing and sales content, is becoming “somewhat or far more important” to them. This study has shown that video converts better than other forms of content; and this performance certainly contributes to an improving ROI for video. Quality video is also getting easier to produce and the cost of doing so is coming down.

  • Test and Optimize Ad Creative:

When you develop ad creative, small tweaks such as a different call-to-action or a new background photo can make a difference. Also display and retargeting ads tire over time and need to be refreshed. Use A/B testing to optimize your ad creative by simultaneously running display ads with a few small differences and then measure results after displaying a few thousand impressions to see what works best.

  • Success Metrics:

To track the impact of your lead gen programs, pay attention to metrics that measure engagement, such as lift in visits, time spent on site, visits per user and number of pages visited.

This data will help you discover whether visitors who have viewed your ads are more likely to engage with your website content than those who have not seen your ads. Visitors with high engagement levels are considered warm leads and should be passed on to the sales team for a phone call follow-up.

6 Fascinating Email Marketing Insights

Eye-tracking studies have been around for some time and offer fascinating insights into how readers view emails and web pages. These studies closely monitor where the eye looks and how long it lingers there, producing heat maps that are incredibly informative for marketers. These eye-tracking insights will help you create more effective emails that cater perfectly to the way viewers look at their screens.

Photos can offer major directional cues

If your email includes a photo of a person or an animal, you should select it carefully. While you probably put a lot of time and attention into choosing an attractive subject and an image that conveys your overall message, what you’re probably missing is the picture’s directional cues.

The next time you’re looking for an image like this, consider where the photo’s subject is looking. If it’s gazing directly back at the viewer, chances are that the viewer will return the gaze by staring into the subject’s face. Eye-tracking studies have shown that viewers tend to follow the gaze of the subject they’re looking at.

Try a photo where the subject is looking to the side, effectively gazing at the text that you want the viewer to see. An image of a photo subject who is looking out of the frame in the direction of the call to action will draw the viewer’s eye there as well.

Content must flow with appeal

Each and every “screenful” that a viewer takes in when reading your email must convince them to keep going. If the content at the top isn’t appealing enough, the viewer will never move further down. It’s important to note that 80% of viewers will read content only above the fold. Eye-tracking studies show that navigational elements do best when incorporated into the body of the email. Isolating them at the top is less effective because email readers aren’t accustomed to looking along the top of the message for navigational tools.

If your email is long, include a table of contents at the top with links to the features contained further down. This allows the reader to quickly scan what’s in the message and jump right to the section that’s most interesting to them. Without this element, the reader may lose interest before reaching the section that would have drawn him or her in.

Readers browse in an F pattern

Readers tend to read in an F-shaped pattern, first, by scanning the top of the page where the heading or greeting is likely to be. Next, the reader scans across the first paragraph or two, forming the second bar of the “F.” Last, the reader scans along the left side of the page, probably taking in subheadings and other call-outs.

You can use this information to your advantage when you’re designing email marketing campaigns by including the most important information at the very top of the page. Make sure subheadings or call-out text utilize key words and phrases. You should place valuable information here rather than a vague statement that won’t offer any new insights.

Consider the difference between “The email test had a higher conversion rate” and “The email test conversion rate came in at 20% higher” One is vague and uninteresting while the other communicates a powerful fact.

Hand drawn messages are effective

Hand drawn notes and arrows are very effective at grabbing the viewer’s attention. These little graphics give the page an informal feel and make readers feel as though the personal notes were added just for them. Add these doodles to your marketing messages and you can direct the reader’s gaze exactly where you want it to go. Just make sure you use both a note and an arrow. Without the arrow, your message will get across, but the user won’t have any direction about where to look next.

Media grabs all the attention

If your emails include images of any kind, you should be aware of the impact that they’re having on the text in the message. Media of all types is an attention hog when it comes to eye tracking. Viewers focus on videos and pictures more than text. Combine this with the fact that they only look at an email newsletter for an average of 51 seconds and you have a compelling reason to consider limiting your visual goodies.

If you want the text in your message to get serious consideration, don’t place it below a flashy piece of media. If you do include images, consider placing your call to action on them, so the attractive image is actually drawing the reader’s eye to the message you want to send.

Viewers spend 69 percent of time looking left

On a web page, the viewer spends 69 percent of their time looking at the left hand side of the page. The eye naturally drifts left and gives this area more attention than the rest. Use this insight in your email marketing campaigns by making sure the most important information and call to action are on the left, not in a side bar along the right. Leave the right column of your newsletter for less important items, recognizing that many viewers probably won’t register what’s taking up space on this half of the page much at all.

These insights will help you build a better email that will make the most of the viewer’s unconscious browsing habits.

A New Interactive Experience with Mail

Real Mail Notification is a relatively new digital process that is in the pilot stages at the Postal Service. It is exciting for us direct marketers because it truly establishes mail as an integrated marketing channel. With this digital app, an email message is sent to the customer every day before they receive their mail with images of the mail pieces that are going to be delivered. The email is a preview of what will be in their mailbox, if traveling or at work, every day before they receive it.

The benefits of digital mail could be huge with more eyes on your direct mail and the email image of your mail piece can be clickable directly to your website/landing page or phone. Seeing a picture of the direct mail piece before it is delivered and being able to directly click through and order will likely have a positive effect on the ROI of the mailing! So far, the results have been positive. In northern Virginia, 90% of participating consumers checked their mobile devices daily to see what was in their mail. According to USPS Postmaster Megan Brennan, a 10-fold jump in response rates was seen for the pieces tested. If it’s all about response, then this interactive product could be a hit.

The mail images in the email are just of the outer envelope, not the contents, and in black and white. The sorting equipment at the post office takes a black and white picture of the outer envelope to scan the barcode and, with Real Mail Notification, this image is repurposed as a digital mail opportunity. Customers can sign up for an app to receive the daily emails or through My USPS from the Postal Service.

At this time there is no cost to participate in the pilot programs and another is scheduled in NYC this fall. The Postal Service will make a determination whether or not Real Mail Notification is popular enough to bring them additional revenue through market share or if they should charge for the service.

25 Creative Tips to Improve Marketing ROI

Overall sales and market share can experience solid gains with modifications to your online and offline campaign’s copy and design elements. Below are a few tips that work:

Compelling Copy

Copywriting is one of the most essential components of a successful advertising campaign – whether it’s a direct mail package, a full-page ad, an e-marketing campaign or web content. The fact is, words matter. Even one word can make the world of difference. In crafting compelling copy, here are some points to keep in mind:

  1. According to research, five times as many individuals read the headline as read the body copy. Your headline must satisfy multiple needs:  it needs to present the USP (unique selling proposition), focus on the key benefit of your product or service in a few well-chosen words, and be succinct and memorable all at once.
  2. Connect first, sell later.  It is best to empathize with the customer and identify with their needs before you launch into your sales pitch.
  3. Know who your audience is and the psychographics of your customer base. Dispel yourself of the illusion that your copy will appeal to all people.  It doesn’t have to; all it needs to do is appeal to your most likely customers.
  4. Concentrate on benefits instead of features. Okay, so you have a high-impact, state-of-the-art product that blows the competition out of the water.  But what does that mean for your customer?  It means that what they get is a product that is faster, more efficient, easier to use, flexible, and cost-effective. Your prospects may not have a compelling need for your product – or so they think.  It’s up to you to create that need.
  5. Forget about the jargon. The most effective mailings dispense with the jargon and speak directly and straightforwardly to the customer, weaving in logical and emotional reasons to buy.
  6. Use the element of scarcity with offers. Scarcity is great because it creates a fear of shortage, and thus a sense of urgency.  Limited time offers and limited quantity offers are popular scarce tactics. In some studies, limited quantity offers have outperformed limited time offers because it is hard to tell when something that has a limited quantity will become unavailable.
  7. Personalization is a core tactic of direct marketing. Combine transactional and profile data to make sure customers get a message that is right for them.

 Design to Improve Marketing ROI

Email design elements are critical to open and click through rates.

  1. Design a multiscreen email design for all campaigns to ensure your email marketing can be read on mobile, tablet and desktop devices.
  2. Stick to basic themes, colors and navigation elements in your email campaigns. The design elements in your email should be consistent with the look and feel of your company brand image so your readers can identify with you. The use of email templates that include your branding elements such as colors and logo is one way to ensure a consistent email style.
  3. Use clean HTML and lay your email out using tables. Avoid using CSS and Javascript elements as these may trigger spam filters.
  4. Use real text at the top of your email template to start consumer engagement. Large graphics at the top will not be visible unless the consumer downloads the images.
  5. The majority of people prefer emails with images – pictures are a great way to engage your audience. However, you should pay attention to how long it takes to download your email message.  Be careful not to overdo it with too many images or very large images.

There are many different designs and formats to choose from when planning a direct mail campaign depending on your budget and your target audience.

  1. The most common is the letter package. This format can look official or create a sense of urgency by the use of teaser copy on the outer envelope. Utilize action devices such as labels, cards, personalized postage notes or zips/tear offs to engage the consumer.
  2. Postcards are the least expensive direct mail format and gets your message in front of the consumer immediately.
  3. Self-mailers can be designed with clever formats that are versatile. The Slim Jim, Magalog and Digest can be designed and mailed to look just like a magazine.
  4. Dimensional mail stands out in your mailbox and has a higher open rate than traditional mail. A mail package with something lumpy in it will spark the interest of the consumer. This tactic works well with small mailings targeted to C-level executives.

Landing Pages that Convert

The landing page is the final step in converting a visitor to a lead. What’s great about a landing page is that it directs your visitor to your offer without the distractions of everything else on your website.

  1. Landing pages should render properly on all devices. Also, remove menu navigation and links that could distract the visitor from filling out the form or provides an easy means of escape.
  2. Headers should clearly explain the offer and be consistent with the CTA visitors clicked on to reach the landing page.
  3. Be brief and to the point. Make it easy for the visitor to scan a brief paragraph explaining what the offer is, followed by a few bullet points outlining the benefits of the offer.
  4. Including a relevant, interesting image on the landing page will help visitors visualize the offer.
  5. Convey the value of your offer clearly and effectively.  For instance, instead of “includes specifications of xyz” spin it to “find out how xyz can increase productivity by 30%”.
  6. Don’t forget to include buttons to enable your visitors to share content and offers.
  7. A short form is key to a landing page.  The fewer fields you have on a form, the more likely you will receive more conversions. Only ask for the information that will help follow-up on a lead. Also reduce the spacing between each field and align the titles to the left instead of above to make the form appear shorter.
  8. One of the best ways to increase form conversion rates is to simply not use the default word “submit” on your button. If you think about it, no one wants to submit to anything. Instead, turn the statement into a benefit that relates to what they will be getting.  For instance “download whitepaper” or “get your free ebook” or simply “click here”.
  9. People are reluctant to give up their information these days, especially because of the increase in spam. To help reduce a visitor’s anxiety to complete the form, add a privacy message that indicates their email will not be shared or sold. If your form requires sensitive information, include security seals, a BBB rating or certification so visitors know their information is safe. Adding testimonials or customer logos is another way to reduce visitor anxiety.

Best Practices: Landing pages

The landing page is the final step in converting a visitor to a lead.  It starts with a valuable offer and must have a form to collect visitor information.  These 10 tips will help you optimize your landing pages to generate qualified leads.

1)  Explain Value of the Offer

The landing page must clearly explain the benefits of receiving the offer in exchange for their contact information.  The content must answer the question: “what’s in it for me?”

2)  Consistent Headers and Call to Action

Headers should clearly explain the offer and be consistent with the call to action visitors clicked on to reach the landing page.  The headers should start with an action verb like “learn” or “download”.

3)  5 Second Rule

In less than 5 seconds, visitors to your landing page should be able to understand what the offer is, the value of the offer and what they need to do to get the offer.  Make it easy for the visitor to scan the information by using 3 to 5 bullet points.

4)  Create a Short Form

Short forms are always better than long forms to make it easier for a website visitor to become a lead. Only ask for the information that will help you or your sales team follow up with or qualify the lead.

5)  Place Content Above the Fold

The content and form on the landing page should always be visible above the page’s fold.  Testing has proven you will see a higher conversion rate if visitors do not have to scroll down to see the form. Continue reading “Best Practices: Landing pages”

The price ($0.00) is right

In the new economy, how can companies give away so much and still make money?

Today’s  savvy consumer knows they can surf the web and find just about anything they need to know for FREE.  Hit the search engines, and you’re off to finding your answers.   With traditional media (direct mail, telemarketing, TV) it used to be, give away a watch, backpack, or DVD FREE with a paid offer.   Now more and more dollars are being diverted to “getting mindshare”–getting prospects/customers to your online presence… engaging them with free content and a community experience, and then presenting them with your premium offer.  

 Here’s a perfect example:

Comedy’s legendary Monty Python members–you know, “I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK,” the Killer Rabbit, the Dead Parrot —were tired of seeing their legendary sketches pirated and posted on YouTube, free to whoever wanted a quick laugh.  So they posted their own, higher-quality versions on YouTube–also free–but let fans know that complete DVD versions were available for purchase.  As a result, sales rose 23,000 percent!

There are many examples of how companies are monetizing “free” in Chris Anderson’s new book, Free:  The Future of a Radical Price (Hyperion, $26.99).  According to Anderson, “people are making lots of money charging nothing. Not nothing for everything, but nothing for enough that we essentially created a country-sized economy around the price of $0.00.

 Bottom-line:  Allure your prospects/customers with the right price ($0.00); get them to embrace your brand with helpful tips, customer forums, etc. and soon their mindshare will turn into walletshare.

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Surviving the Downturn: Building and Maintaining your Brands’ Reputation

Today’s consumer now struggles with weighing “value” in a product or service and “values” in what they want and expect from companies –according to a recent Harris Interactive poll.

 That should come as no surprise considering the bailouts, bonuses and bad business behavior that all combined to erode the overall reputation of corporate America to its worst standing in ten years. Technology remains the highest rated industry, but its reputation declined along with six other industries, with the Automotive industry reporting the greatest decrease ever.

Despite this free-fall in Corporate America’s image among consumers, Johnson & Johnson, Google, Sony, Coca-Cola, Kraft, and returning to the list of Most Visible Companies, amazon.com, all received RQ scores that categorize their reputations as “Excellent”. An RQ score of 80 and above is considered “Excellent”.

“While the overall reputation of Corporate America has never been worse in the eyes of the general public, greater understanding of and credit for working diligently to build and maintain a good reputation has never been stronger,” says Robert Fronk, Senior Vice President, Senior Consultant, Reputation Strategy at Harris Interactive. “The RQ study also validates that both corporate behavior and corporate communication play a major role in how a company is perceived.”  And, this theory is also reinforced by the following definition of a brand by Scott Bedbury in “A New Brand World” —

    ” A brand is the sum of the good, the bad, the ugly and the off-strategy. It is defined by your best product as well as your worst product.. It is defined by the accomplishments of your best employee…the mishaps of the worst hire you ever made…the music your customers hear when put on hold…the finely worded statement by the CEO..but also consumer comments overheard in the hallway or in an online community.  Brands are sponges for content, for images, for fleeting feelings.  They become psychological concepts held in the minds of the public, where they may stay forever.”

“The companies that achieved RQ scores that characterize their reputations as either good or excellent have a decidedly value or comfort basis in their businesses”, says Fronk of Harris Interactive. “While the reputations of many of these companies have been relatively stable over time, there is no doubt that in the current economic environment, these two characteristics only serve to reinforce a positive reputation.

The RQ surveys more than 25,000 American consumers in a two-step process, through online and telephone interviews, to first identify the 60 most visible companies and then to rank these companies based on their reputation in six different categories: Emotional Appeal, Products & Services, Social Responsibility, Vision & Leadership, Workplace Environment, and Financial Performance.

The top 10 companies on this year’s list in order of ranking include: 1) Johnson & Johnson; 2) Google; 3) Sony Corporation; 4) The Coca-Cola Company; 5) Kraft Foods; 6) amazon.com.; 7) Microsoft Corporation; 8) General Mills; 9) 3M Company; 10) Toyota Motor Corporation. For a full list of the top 60 companies and other findings visit: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/RQ.

The six areas that the RQ survey focuses on that influence reputation and consumer behavior include the following, along with the companies that scored highest in these categories:

• Social Responsibility – Whole Foods, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Microsoft

• Emotional Appeal – Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, amazon.com, Sony, General Mills

• Financial Performance – Johnson & Johnson, Berkshire Hathaway, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Google

• Products & Services – Sony, Johnson & Johnson, 3M Company Google, Kraft

• Vision & Leadership – Berkshire Hathaway, Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, amazon.com

• Workplace Environment – Google, Johnson & Johnson, Sony, Microsoft, Kraft

In addition to Wal-Mart and Sony, other big gainers in 2008 included AT&T, Unilever, Royal Dutch Shell, and Nike. Each of these companies has confronted reputation issues in recent years and it would appear that their efforts to mitigate these issues and rebuild a positive reputation are beginning to bear results.

To review selected research from the Harris Interactive RQ survey, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com/RQ.

Hope this gives you some food for thought — Brian.

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