Thursday, September 18, 2008

how much is your reputation worth?

We all know reputations take a long time to build and can be destroyed in a very short space of time by a lack of judgement or misguided actions and I'm not talking about the young executive who throws her name away at the office party after having one two many tequilas.
Today some clever digital natives from a company called Quirk showed us how they track and measure the reputation health of companies on the www. They spoke about about how a company or brand's online reputation can spread faster through www than traditional media channels and unlike a newspaper or a radio report which is transient or thrown away, thanks to Google it will live forever. You can't delete stuff disgruntled customers may have blogged or posted comments about, although I'm sure there are many companies out there that wouldn't mind if some hack created a virus to erase the damming evidence against them? Despite SA's online penetration lag, local companies should be tracking www and formulating strategies to deal with negative online noise. I enjoyed having some robust discussion with the passionate Quirk team around the influence of a blogger out there versus a journalist in traditional media. This was an interesting debate. If a blogger has an avid following who hang on every word blogged and said blogger trashes your brand, could they do more damage than a respected columnist or editor of a major newspaper or magazine who does the same? Interesting thought. In terms of our business, I reckon traditional press will do more damage to us right now than online, mostly because the Internet has not nearly reached the scale yet of our national press in terms of eyeballs. The press in SA also enjoys very high levels of credibility among South African communities. However, what I will concede is that popular bloggers can be exceptionally powerful in their persuasion of their dedicated audiences, who in turn tend to be key influencers in society and this is a critical consideration. If a person trusts and believes everything you say, they will act on it. We have tracked some fascinating blogs rating us a great bank to do business with versus other banks. but we have also been at the butt end of some unforgiving remarks that have needed addressing. The noise out there is growing as more and more flock to the web and given brand reputation is a business imperative, we frankly don't have a choice, but to get in there and be a part of it.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

wealthy are still reading

I read in Advertising Age the results of a recent media survey in the US. These results didn’t surprise me. The survey showed the wealthier in the population still read print publications just as much now as they did five years ago, that electronic and digital media has not displaced this consumer habit. This is not to say this audience aren’t adopters of digital, it’s that they haven’t adopted it at the expense of their print consumption. The media that has lost their attention is in fact television.

“Respondents making more than $100,000 annually said their average hours online had grown to 22.1 each week from 10.7, while the time they said they spent watching TV sunk to 18.6 hours from 23.7 in the 2003 survey. And they said their time spent listening to the radio had declined slightly. But they said they're regularly reading an average of 15.3 print publications, a notch above 15.1 five years earlier. Readers making more than $250,000 said they read just as many publications, 23.8 now, as they did in 2003.”

Research at our bank among our most affluent customers shows a similar pattern. Print, in fact Weekly Newspapers being very dominant, followed by Radio, Television and then the Internet.

There is an obvious correlation between age and wealth and the wealthier segment of the market tend to be older. It makes sense, the older you get the less likely you are to change habits and we know that readers bond heavily with print. I know people who have been reading the same array of print media since their youth, so usurping this media habit is nigh impossible.

Recently the Unilever Institute released a study called PrimeTime which looked at consumers 40+, the first study of its kind in SA. While I had to question some of the insights on Internet use, the study certainly offered interesting observations about how wealthier and older consumers interact with media. In the US survey, only 40% of affluent consumers said they use their cellphones or mobile devices to access the internet. But that proportion rises with affluence, so that fully 57% of the segment earning more than $250,000 reported using mobile devices to get online.

I think this is great news for print. There’s no reason why its relevance needs to be usurped by rush of digital growth.