Volkswagen IMC Analysis

Volkswagen: Think New

The Volkswagen Group has replaced “Das Auto” with a new campaign slogan entitled “Think New”. Slogans “effectively “capture the essence of a message in a brief and memorable form”(Blery, Katseli & Tsara, 2010 p.60). Volkswagen’s integrated marketing campaign (IMC) is meant to give the brand a fresh start by marketing hybrid and zero-emission automobiles to environmentally conscious stakeholders. So far, the communications strategy has been a one-way asymmetric message that focuses on a transactional relationship with new car buyers. That needs to change to an interactive dialogue. The manufacturer has also been proactive in advertising car service options for Volkswagen owners on social media platforms. The company’s current tactics appear to include branded content on all media outlets. Volkswagen’s online messaging will successfully reach a large audience of younger consumers. Volkswagen’s corporate strategy also contains an aggressive plan to ramp up its operations in the East Asian market with the construction of six new factories in China. The plan also includes the introduction of new car models designed specifically for the Chinese consumer. Today’s market environment demands automakers engage young stakeholders’ preference for new products and cutting-edge technology. However, breakthrough technologies are hard to come by and, when a technology is introduced that really improves performance in a product category benefit, it is quickly copied by competitors” (Holt & Cameron, 2010, p. 202).

Marketing: TRANSFORM 2025+

In the wake of the diesel emissions crisis, Volkswagen has also introduced a new IMC strategy called TRANSFORM 2025+. This initiative is meant to communicate a message of organizational renewal. TRANSFORM 2025+ is a vision for an entirely new Volkswagen Group. The plan lays out a business model with the goal of becoming the industry leader in zero-emission automobiles. The program encompasses three phases that will attempt to reinvent the Volkswagen brand. The first phase will transform the company’s corporate culture and core businesses. The second phase intends to build a future stream of income through e-mobility innovation which includes a new lineup of hybrid and electric vehicles. Finally, in its third phase, the company plans to play a major role in the transformation of the motor vehicle industry post-2025.

Public Relations: Electrify America

Volkswagen Group of America has launched Electrify America as part of a punitive agreement reached with the United States government. The Electrify America program was created for the purpose of developing an electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure throughout the country. The program will invest 2 billion dollars over the next decade in a network of electric charging stations intended to encourage EV use. Although compulsory, this public relations program puts the company on the path to regaining its environmentally friendly credentials.

Advertising/Promotion Components: People First Warranty

The company’s new advertising campaign targets car shoppers with a selection of new tech-savvy SUV’s and automobiles. The most effective advertisements Volkswagen is currently using are meant to restore the brand’s reputation in the minds of viewers. The spots effectively use both peripheral and central processing tactics to captivate audiences while promoting the company’s new “People First” six-year/ 72,000-mile warranty. The People First warranty is a competitive advantage over other manufacturers meant to appeal to a broad audience of car buyers. Other VW commercials disseminate powerful and compelling facts about the manufacturer’s new products and features. It is clear from the promotions that Volkswagen is moving away from cookie-cutter body styles toward sportier designs and colors.

Brief SWOT Analysis

Strengths: Volkswagen had record sales and became the largest car manufacturer in the world in 2016 despite the Dieselgate scandal. The company boasts a portfolio that includes Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Scania Man, and Ducati. Volkswagen has a global presence unrivaled by competitors and enjoys one of the best international car brand reputations.

Weaknesses: The diesel scandal has cost Volkswagen 25 billion US dollars and the amount is growing. The company reputation will be tarnished by its unethical behavior for at least a decade.

Opportunities: China is the world’s largest auto market and demand for vehicles in the Asia Pacific region is growing rapidly. Volkswagen has positioned itself well in this region by creating shrewd partnerships. China and India will create profits for the company that will eventually surpass Europe and the United States.

Threats: Competition in the automotive industry is at an all-time high. Even companies such as Kia and Hyundai are building quality cars at great prices. Volkswagen continues to face scrutiny by regulatory agencies on every continent and that won’t change anytime soon. Also, instability in the global economy always poses an unpredictable threat to multinational corporations.

New IMC Plan 

The first order of business in for the new campaign would be to perform a Political, Economic, Social and Technological (PEST) analysis of Volkswagen’s global businesses. After SWOT and PEST analyses are completed, the company will collaborate across departments to determine “target markets and “identify customers” in order to create realistic goals and objectives for the campaign (Blery, Katseli & Tsara, 2010, p.67).

Goal:  To build mutually beneficial relationships with internal stakeholders and external publics.

Objectives: 

1. Increase positive awareness among Volkswagen’s internal stakeholders for “TOGETHER 2025” strategy by 25% by September 1st, 2019.

2. Increase awareness for Volkswagen’s new TRANSFORM 2025+ electric vehicle initiative among external publics by 25% by September 1st, 2019.

Desired change: 25% increase in awareness among internal stakeholders and external publics for Volkswagen’s new strategies by September 1st, 2019. A survey will be conducted at the end of the campaign to measure results and adjust future tactics.

Internal Stakeholders

There has been a great deal of strife and contention within the Volkswagen organization and the most important IMC goal for the corporation is to emphasize teamwork with its internal stakeholders (Barney,1995). Sources within the company report that “many managers are focusing on protecting themselves rather than providing leadership in their departments” (Cremer, 2017). A survey conducted by the VW work council “found that only 25 percent agree that corporate culture has improved since the diesel scandal broke in 2015” (Cremer, 2017).

If Volkswagen wants to “reform the command-and-control structure that was prevalent under former bosses”, Volkswagen managers need to interact better with employees (Cremer, 2017). Volkswagen management should engage in constant dialogue with its global workforce (Barney,1995). This “dual-concern” strategy will create win-win outcomes critical to successful human resources management (Blery, Katseli & Tsara, 2010).

As of right now, “two-thirds of the employees found the company’s executives were “not persuasive” in their efforts to reform the company”(Menzel, 2018). Hence, the corporate communications department should be involved in data collection and make “credible suggestions for concrete actions that will achieve measurable objectives consistent with organizational goals” (Austin & Pinkleton, 2015, p.244). 

Collaborative decision making between the organization and its employees is the most effective way for the Volkswagen Group to improve productivity (Barney,1995)Volkswagen “launched the Group-wide knowledge network Group Connect in 2014 with a view to fostering dialog between its employees from different regions, departments and hierarchical levels” (Volkswagen Group, 2017). One of the most important missions the Group connect can achieve is to ensure that the entire Volkswagen organization understands their new manifesto (Holt & Cameron, 2010).

The future success of the Volkswagen Group (2010, p. 8) depends on the company creating a balance of interests in the workplace. Volkswagen must use environmental scanning to understand their employees’ feedback (Barney,1995). It is by engaging in dialogue through two-way symmetrical communication that the company will reestablish trust and morale with its internal stakeholders.

External Publics

Global VW Chief Marketing Officer Jochen Sengpiehl recently expressed his concern that the company is spending too much money on paid advertising. Sengpiehl plans on ending that practice and has initiated an audit of all global creative content projects with the intent to streamline and centralize future marketing efforts. With those facts in mind, I would concentrate on a “customer-centered” strategy that “focuses on understanding customers’ needs, wants and perceptions” (Blery, et al., 2010, p.59). This is best accomplished through in-depth qualitative interviews. Digital strategy and platforms would receive the greatest amount of attention as they are “the lowest cost in comparison with the rest of communication media” (Blery, et al., 2010, p.63). I think it would be best to study targeted demographics in order to discover “successful innovations” that can create a cultural strategy to “repurpose cultural expressions lurking in subcultures, social movements, media myths, and the brand’s own assets” (Holt & Cameron, 2010, p. 198). Cultural strategies have been proven to increase sales and brand awareness among young people and Millennials would be my primary target.

Conclusion

My main objectives for Volkswagen’s new IMC plan would be to increase internal support for and external awareness of both the TRANSFORM 2025+ and the TOGETHER 2025 strategies through digital platforms (Blery, et al., 2010). It is critical that positive relationships are created if the company is to generate brand loyalty. The plan’s success or failure would be determined by quantifying the campaign’s ability to improve employee morale by 25% and increase awareness by 25% within the next year. If this plan is executed well, then and sustainable growth will be ensured for the Volkswagen brand.

References

Austin, E. W., & Pinkleton, B. E. (2015). Strategic public relations management: Planning and managing effective communication campaigns (Vol. 10): Routledge.

Barney, J. B. (1995). Looking inside for a competitive advantageAcademy of Management Executive, 9(4), 49-61.

Blery, E. K., Katseli, E., & Tsara, N. (2010). Marketing for a non-profit organizationInternational Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing, 7(1), 57-68. doi: 10.1007/s12208-010-0049-2.

Cremer, A. (2017).  CEO says changing VW culture proving tougher than expected. Reuters Retrieved at https://ca.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idCAKBN18I2V3-OCABS

Holt, D., & Cameron, D. (2010). Applying the cultural strategy model: Using Cultural Strategy in Technology-Driven Categories [Clearblue Easy]New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Menzel, S. (2018). VW employees not impressed by reforms. Handelsblatt Global. Retrieved at https://global.handelsblatt.com/mobility/vw-employees-not-impressed-management-reforms-888086

Volkswagen Group. (2016). Volkswagen Group is committed to new forms of cooperation. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.volkswagen-media-services.com/detailpage/-/detail/Volkswagen-Group-is-committed-to-new-forms-of-cooperation/view/5305114/7a5bbec13158edd433c6630f5ac445da?p_p_auth=X86pMiei

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To Be Or Not To Be IMC

Today’s organizations must use symmetrical dialogue with stakeholders in order to build long-term relationships (Hallahan, 2007). Every corporation’s success hinges on the company’s ability to commit to co-operative dialogue with its internal and external publics (Blakeman, 2015). Multinational corporations in particular need experienced public relations practitioners “to conduct a thorough, systematic analysis of the ethical aspects of a decision and to understand the decision, and its ramifications, from a multiplicity of perspectives” (Bowen, 2004, p. 85). That is why I believe “the public relations function of excellent organizations exists separately from the marketing function” and that an integrated marketing (IMC) strategy should originate with a public relations expert that is well versed in the “social and behavioral sciences” (Miller & Rose, 1994).

An IMC strategy should make each stakeholder a priority and “public relations can help assure totally integrated, strategically focused and cost-effective marketing communications” (Miller & Rose, 1994). It is important to remember that managers face “ramifications from a multiplicity of perspectives” and IMC can unify an organization under one voice (Bowen, 2004, p. 85). Two-way or symmetrical conversations can promote mutual understanding throughout “various organizational subsystems” and departments (Hallahan, 2007, p.309). The end result of internal and external dialogue is an environment of continuous organizational learning, strong relationships with stakeholders and “excellence” in public relations issues management (Bowen, 2004, p. 86).

An IMC plan led by expert public relations practitioners will promote a consistent message at all communication “touch points” (Hallahan, 2007, p.309).  Such a strategy generally results in “(1) improvement of the company’s bottom line and (2) protection during litigation or regulatory actions” (Ki, Choi & Lee, 2011, p. 268). Creating a successful IMC strategy is both challenging and time-consuming but well worth the effort. A long-term commitment to promoting transparency will aid in the “creation of a positive impression of a firm among its stakeholders” (Ki et al., 2011, p. 268). I think any organization that establishes “relationships of trust through communication, feedback, and learning” is destined for success in the court of public opinion (Bowen, 2008, p. 200).

It is also important that Corporations “build trust with the public by revealing all information needed for responsible decision making” (PRSA, 2000). Corporations must use “proactive issue management strategies”(Veil, Reno, Freihaut, & Oldham, 2014, p. 106). As Veil et al. (2014, p. 104) state “it is imperative that organizations be ready and willing to engage publics and activists”. The hotel conglomerate Marriott International uses social media platforms to effectively address stakeholder concerns and drive commerce. Stakeholder feedback “as an opportunity to enact change” and make improvements (Veil et al., 2014, p.107).

Corporations such as Marriott need to interact with stakeholders continuously and negotiate the consequences of their actions with a responsible deontological approach. Organizations have a “moral duty to engage in dialogue” with their publics (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006 p. 54). A “dual-concern” strategy creates win-win outcomes and mutually beneficial relationships that are critical to successful issues management.  This strategic philosophy is in line with Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) research which stated that public relations practitioners need to answer the teleological and deontological questions in order to ensure the long-term impacts of good relationships and provide for ethical interactions with society. Sweetser (2010) argued that an organization’s reputation and credibility hinge on honest and open dialogue with stakeholders.

An organization’s top executives must “rely on the public relations professional for a connection to the values, beliefs, and views of varied publics” (Bowen, 2008, p. 273). This is important because PR practitioners “are in an ideal position to know and understand the values and beliefs of publics within an organization’s environment” (Bowen, 2008, p. 273). Bowen aptly stated, “public relations practitioners need to be included in the dominant coalition for strategic management counsel” because they “incorporate an aspect of ethical analysis and responsibility often lacking in organizational decision making” (Bowen, 2008, p. 291). Hence, competent public relations practitioners are indispensable in the formation of IMC in both the private and public sector.

Unfortunately, many “public relations professionals report that CEO’s are initially reluctant to include them except when absolutely necessary” (Bowen, 2008, p. 291). This is a gross oversight at the highest levels of management. The public relations practitioner should not only be a key provider of advice in times of crisis, they should also serve as the organization’s key IMC strategist. An organization’s long-term IMC plan must focus on proper customer experience management (CEM). This can only be achieved “by strategically managing a customer’s entire experience with a product or service” (Keller & Lehmann, 2006, p.742). IMC continuity allows for “boundary spanning and symmetry” that represent stakeholder interests “to the organization and the interests of the organization to publics” (Bowen, 2008, p. 288). Hence, the corporate communications department should be involved in all aspects of the business’s brand management (Keller & Lehmann, 2006).

Bowen (2008, p. 288) provides evidence that “the public relations practitioner has access to information, relationships, and knowledge of the publics unrivaled by any other function in the organization”. More importantly, full-time public relations involvement in strategic management can prevent crisis and costly damage to a firm’s credibility. 

“New media technologies are making it possible to move marketing and communications programs away from mass media and into two-way communication systems that will truly support dialog based relationships” (Moriarty, 1994, p.41). Symmetrical dialog with stakeholders is shown to foster an interconnectivity between the organization and its publics. This interconnectivity can “build trust over time through community outreach and collaborative decision making” (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006, p. 140). IMC is all about collaboration and public relations practitioners are well suited to “reinforce that strategy in all of its work in media, financial, government and employee relations” (Moriarty, 1994, p.42).

References

Blakeman, R. (2015). Integrated Marketing Communication: Creative Strategy from Idea to Implementation, Second Edition. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Bowen, S. A. (2004). Expansion of ethics as the tenth generic principle of public relations excellence: A Kantian theory and model for managing ethical issues.  Journal of Public Relations Research, 16(1), 65-91.  doi:  10.1207/s1532754xjprr1601_3

Bowen, S.A. (2008).  A state of neglect: Public relations as ‘corporate conscience’ or ethics counsel.  Journal of Public Relations Research, 20(3), 271-296.

Fitzpatrick, K., & Bronstein, C. (2006).  Ethics in Public Relations: Responsible Advocacy.  Thousand Oaks, California:  Sage Publications.

Grunig, J.E., & Hunt, T. (1984).  Managing public relations.  New York, NY:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Hallahan, K. (2007). Integrated Communication: Implications for Public Relations Beyond Excellence. In E. L. Toth (Ed.), The Future of Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management: Challenges for the Next Generation. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 299-320.

Keller, K. L., & Lehmann, D. R. (2006). Brands and branding: Research findings and future priorities. Marketing Science, 25(6), 740-759. doi: 10.1287/mksc.1050.0153

Ki, E.J., Choi, H.L., & Lee, J. (2012).  Does ethics statement of a public relations firm make a difference?  Yes it does!!  Journal of Business Ethics, 105(2), 267-276.

Miller, D. A., & Rose, P. B. (1994). Integrated communications: A look at reality instead of theory. Public Relations Quarterly, 39(1), 13-16.

Moriarty, S. E. (1994). PR and IMC: The benefits of integration. Public Relations Quarterly, 39(3), 38-44. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=5073511f-ee33-4a5d-88e3-1bf568815619%40sessionmgr4007&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=9412092109&db=bth

Public Relations Society of America (2017).  Code of ethics.  Retrieved November 29, 2017, from https://www.prsa.org/ethics/code-of-ethics/

Sweetser, K. (2010).  A losing strategy: The impact of nondisclosure in social media on relationships.  Journal of Public Relations Research, 22(3), 288-312.

Veil, S., Reno, J., Freihaut, R., & Oldham, J. (2015).  Online activists vs. Kraft foods: A case of social media hijacking.  Public Relations Review, 41, 103-108.

CJ Mosely is no Ordinary Rookie

There is only one name that should be discussed in the same sentence as 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. That name is CJ Mosley.

CJ Mosley was picked 17th overall in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. While it was believed that replacing Ray Lewis was impossible, the Baltimore Ravens under general manager, Ozzie Newsome, have done just that. Not only has the Ravens’ front office picked a dependable replacement for the future Hall of Famer, Ray Lewis, they have picked a player whose first year in the league overshadows Ray’s rookie campaign.

Week after week CJ Mosley proved to be the hardest working young player. He was regularly all over the field blowing up running backs for a loss and blanketing tight ends. In his rookie season, No. 57 has proven himself to be an elite defender, sowing the seeds of NFL greatness through extra time in the weight room and film study that would make even Jon Gruden proud.

There is no other rookie candidate that comes close to Mosley’s on-field contributions to their respective defenses. Terrell Suggs recently told the Baltimore Sun “He plays every snap. He never comes off the field. Never. He’s playing special, phenomenal, that’s why we call him half man, half amazing.”

The product of the University of Alabama has a football IQ that is superior to the other rookie linebackers this year and it clearly showed up on game day. What usually takes players a season or two to grasp, Mosley has already mastered. Because of his advanced understanding of NFL defensive schemes, Mosley was a starter from day one.

This season Mosley ranked seventh in total tackles in the league. The up and coming star also had two interceptions and three sacks. He has an incredible on-field presence only seen in elite players and is the first Ravens rookie to make the Pro Bowl in franchise history. To put this in prospective, only three rookies were named to the Pro Bowl this year. Mosley hit the ground running and won Defensive Rookie of the Month in both October and December as he showed an uncanny awareness adjusting to the speed of the game at the pro level.

Mosley is a three-down linebacker who can roam sideline to sideline—much in the manner Ray Lewis during his prime. But the most important attribute that puts this rookie in a class by himself, is his exceptional character both on and off the field.

CJ is humble and unselfish in victory or defeat. He puts the team before himself at all times.

During the Miami Dolphins game, Mosley played with a cast on his wrist and endured severe pain in his knee but still led the team in tackles. When asked about playing with injury he simply stated.” I have to put my body on the line for this team. We have somewhere to be at the end of this year and in January, so we have to do what we have to do.”

As the Ravens enter January with a wild-card berth, CJ Mosley looks much more like a seasoned veteran in his prime than a first-year player hitting the proverbial “rookie wall”.

Officially Mosley is a rookie.

But he sure doesn’t play like one.

Marriott: The Silk Road Strategy

“Marriott International has an ambitious plan to open another 340 new properties in China, averaging approximately one a week”

Executive Summary
Marriott International is the world’s largest hotel conglomerate. The company operates over 300 hotels in China with 500,000 employees. Marriott has an ambitious plan to open another 340 new properties in the country averaging approximately one a week. In January 2018, the company unwittingly distributed an online survey to its Chinese Marriott Rewards members that listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao as sovereign nations.

The mistake sparked outrage among Chinese stakeholders who encouraged government officials to force Marriott to shut down its website and mobile apps on the mainland. Craig Smith, Marriott’s president and managing director of Asia-Pacific operations expressed hopes of restoring credibility by apologizing and working to slowly earn back the Chinese people’s trust and confidence.

Waiting for the brand’s reputation to recover is not enough. Marriott International must actively engage the Chinese Millennial demographic on local social media platforms such as Baidu, WeChat, YouKu and Weibo with informative and entertaining content that celebrates Chinese pride. Key opinion leaders (KOL) in China and electronic word of mouth (eWOM) will be pivotal components of this communications strategy.

Data mining software will track consumer response to persuasive messages that utilize the central and peripheral processing found in the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM). Studies have shown ELM to be the most appropriate theoretical framework for the context of hotel communications marketing (Atwood & Morosan, 2015). This digital strategy will promote travel while building rapport within the world’s largest hospitality market.

The campaign will begin and end with qualitative and quantitative surveys to measure the return on investment (ROI).

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Introduction
Marriott’s decision to cooperate with the Chinese government by temporarily closing their six websites and apps in the country was the only real option. If the company had waited for bureaucrats to force a closure, the hotel conglomerate would have lost the opportunity to save face or MiànZi (面子) with its Chinese stakeholders. The greatest asset that Marriott can have when doing business with Chinese buyers is credibility.

There is no concept more powerful in Chinese culture than that of Miàn zi. The voluntary removal of the digital platforms leaves Marriott with the opportunity to restore its reputation and continue its mutually beneficial relationships with Chinese travelers. Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson addressed the situation by honoring the Government’s request and auditing the platforms for errors.

The original complaint against Marriott came from a Chinese “netizen” who spotted the infraction and immediately called for a nationwide boycott of the company. The violation was then officially addressed by Lu Kang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson who demanded Marriott obey China’s laws and respect Chinese honor. A China Daily reporter added insult to injury when he suggested that Chinese companies would not be so simpleminded as to disrespect American territorial integrity.

In the wake of these events, Marriott has issued an official apology, fired the firm that created the survey, and announced an eight-point rectification plan that promised to educate employees, implement user-friendly lines of communication with offended Chinese citizens, and their subcontractors working in China.

The solution to this problem starts with a qualitative and quantitative study of Chinese stakeholders. Solid research with tireless environmental scanning and enthusiastic symmetrical dialogue will do much to avert future blunders. This proposed campaign will also tap into the power of Chinese celebrities who are key opinion leaders (KOL) on the mainland. KOL endorsements will do much to restore the brand’s credibility through peripheral and central processing on social media or 社交媒体 (shè jiāo méi tǐ).

China’s digital platforms are Marriott’s greatest asset in managing this situation and the internet should be used to give voice to the target audience. The policy is a no-brainer in a country as nationalistic as the Peoples Republic of China. The strategy will incorporate a holistic approach to all cultural and political factors involved in this crisis and harness the power of Chinese public opinion to ensure Marriott’s long-term prospects in the world’s largest consumer market. Decentralization and localization of Marriott’s Chinese assets will be a priority. No one understands China better than Chinese citizens.
Problem Statement:
Marriott International offended Chinese stakeholders when it illegally listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao as separate countries in an online survey. The hotel conglomerate showed gross incompetence and as a result, damaged its brand in the world’s largest hospitality market.
Goal: Rebuild credibility and long-term relationships with Chinese Millennial stakeholders.

Objectives:

  1. Engage the Chinese Millennial demographic with KOL on social media platforms WeChat, YouKu, and Weibo with informative and entertaining travel content that implies Chinese patriotism. Desired change: 15% increase in positive attitudes towards Marriott International’s portfolio of brands by June 21, 2019. A survey will be conducted prior to and at the end of the campaign to measure results and adjust future tactics.
  2. Raise awareness for Marriott’s International’s Li Yu or “serving with courtesy” hospitality program with Chinese Millennial population by 15% by June 21st, 2019. Desired change: 15% increase in positive awareness among the world’s most populous nation for Marriott’s Li Yu customer by June 21, 2020. A survey will be conducted prior to and at the end of the campaign to measure results and adjust future tactics.
  3. Increase awareness among Chinese Millennials for Marriott’s new Fairfield (wàn fēng) Hotel brand by January 21, 2019. Desired change: 15% increase in awareness among Millennial demographic for Marriott’s Fairfield Hotel brand by June 21st, 2019. A survey will be conducted prior to and at the end of the campaign to measure results and adjust future tactics.

Topic Profile
Marriott International Inc. is a global hospitality company with approximately 6,500 properties in 127 countries. The company got its humble beginnings in Washington D.C. as an A&W root beer stand, opened by J. Willard Marriott in 1927. The mom and pop business grew to become a chain of restaurants known as Hot Shoppes. Marriott began to diversify by catering food to airlines in the D.C. area before making a dramatic shift into the lodging business in 1957.

The corporation grew from one hotel in Arlington, Virginia to a national operation with a diversified portfolio of brands that offered different price ranges in the 1980’s. Over the years Marriott has expanded through merger and acquisition to include brands such as The Luxury Collection, Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, W Hotels, EDITION, St. Regis, JW Marriott & The Ritz-Carlton. Their premier brands consist of Autograph Collection Hotels, Design Hotels, Le Meridien, Marriott Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Executive Apartments, Gaylord Hotels, Marriott Vacation Club, Westin, and Tribute Portfolio.

The hotel conglomerate’s second-tier brands include AC Hotels by Marriott, Aloft Hotels, Courtyard Inn, Element Hotels, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Four Points, Moxy Hotels, Protea Hotels, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, and TownePlace Suites. The company’s closest competitors include Accor, Best Western, Carlson Rezidor, Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental Hotels Group, La Quinta, and Wyndham Hotels. Marriott International continues to set itself apart from other lodging companies with cutting-edge technology and impeccable customer service.

Marriott innovation transforms the hospitality and travel industries on a yearly basis. One of this year’s technological advances includes the ability to talk directly to hotel staff through the company’s mobile app in real time before, during, and after the customer’s stay. The revolutionary Marriott Rewards app personalizes the customer’s travel experience by adjusting to their individual needs throughout their stay.

More important than technology is Marriott’s world renown customer service anchored in the Golden Rule philosophy of treating others the way you would have them treat you.
Target Audience

Chinese-tourists9
The Millennial demographic makes up 415 million prospective customers in China and this group spent over $261 billion on travel in 2017. Chinese Millennials are educated, affluent and proud of their heritage. They are independent, open minded, crave freedom and want to escape their mundane daily routines for adventure in exotic locations. Digital platforms are undisputedly the best method to target Chinese consumers born after 1984 (Agozzino, 2012).

An estimated 97% of Chinese Millennials have smartphones and most use them to access the internet over 30 times a day. As social media has become more prevalent in the lives of China’s young people, eWOM has taken on a greater role in their purchasing decisions (Kimmel & Kitchen, 2014). There is a high level of trust among Chinese Millennials for peer reviews about hotels on preferred websites. “The ELM is one of the most frequently used theoretical frameworks in studies on eWOM and has been used to explain the persuasive power of eWOM among consumers” (Fileiri & McLeay, 2013).

It is important to note that, “the ELM has been applied to determine how online consumers view online reviews” in this proposal (Atwood & Morosan, 2015). More than ever before, Chinese netizens are turning to friends and acquaintances online for information about travel and feedback on purchases. Young travelers in the planning stages of their trip primarily turn to the WeChat and Weibo apps for fact-finding, reserving accommodations and sharing their experiences.

It is by using ELM and eWOM on digital platforms in China that Marriott, “can emphasize the involvement of highly credible members of their loyalty programs in the social media environment” (Atwood & Morosan, 2015).
Communication Plan
Message 1. Wherever your travels take you, Marriott offers you a home away from home. We have 30 brands to choose from in every price range on every continent. Relax and enjoy your stay, we will handle the rest.
“Technological advances have created an ever-widening array of options for sending messages designed to shape, reinforce, and change target audiences’ responses” (Stiff & Mongeau, 2016). Firm-generated content (FGC) on social media is effective in increasing brand recognition with tech-savvy consumers. This phenomenon is known as “social-network proneness” (Kumar, Bezawada, Rishka, Janakiram, & Kannan, 2016). As Millennials engage with peers sharing purchasing experiences, a product’s online presence is increased.

This activity has a snowball effect, building ever greater levels of traffic and engagement between consumers. Research suggests the use of FGC social media is an effective method of boosting sales (Kumar et al., 2016). The authors also state that data collection on social media traffic is seen to be particularly effective with Chinese Millennials who are comfortable with technology and are frequent users of digital platforms (Kumar et al., 2016). An astounding 70% of Chinese Millennials utilize online platforms to organize their travels and KOLs are viewed as reliable sources for travel advice.
“Social media enables the widespread viewing and sharing of consumers’ experiences and opinions of hotels and destinations” (Atwood & Morosan, 2015). This Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) plan will use credible sources and ELM on multiple social media platforms to successfully persuade Chinese Millennial consumers. Internet targeting is an effective tool that employs social networking, streaming media and rich media messages to invite interaction among groups willing to participate in sharing information online (Yadin, 2012). Persuasive communication will help Marriott increase brand awareness in China by enlisting KOLs to influence consumers on the mainland.

Social media reviews are especially effective with the Millennial market segment that is “full of active consumers eager to become brand ambassadors” (Soloaga & Guerrero, 2016). Studies have proven that tech-savvy Chinese netizens are a perfect target for e-commerce strategies. With 78,168, 835 followers, actress Yao Chen (姚晨) is China’s most popular celebrity on Weibu. Chen also happens to hold the title for the social media account with the most followers ‘fans’ (粉丝) in the world.

For this reason, Yao Chen will be hired to be Marriott’s key spokesperson and brand ambassador in China for a period of one year. Chen will post pictures and videos of her international travels to exotic locations all over the globe weekly. The carefully scripted videos will match Hollywood standards of quality. The actress will stay at one property that represents each of Marriott’s 30 brands.

Source attractiveness will play a huge role in exploiting persuasive messages that will utilize ELM and peripheral processing. This message will consume the largest amount of the campaign’s budget. Chen’s commercials will run on all Chinese platforms for one year upon which time the company will carefully evaluate their effectiveness and return on investment (ROI). A survey will be conducted prior to and at the end of the campaign to measure results and adjust future tactics.
Teng, Khong and Goh (2014) state that “eWOM marketing campaigns can be utilized in an ELM framework to identify and measure the impacts of various constructs in persuasive communication”. This strategy will apply to both “central and peripheral routes simultaneously in high-involvement web advertisements” (Teng, et al., 2014). One thing is certain, however, that “the ease of accessibility to social media sites from travel-related search results verifies the importance of social media within the hospitality industry” (Atwood & Morosan, 2015).

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Message 2. The Marriott Rewards membership app offers a seamless travel experience all from the convenience of your smartphone. Relax and enjoy your stay, we will handle the rest.
In the fast-paced environment of digital and social media marketing (DSMM) Chinese consumers are increasingly using social media and mobile phones to communicate and make purchases (Lamberton & Stephen, 2016). Marriott’s communication plan for China must include multiple social media platforms to successfully inform prospective consumers on the benefits of the company’s products and services. Chinese digital media platforms offer the most efficient path to communicate specific messages to particular stakeholders such as Millennials, and consumer dialogue on social networks will improve Marriott’s brand awareness through eWOM (Batra & Keller, 2016).

EWOM such as consumer testimonials are most effective with Millennial stakeholders because this age group is comfortable with technology and sharing their information online (Batra & Keller, 2016). The authors further point out that social media platforms are well suited for the creation of online brand communities (Batra & Keller, 2016). It is particularly important to note that data collection in real time will make it possible for Marriott practitioners to rapidly make improvements to online messages. New technologies make it possible to collect consumer interaction and closely monitor “how many unique visitors click on a page or ad, how long they spend with it, what they do on it, and where they go afterward” (Batra & Keller, 2016).
A famous blogger named Aikeli Li (艾克里里) will discuss how user-friendly the Marriott Rewards app is and that even the least tech-savvy person can enjoy its benefits. In the background, Li’s grandmother will be using the app to plan his travel itinerary. The Marriott Rewards message although dealing with technology will use the peripheral route. “Peripheral cues are simple rules or information shortcuts such as brand image and source attractiveness that consumers use to assess a recommendation” (Fileiri & McLeay, 2013). The happy and funny content will appear in both video and picture/print on WeChat and Weibo for the period of one year. A survey will be conducted prior to and at the end of the campaign to measure results and adjust future tactics.

marriott-li-yu

Message 3. Marriott International’s Li Yu experience starts before our guests arrive at their home away from home. Weary travelers are immediately greeted by Mandarin-speaking hotel associates to serve you. Relax and enjoy your stay, we will handle the rest.

In recent years marketing professionals have increased their use of ELM and KOL on Chinese social media platforms (Ashley & Tuten, 2015). It has been determined that the use of ELM on social media extends the relationship in customer engagement beyond short-term messaging to brand loyalty and long-term relationships (Ashley & Tuten, 2015). This campaign will ensure that the Li Yu brand promotion is shared by KOL through active engagement on WeChat with the target audience (Ashley & Tuten, 2015). The Chinese WeChat app boasts over one billion active monthly users and 900 million use the platform daily.

WeChat provides an excellent means of creating “influence impressions” and “peer to peer word of mouth” (Ashley & Tuten, 2015). The hospitality industry is rich with data and this information is exactly what is needed for the world’s largest hotel chain to design social media content that piques the interest of China’s young urban professionals (Adamson & Dev, 2016). Chinese young people want personalized travel experiences to share with peers; they do not have loyalty to their parental brands; they want convenience combined with technologically advanced hotels (Adamson & Dev, 2016). Ashley and Tuten (2015) found entertainment to be the most successful method for social media engagement and stated that “social media participants are likely to desire entertainment and information” from preferred brands.

Marriott’s key efforts to interact with the 18-34 age group should be through celebrity travel bloggers (Garrahan, 2015). A combination of the top ten travel bloggers in China will be hired to write reviews about the Lu Yu experience. These KOL will post pictures and short video clips at various destinations enjoying Lu Yi hospitality. The reviews will begin on WeChat which has emerged as the principal reference for travel information and hopefully cross-pollinate to other platforms where young travelers get travel information. This should be effective because “travelers who adopt information from online reviews will incorporate the information obtained in their mental models” (Fileiri & McLeay, 2013).

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Message 4. Marriott’s new Fairfield (wàn fēng) brand offers budget-conscious travelers all the benefits of a proven global brand. Excellence in customer service goes hand and hand with simplicity and comfort. Relax and enjoy your stay, we will handle the rest.
The dissemination of branded content in China will require creative use of social media platforms (Soloaga & Guerrero, 2016). Marriott International must engage Millennials with KOL in short videos that simultaneously promote Chinese patriotism and its new Fairfield (wàn fēng) hotel brand. The patriotism portion of the message is very important for China’s young adults who take pride in the country’s rich history and legacy of modern achievements. Marriott will enlist Papi Jiang, (酱), China’s most popular social media celebrity, to mix the country’s heritage with its modern accomplishments into her travels around the country while staying at Fairfield Hotels. Her short videos will appear on Sina Weibo and YouKu projecting pride, fun, and happiness. Each vlog will be approximately four minutes long to encourage stakeholder interaction and run for a period of one year.
In what Lamberton & Stephen (2016) refer to as the “digital transformation of marketing” the internet has introduced new opportunities for “interaction and experiences” in consumer behavior. The one factor that pulls the “fragmentary” nature of the Chinese internet together is the desire to be entertained while connected to people and brands (Soloaga & Guerrero, 2016). The business to consumer relationship has become one of collaboration rather than that of the traditional transaction. The dialogue created in this e-commerce relationship has a strong tendency to persuade and influence prospective customers (Adamson & Dev, 2016). Marriott’s content marketing effort will “allow consumers to get involved in a brand’s universe, enjoy varied experiences around it and above all, feel an individualized and personal experience” (Soloaga & Guerrero, 2016).
The media habits of Chinese Millennials are quite different than that of older generations (Tanyel, Stuart, & Griffin, 2013). Marriott must move away from legacy marketing to social media communication to engages the young audience online (Garrahan, 2015). These efforts should include buzz marketing (Tanyel, et al., 2013). Currently, content that goes viral is the best value for advertising dollars (Agozzino, 2012).

Marriott must embrace the buzz marketing technique and make it an intricate part of their internet campaign (Garrahan, 2015). These strategies are extremely effective among digital natives because “mobile devices are regarded as essential tools” in China (Tanyel, et al., 2013). A survey of Millennials demonstrated that information and entertainment in advertising created goodwill for the companies that provide the content (Tanyel, et al., 2013). It is clear that advertising of the future will require that prospective customers are informed and entertained before any substantial brand loyalty will be created (Garrahan, 2015).

Anticipated Outcomes
The obvious shift to digital platforms as the main pathway to target consumers will require Marriott to use the ELM on the internet. The growing consumption habits of this target population will become the lion’s share of future travel both domestically and abroad (Agozzino, 2012). Social media platforms enabling consumers to share experiences and opinions are an important persuasive element in changing buying decisions among Millennials. Studies will continue to suggest several elements which should be present in order to result in a positive consumer attitude change include: the credibility of the source of information, visual advertising, and involvement of credible members of the hotel loyalty program. Agonizzo (2012) elaborates on the use of quality content in social media to build better connections among existing stakeholders, as well as prospective clients.
As social media has become more prevalent in the lives of Chinese Millennials, eWOM has taken on a greater role in this demographic’s purchasing decisions (Kimmel & Kitchen, 2014). The speed at which consumer reviews, pictures, and posts circulate on the internet is unprecedented and there is no other age group that participates in this exercise more than the 97% of Chinese digital natives who own a smartphone (Yadin, 2012). The impact of social media on commerce in China is greater than any other country and its influence is growing. Marriott International will cultivate consumer to consumer conversations on WeChat that build positive brand awareness.

More and more Chinese Millennials are turning to friends and acquaintances online for information about travel purchases. Members of a collectivist culture, such as China, are more influenced by preferences and needs of others. The opinions of others or group norms is emphasized. In this culture, associating a product with positive consensus is likely to lead to a favorable evaluation.

In addition, the best marketing plans seek to engage with prospective customers through social media platforms and Marriott International will “make conversations actionable through co-creation and collaborative problem solving” (Kimmel & Kitchen, 2014). Marriott must become a major player in China’s highly advanced use of social media to interact with customers. Chinese social media users play multiple and “dynamic roles in the complex exchange of information” in online travel communities (Kimmel & Kitchen, 2014). ELM research points to the potential of customers feeling a level of “vested interest” in a brand at this level of engagement (Kimmel & Kitchen, 2014).
The use of mobile devices to connect with social media platforms provides incredible opportunities for tracking consumer responses to advertising in real time (Yang & Kang, 2015). Data is now processed “with greater methodological and analytic capacities” (Lamberton & Stephen, 2016). New software technologies make it possible to gather intelligence on a level only imagined in the past (Yang & Kang, 2015). Social media usage creates a treasure trove of buyer information and Marriott will use this information to enhance customer service activities (Yang & Kang, 2015). The geo-social marketing software platform called Hyp3r can target segments of the Chinese population with highly customized interaction.

Unintended Consequences
This campaign will track stakeholder response through data mining software. This data is used to encourage further engagement on digital platforms (Yang & Kang, 2015). There is growing public concern regarding the impact of data mining on consumer privacy. Chinese Millennials have a growing distrust of internet marketing. However, the same cannot be said about KOL reviews. When it comes to travel, studies show that Chinese Millennials have an urge to share, are comfortable sharing personal information online, and are a perfect target for data acquisition. In the future, Chinese Millennials may have concerns about moral and ethical internet advertising which will require Marriott to navigate between tremendous opportunities and questionable tactics (Tanyel, et al., 2013).

hyper-preview-homepage-v2
It is clear that social media usage on mobile phones creates a treasure trove of buyer information (Yang & Kang, 2015). However, “social networking and mobile technologies present a disquieting phenomenon because of the pervasive nature of mobile technologies that significantly impact users’ privacy” (Yang & Kang, 2015). A delicate balance will need to be found between customer privacy and intelligence gathering because data mining has such far-reaching implications on society (Yang & Kang, 2015).
While data mining is critical to the success of communications planning, its collection could potentially damage the reputation of the Marriott brands involved in its collection (Yang & Kang, 2015). There is little doubt that social media systemic review is on the rise but consumer sentiments across the globe call for actions such as “access limitations, de-identification, secure storage and statistical privacy” to be an international e-commerce standard (Yang & Kang, 2015).
When asked about the implications of data mining, Marriott’s chief global marketing officer Karin Timpone said, “surveillance shouldn’t be looked at as a privacy concern, because the customers like when they are singled out by the company” (Golden & Caruso-Cabrera, 2016). The use of software that tracks consumer reaction to online content is at the core of this campaign. Data mining on social media, while prevalent, is increasingly seen to be infringing on the privacy rights of those that use technology for e-commerce (Yang & Kang, 2015). However, “Millennials will continue to expose their lives, ignoring potential negative implications and undermining the old privacy norms” (Yadin, 2012).

Although there are concerns regarding consumer privacy, marketing on social media in combination with data mining is currently the most effective way for Marriott to build mutually beneficial relationships with tech-savvy Millennials.

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Conclusion
Marriott International is currently using 24-hour media rooms to develop and track branding efforts on digital platforms in East Asia. The strategy is based on the premise that, “social media enables the widespread viewing and sharing of consumers’ experiences and opinions of hotels and destinations” and “hotels can use these ambassadors online to increase the development of attitudes toward hotel consumers (Atwood & Morosan, 2015). It was Cialdini (2009) who stated, “the principle of social proof operates most powerfully when we are observing the behavior of people just like us”. Research has proven that dual-processing models of persuasion are effective in China and that “ELM represents the most appropriate theoretical framework for the context of hotel communications marketing” (Atwood & Morosan, 2015).

 

References

Adamson, A., & Dev, C. S. (2016). Hospitality Branding in the Age of the Millennial. Boston Hospitality Review. Retrieved from http://www.bu.edu/bhr/2016/10/03/hospitality-b/anding-millennial/
Agozzino, A. (2012). Building a Personal Relationship through Social Media: A Study of Millennial Students’ Brand Engagement. Ohio Communication Journal, 50181-204.
Ashley, C., & Tuten, T. (2015). Creative Strategies in Social Media Marketing: An Exploratory Study of Branded Social Content and Consumer Engagement. Psychology & Marketing, 32(1), 15-27. doi:10.1002/mar.20761
Atwood, M., & Morosan, C. (2015). An investigation of the powerful effects of firm-consumer communication dyads using Facebook. Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, 7(3), 295-313.
Batra, R., & Keller, K. L. (2016). Integrating Marketing Communications: New Findings, New Lessons, and New Ideas. Journal of Marketing, 80(6), 122-145. doi:10.1509/jm.15.0419ff
Cialdini, R. (2009). Influence: Science and Practice (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Craig, D., Cai, H., & Lv, J. (2016). Mapping and Managing Chinese Social Media Entertainment: A Conversation with Heng Cai, Chinese Media Entrepreneur.  International Journal of Communication (19328036), 10.
Davis, C., & Burton, S. (2016). Understanding Graphic Pictorial Warnings in Advertising: A Replication and Extension. Journal of Advertising, 45(1), 33-42.
Frost, W., & Laing, J. (2013). Communicating persuasive messages through slow food festivals. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 19(1), 67-74.

Garrahan, M. ( 2015). Marriott checks in at the movies with a kiss and a heist. The Financial Times Ltd. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/68392a26- 63be-11e5-a28b-50226830d644
Golden, J., & Caruso-Cabrera, M. (2016). Why Marriott is so interested in your social media. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/02/why-marriott-looks-at-what-you-post-on-social-media-from-your-room.html
Hao, J. (2014). “A Real China” on User-Generated Videos? Audio-Visual Narratives of Confucianism. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 12(1), 342-355.
Kimmel, A. J., & Kitchen, P. J. (2014). WOM and social media: Presaging future directions for research and practice. Journal of Marketing Communications, 20(1/2), 5-20. doi:10.1080/13527266.2013.797730
Kumar, A., Bezawada, R., Rishika, R., Janakiraman, R., & Kannan, P. K. (2016). From Social to Sale: The Effects of Firm-Generated Content in Social Media on Customer Behavior. Journal of Marketing, 80(1), 7-25. doi:10.1509/jm.14.0249
Kupor, D. M., & Tormala, Z. L. (2015). Persuasion interrupted: The effect of momentary interruptions on message processing and persuasion. Journal of Consumer Research, 42(2), 300-315.
McCartney, G., & Pao Cheng Pek, R. (2018). An Examination of Sina Weibo Travel Blogs’ Influence on Sentiment towards Hotel Accommodation in Macao. Journal of China Tourism Research, 14(2), 146-157.
Pulizzi, J. (2012). The Rise of Storytelling as the New Marketing. Publishing Research Quarterly, 28(2), 116-123. doi:10.1007/s12109-012-9264-5”
Soloaga, P. D., & Guerrero, L. G. (2016). Fashion films as a new communication format to build fashion brands. Communication & Society, 29(2), 45-61. doi:10.15581/003.29.2.45-61
Song, M., Qiao, L., & Hu, T. (2017). eWOM in Mobile Social Media: a study about Chinese WeChat use. Retrieved from http://www.hainu.edu.cn/lvyou/2017zt/paper/C1.pdf
Tanyel, F., Stuart, E. W., & Griffin, J. (2013). Have “Millennials” Embraced Digital Advertising as They Have Embraced Digital Media? Journal of Promotion Management, 19(5), 652-673. doi:10.1080/10496491.2013.829161
Teng, S., Khong, K. W., & Goh, W. W. (2014). Conceptualizing persuasive messages using ELM in social media. Journal of Internet Commerce, 13(1), 65-87.
Wang, S. L. A., & Nelson, R. A. (2006). The effects of identical versus varied advertising and publicity messages on consumer response. Journal of Marketing Communications, 12(2), 109-123.
Wen, W., Clark, M., Kang, B., & Fine, M. (2016). The Use of Sina Weibo and Twitter by International Luxury Hotels. Tourism Culture & Communication, 16(3), 137-145.
Wolfe, A. (2014). Bill Marriott: Where Hotels Are Going. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/bill-marriott-where-hotels-are-going-1405716717

Yadin, A. (2012). Millennials and Privacy in the Information Age: Can They Coexist? IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 31(4) Retrieved from http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.ezproxy.lib.purdue.edu/document/6387976/?reload=true
Yang, K. C., & Kang, Y. (2015). Exploring Big Data and Privacy in Strategic Communication Campaigns: A Cross-Cultural Study of Mobile Social Media Users’ Daily Experiences. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 9(2), 87-101. doi:10.1080/1553118X.2015.1008635
Yang, S., Chen, S., & Li, B. (2016). The role of business and friendships on WeChat business: An emerging business model in China. Journal of Global Marketing, 29(4), 174-187.

The Growing Threat of Psychographic Profiling & Big Data

My research for the Master of Science in Communication at the Purdue has consisted mostly of communication strategies directed at Millennials. Whether it be Volkswagen, Marriott International or Paramount Pictures this demographic accounts for the bulk of social media marketing campaigns. It makes sense right? Young people make up the majority of social media users and organizations are carefully tracking their tech-savvy behavior through interactive content online.

Not only do multi-national corporations want to know our ages, they also want to know our psychological makeup. This kind of data can indicate everything from our favorite restaurants to our religious philosophies or lack thereof. Kind of a scary thought isn’t it? The bottom line is the better an organization knows and understands its customers, the easier it is to create messages that will successfully sell them products and services.

With that being said, I must respectfully disagree with digital metrics extraordinaire  Avinash Kaushik who stated as recently as 2014 that demographic and psychographic information is the least useful data available to online businesses. Yes, Competitive Intelligence Analysis (CIA) is a critical component of a winning digital marketing plan and Echosystem results matter, but if you ask me, demographic and psychographic data are the most valuable of all analytical metrics. We need look no further than the results of the 2016 US presidential election for evidence of the power wielded by psychoanalytic information.

It is hard to dispute the success of the communication strategy that won Donald Trump the election. Many Washington insiders believe the secret of Trump’s successful presidential bid lies with a relatively unknown startup called Cambridge Analytica. This little “big data” company was hired by the Trump campaign to measure the psychographics of the American electorate. The rest is history. It might be a bit of an exaggeration, but Cambridge CEO Alexander Nix boasts ”we were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America” (Grassegger & Krogerus 2017). Over the top? The company’s research is said to be based on the well-established psychological profiling theory behind the “Big Five” or “OCEAN” which stands for the personality traits of “openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism” (Grassegger & Krogerus 2017).

It has been a well-known fact among psychologists for quite some time that OCEAN data can determine an individual’s personality with a high amount of accuracy. While this information in and of itself has been of great use for decades, computer technology has revolutionized its collection and impact. The fact is, most of us are now part of a massive survey sampling on our smartphones that just keeps on giving.

Psychologist and Stanford professor, Michal Kosinski, who developed the original Facebook profiling technique, believes smartphones provide “a vast psychological questionnaire that we are constantly filling out, both consciously and unconsciously” (Grassegger & Krogerus 2017). Who can disagree? Basically, smartphone intel adds up to a marketing research nirvana that can basically predict everything from where we are located to our chosen political ideology. If that doesn’t freak you out a little bit, it should.

It’s exactly this kind of intelligence that won a glitzy real estate developer with zero political experience the most powerful office in the world. Kaushik is correct when he asserted that it is important to get a “head-to-head comparison of how you are doing vs. your competitor at a macro level on specific social channels” (Kaushik 2015). Yet knowing what Hillary Clinton’s communications team was up to on social media could not offer what “the OCEAN Model and Big data analysis” did for the GOP (Grassegger & Krogerus 2017).

Cambridge Analytica claims every Trump message in the 2016 campaign was driven by psychometrics data. The success of psychographic data and ad targeting on social media has forever changed America’s presidential elections. Cyber psychoanalytic intelligence gathering points to an Orwellian future. If you don’t believe me, you should look into the Chinese government’s mobile app for everything from ordering takeout to personal banking. Do you hear the “fire bell in the night” (Jefferson, 1820)? It’s probably time we all take a hard look at the ethics of big data and our privacy rights.

Sources

Kaushik, A. (2015). Crushing It With Competitive Intelligence Analysis: Best Metrics, Reports. Occam’s Razor.

 

Grassegger H. & Krogerus M. (2017) The Data That Turned The World Upside Down. Motherboard Retrieved at https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mg9vvn/how-our-likes-helped-trump-win

My Social Media Footprint

My first experience with social media was a dating site for singles in 2009. I had seen commercials about the sites on TV and I wanted to try one since my divorce had just become official. Not long after, a lady I met online, set up a Facebook page for me. At the time I was absolutely clueless about completing such a task. Facebook was very different back then. There were still a limited amount of users on the site and people were more willing to accept friend requests from strangers. In fact, I was able to connect with some really amazing people including entertainers and other public figures. I even webcammed with some and got to know them pretty well. These opportunities would have been unthinkable before the advent of social media.

On the other hand, I’ve also encountered the dark side of Facebook which includes my very own psychotic stalker. This is an old “friend” from high school that is more concerned with what I have and what I am doing than in accomplishing something positive with his own life. His antics have included everything from making fake profiles with my pictures to trying to destroy my personal and professional relationships. Yes, it really has been that bad and no, I won’t be upset if and when he dies. This has been going on for 20 years and social media has made it more diabolical than ever before. I recently began to pray that God will remove this man from my life forever. He is cancer.

As many of you know, much has changed in the way of social platforms since 2009. Most public figures are completely inaccessible except for on fan pages or Twitter and a great deal of the excitement of using the sites has worn off. Nowadays, I only add people I know unless I can verify who they are through a mutual acquaintance. I must say though, I have made some really good friends on Facebook and even had a few from Australia visit my home here in South Carolina.

While some of the fun of using social media sites or SMS is gone, the utility of the sites remain. As Lipshultz aptly states the “proliferation of smartphones has driven interests in mobile devices and media” and I am no different. I still use social media to stay connected with friends and family but now I use it primarily to get news and entertainment. I really enjoy the articles from Men’s Health, and Inc. and will often take the time to read a few throughout the day. I also obtain my national and international news from reasonably credible sources on my newsfeed such as the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

My SMS usage consists mostly of Facebook. I actually spend too much time on it quite honestly. To make matters worse, I now have Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat accounts. I also use YouTube to listen to music or for educational purposes. For example, I recently referred to YouTube videos to help me learn the data analysis software called SPSS for a statistics class I just completed. I am reluctant to admit that I also created a personal YouTube channel where I posted a couple of extremely amateur sports podcasts. They’re awful, don’t bother listening.

In 2014, I began blogging for a small sports news and commentary site called The Couch Rider Report and began strategically placing links to the articles on Facebook and Twitter. Later, I moved on to bigger sites affiliated with FanSided where I covered the Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore Ravens. The idea was to build a small writing portfolio while gaining exposure through the electronic “word of mouth” or EWOM. Sometimes I would get as many as 25,000 clicks! The sites don’t pay, so I am no longer as interested in blogging for others as I had been. I do, however, have my football and racing articles posted on my SMS accounts in hopes of getting a paid writing position. I have learned a great deal about utilizing social media through my Master’s program at Purdue University and have a newfound respect for promoting my own “brand” on these platforms.

When it comes to branding on SMS, I recommend that communications practitioners employ marketing strategies that rely heavily on data mining or “big data collection” as it is referred to by Lipschultz. The best place for organizations to collect intel on me is Facebook because that is where I am most willing to open articles and patiently view ads. It came as no surprise to me that “The news saw the most social traction” in the Lehr study with 28,000 shares per month with entertainment being “the second highest performing vertical” with 17,000 shares. These are the categories that the majority of people are looking for in all forms of media for gratification.

As far as marketing on SMS is concerned, everyone hates the dreaded popup ad. I think the best advertisements include clever comedy skits in short videos because they are effective with a wide audience. Who doesn’t like to laugh? Currently, the most impressive branded content on social media is being delivered through storytelling. I am actually really looking forward to the new SMS platforms that will offer a virtual reality experience. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what I think because Millennials are the new baby boomer generation and they rule the digital world of social media.

Sources

Lehr, A. (2015). New data: What types of content perform best on social media? Hubspot Blogs.

Do the Barcelona Principles Measure up?

The world is experiencing a “digital transformation of marketing” and the largest contribution the Barcelona Principles can offer in the current business environment is on social media

The Barcelona Principles were updated in 2015 by the International Association of Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC). The 2.0 updates are as follows:

  • Goal Setting and Measurement are Fundamental to Communication and Public Relations.
  • Measuring Communication Outcomes is Recommended Versus Only Measuring Outputs.
  • The Effect on Organizational Performance Can and Should Be Measured Where Possible.
  • Measurement and Evaluation Require Both Qualitative and Quantitative Methods.
  • AVEs are Not the Value of Communication.
  • Social Media Can and Should be Measured Consistently with Other Media Channels.
  • Measurement and Evaluation Should be Transparent, Consistent, and Valid (Leggetter, B. 2015).

It turns out The Barcelona Principles are more of a vague set of guidelines than a solid foundation on which to build a strategic communication plan. Principle 1 states, “Goal setting and measurement are fundamental to communication and public relations” (Leggetter, 2015). It is hard to disagree with the importance of goal setting and measurement in the pursuit of objectives. Yet, the utilization of metrics is not as well established amongst public relations practitioners as you might think. In a recent PR Weekly survey, the CEO of Paine Publishing, Katie Paine, stated, “a lot of PR people are not exposed to measuring …unless they actively seek it out” (Arenstein, 2016). This is unacceptable and a clearly defined set of principles can help raise the bar on what should be standard operating procedure throughout the industry.

Project managers in public relations and marketing need established benchmarks upon which to measure progress. Timelines and budgets are critical components of a credible campaign and they must include a sound cost-benefits analysis. As the authors of The Global Public Relations Handbook, aptly stated: “practitioners need to quantify public relations results for bottom-line scripted executives who are accustomed to marginal analysis” (Sriramesh & Vercic, 2009). When an organization spends finite financial resources to promote a message or brand, expenditure of those funds must be justified. The difficulty of this challenge is echoed repeatedly throughout the business world.

I learned the difficult truths about return on investment (ROI) and key performance indicators (KPI) in my early twenties as a young entrepreneur. I’ve always had a passion for branding but that passion caused me to naively overspend on creative, but costly advertisements that were ineffective. What I needed to succeed as a general contractor in a small town atmosphere, was a credible and well-established reputation– something flashy, expensive advertisements cannot provide. My lack of an adequate market analysis had provided a painful, but important lesson. “Credibility and relevance of the medium to the stakeholder or audience” is critical to successful ROI in public relations! As it turned out, word of mouth was the most powerful marketing tool I could ever have used and is even more so in the world of social media.

Whether your organization is a nonprofit or commercial enterprise, large or small in size, success comes from building mutually beneficial relationships and positive electronic word of mouth (eWOM). There is no better place to build mutually beneficial relationships through symmetrical dialogue than social media. The world is currently experiencing a “digital transformation of marketing” and the largest contribution the Barcelona Principles can offer in the current business environment is on social media (Lamberton & Stephen, 2016).  Digital platforms are rapidly becoming the most influential media outlet available. Not only are these platforms cost-efficient methods of advertising as far as ROI, they are also the most promising area for the application of the data mining because of their built-in measurability.

The internet provides a treasure trove of information where computer software can gather both qualitative and quantitative data for public relations and marketing activities (Yang & Kang, 2015). The global surge in internet and smartphone use will “push marketers to develop more complex social media measurement tools and techniques” (Lipschultz, 2015). Multi-national corporations such as Nestle are currently using 24-hour media rooms to create engaging online content and to track customer interaction in real time on social media sites (SMS), such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and SnapChat. The information is then used to “strategically segment and prioritize publics” (Sriramesh & Vercic, 2009). The bad news is that the PR industry is struggling to train competent practitioners on how to identify and measure key performance indicators. The good news is that “absolutely everything that happens in the digital sphere can be tracked, measured, and analyzed in all kinds of interesting ways” (Concannon, 2015).

The Barcelona Principles are a perfect fit for social media, but they are too broad in their present form. The designers did provide a document that has the industry talking about the importance of measurement. The problem is, it doesn’t provide a clear formula of how to effectively obtain those statistics, especially if they are to hold up under the framework’s demand for transparency and repetition. Journalist Lance Concannon summed it up best in his article entitled The one thing missing from the Barcelona Principles: Answers, “You would think, this update might include some helpful guidance on which digital tools and online metrics can be used to add more data-science thinking to PR measurement, but alas no”.  It doesn’t take a communications expert to determine The Barcelona Principles in their present form are more common sense than anything else.

These guidelines are a basic set of blueprints that lack a clear endorsement of the software and methods needed to accurately measure communication strategies. Computer technology and digital media are rapidly providing answers, but the industry needs to do a better job producing qualified experts. As I mentioned previously, social media is currently the most effective platform for PR campaigns in the 21st century. Not only is digital the most cost-effective method to reach target audiences, it is also where the most accurate output and outcome data can be gathered. Leggetter (2015) noted under Principle 7, “All measurement should use valid methods and be reliable and replicable in the case of quantitative methods and trustworthy in the case of qualitative methods”. I believe the Barcelona Principles’ demand for precise measurements is only obtainable with definitive data mining software, clearly defined statistical procedures and most importantly competent practitioners.

References

Leggetter, B. (2015). Barcelona Principles 2.0. PR News. Retrieved from the PR News Online website:  http://www.prnewsonline.com/barcelona-principles-2-0/

Concannon, L. (2015). The one thing missing from the Barcelona Principles: answers. Retrieved from the PR Week website: http://www.prweek.com/article/1364956/one-thing-missing-barcelona-principles-answers#iyIjHEzGbLT6HxmG.01

Lamberton, C., & Stephen, A. T. (2016). A Thematic Exploration of Digital, Social Media, and Mobile Marketing: Research Evolution from 2000 to 2015 and an Agenda for Future Inquiry. Journal Of Marketing80(6), 146-172.

Arenstein, S. (2016). PR News Measurement Survey: Awareness of Barcelona Principles Trending Upward Slowly. Retrieved from the PR News Online website: http://www.prnewsonline.com/pr-news-measurement-survey-awareness-barcelona-principles-trending-upward-slowly/

Lipschultz, J. (2015).  Social media communication concepts, practices, data, law and ethics.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Yang, K. C., & Kang, Y. (2015). Exploring Big Data and Privacy in Strategic Communication Campaigns: A Cross-Cultural Study of Mobile Social Media Users’ Daily Experiences. International Journal of Strategic Communication9(2), 87-101.

Sriramesh, K., & Vercic, D. (2009). The global public relations handbook. New York, NY: Routledge.