How Can You Be So Insensitive?

We often discuss how brands must be much more personal to create equity in the age of social media, but when the relationship between brand and consumer becomes so intimate, the negative impact of a breach of trust can be exponentially greater than ever before.

Hurricane Sandy was an opportunity for social media to show off some of its best sides; Facebook and Twitter played a large role in preventing unnecessary injuries and loss of life during the storm, enabling real time communications that aided evacuation and served as a primary informational resource for those stranded or without power. The hashtag #SMEM (or Social Media Emergency Management) has been picking up steam in recent years, as more people and public safety organizations realize the value of these networks in times of emergency; Sandy was a resonating proof of concept.

Social media also has served the citizens of the affected areas in the aftermath of the storm. Awareness for the needs of aid groups like the Red Cross is at an all time high, making relief more efficient. Local communities are leveraging their networks to organize cleanup and rebuilding initiatives. The power of these tools mean that our nation will face future disaster level events far better prepared than ever before.

On the other side of the coin, there were some severe missteps by brands communicating via social media platforms during the storm that just didn’t sit right with many individuals. In an age where we have the ability to geotarget messaging, it was unnecessary for Groupon and LivingSocial to offer its latest great deals for restaurants that were closed without electricity, or the attractions that would be closed for the next week dealing with water damage from flooding. Gap and American Apparel both touched a nerve with communications about shopping during the storm. Furthermore, the storm arrived just before Halloween, and some Tweeting businesses failed to understand that most residents of New York and New Jersey weren’t exactly feeling up to partying late into the night. In the moment, many brands simply did not exercise common sense.

It is crucial to avoid mistakes like these that can destroy loyalties so easily in an increasingly volatile marketplace. Businesses would benefit far more from sending one less tweet and steering clear of insensitivity. Social media is about conversation; brands must avoid faux-pas like these to keep relationships strong.

Testing the Pressure: The Consumer Barometer

Marketers from the “golden age” of advertising have had their legend inflated to great heights by television’s Mad Men. But no matter how cool they were (or at least seem to us today), those executives would be green with envy at our ability to collect, measure, and react to data in the 21st century.

Of course, we live in a radically different paradigm than this idealized era. The seemingly endless amount of information at our disposal would be absolutely useless in the context of the 1950s or 60s. Unfortunately, simply having access to this bevy of facts and figures does not automatically make the modern marketer better; the more we know about consumers, the less we often seem to understand them at all. The challenge we face is how to intelligently interpret and react to the ‘Big Data’ at our fingertips. In order to make sense of what we know, we must sort through the veritable ocean of information and decide which data is relevant, and how best to apply it.

Earlier this year, Ersnt & Young Advisory Services reported the findings of a monumental market research survey in This Time It’s Personal: From Consumer to Co-Creator that revealed several important new findings about the behavior and preferences of modern consumers. Accruing nearly 25,000 responses globally, the survey presented insights into the new breed of consumer and the trends that, in response, might characterize 2013.

The report describes the “Chameleon” consumer – who defies any traditional persona and disrupts the old notion of strict market segmentation. Thanks to the prevalence of this behavior, brand loyalty has become more transient, as preferences quickly change in a more crowded market with more options. Creating strong brand experiences now requires far more personalized communication and service. Consumers are empowered, and they want to be active ‘co-creators,’ not just an audience. We already know that marketing ‘lingo’ has been made effectively obsolete by social media, but these findings are a broader comment on the changing nature of commerce itself.

Visualized graphically, there is a clear consistency of response in the data across different verticals and the various channels of communication that drive marketing around the world. Regardless of industry, respondents had uniform expectations about the dynamic between marketer and consumer. As such, the implications for businesses of all kinds are twofold;

1. Businesses must focus on offering more personalized service to customers, and
2. Every link in the organizations’ ‘chain’ must be aligned to delivering the brand promise.

In a rapidly changing ecosystem that has taken a great deal of control away from marketers who fail to understand consumers, it is the best path to creating sustainable relationships with the new breed. With 2013 just around the corner, the pressure is on.

A Time for Thankfulness

**From the pages of Junction’s notebook: Read about the experiences, perspectives, and ideas of Junction team members.

At Thanksgiving, it is important to take pause from our daily routines and the pressures of demanding responsibilities to recognize and give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy. The following are the reflections of the Junction team for this special time of year:

I am greatly thankful for the love of family, the time to enjoy the important “stuff” with one another, the gift of good health, the kindness of good friends, and the many bountiful comforts of life in the best country on earth. – JMC

I’m thankful for the usual things: my loved ones, the food on my table, the roof over my head, and a great job, but I’m mostly thankful for life and being blessed to see another day….good times and bad…they’ve all made me a better person! – TLS

I am most thankful for the people in my life – my loving family, caring friends, and wonderful coworkers and clients who make going into work every day a pleasure. – JMA

I am reminded of how blessed I am to be surrounded by wonderful, supportive, positive people in my life, whether it be family, friends, or colleagues. I am especially grateful this year for good health, not taking it for granted, and that I am able to travel and spend the holiday with family, sharing the same old stories around the dinner table and deepening the bonds that tie us. – SB

My thanks are well represented by this poem, which captures some of the intangible blessings in my life. – MC

Although Thanksgiving Day comes but once a year, I am mindful of those things I am most grateful every day. As a business owner, I am thankful for our clients, partners, and colleagues. To our clients, thank you for allowing Junction to be part of your business. We applaud your success! To our partners, thank you for investing in our relationship. We appreciate your collaboration!  To my colleagues, thank you for working hard every day. Without you, it would not be possible!

And on a personal note, I am appreciative of my family and friends who have been a source of constant support and motivation.

Happy Thanksgiving! May you all be rich with blessings today and throughout the year! Gobble! Gobble! – JCG

The President, the Congressman, the Senator, and Twinkie the Kid…

With the 2012 Presidential election in the books, we are gaining a clearer perspective on what the next four years of governance might look like and what the ramifications might be for businesses.

In the two weeks following Election Day, the media has been quick to offer citizens multiple reports of that both Democrats and Republicans appear more willing to emphasize better cooperation during Barack Obama’s second term, following a period in which policymakers received some of the lowest approval ratings ever. The persistent cry from American citizens has been a need for collaboration towards economic recovery, and although the worst may be behind us, many businesses are still feeling immense pressure and uncertainty amidst the changing landscape.

Hostess, makers of Twinkies and Wonderbread, among several other iconic products, recently announced that it would sell its popular brand and shutter its doors, laying off thousands of workers nationwide. The downfall of this long-lasting company, founded in 1930, is a microcosm of larger economic and political issues. The last few years have been especially illustrative of the dangers of debt for businesses of all sizes, as the company was effectively unable to combat a strike by unionized workers due to insufficient financial resources. During an electoral campaign in which predatory private investment funds were under great scrutiny thanks to Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital, it became obvious that there are very few if any viable options for companies in this position under the current regulatory and fiscal climate.

On the other side of the coin, Chrysler announced it is planning a $240 million investment and will add and expand jobs at some of its Michigan plants, a clear sign of confidence in the economic climate moving forward. The auto industry has become a popular barometer of the state of the U.S.’ economy, and played a significant role in the conversation of this election cycle as well.

Any significant changes that may come down the pipeline as a result of shifting attitudes in Washington towards the best path to recovery may be a double edged blade for businesses. Regulatory conditions and tax code do not necessarily go hand-in-hand, and what will be good for some may be anathema for others. Both parties have vocally championed small businesses, but Americans know from experience that larger companies carry the weight of our GDP and receive the brunt of the attention in debates of policy. The future is still uncertain, but hope remains that our elected officials will treat the economy with urgency and respect for all of its constituents.

Those who have successfully weathered the storm will hope for a continued economic recovery to keep things moving forward. Despite the disarray of the past few years, businesses can call upon the strategies that carried them through to press on.

Waves Still Resonate from Hurricane Sandy

We are just more than two weeks removed from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, the ‘superstorm’ that devastated the northeast like a bad Halloween prank from Mother Nature. Sandy is, by some measures, the second most destructive storm in US history. It was a monumental storm with national impact and significant implications for businesses across the country at a particularly sensitive time. The event offered some notable storylines concerning how social media, infrastructure, and our polarizing political climate affect American business:

– One of the first and ultimately most iconic images of the storm was a crane hanging off the top of a new 1000+ foot luxury high rise under construction in midtown Manhattan, its 80-ton swing arm damaged within just a few hours of the arrival of the storm. Fortunately the apparatus was ultimately secured after 6 days, avoiding further damage, but the twisted metal hanging in the balance for nearly a week served as a symbol the power of the storm and the damage it would ultimately cause. It was the first tangible topic across news outlets and exploded across social media platforms.

– Sandy exposed the fragility of our mighty infrastructure in cities and towns up and down the Atlantic coast. Widespread and prolonged power outages were one of the most common effects of the storm, along with damaged or flooded roads and interruptions in public transportation. The extensive infrastructure that characterizes the modern world is an extremely sturdy network, but was nonetheless helpless against this force of nature. It was a reminder of the looming unknown and the importance of contingency plans.

– The storm chose a highly controversial time to strike, landing in the run up to last Tuesday’s elections. Pundits from both sides of the political spectrum were quick to postulate on the effects of the storm and the government’s response. Contrary to many natural disasters, which can unify citizens in response, Sandy became a far more polarizing event, an unfortunate twist for the victims of its wrath who were seeking help but instead became simply votes to be won over. One congressional campaign manager even lost his job after intentionally reporting misinformation to sway public perceptions.

– Finally, many gears in the business world came to a grinding halt as New York City and other metropolitan areas affected by the storm shut down. Sandy kept employees from getting to work, cut off supply chains, and introduced a great deal of pessimism heading towards the end of the fiscal year.  Wall Street was shut down as the New York Stock Exchange was closed for two consecutive days, the first time in 124 years. High end New York City restaurants served as a strong example of the broad economic impact of the disaster; they suffered millions of dollars in losses in operational revenues and spoiled perishable inventory, and the city’s army of tip-earning employees enduring a long stretch without pay has lead to a true worst-case scenario for a significant chunk of the Big Apple’s workforce.

The region is slowly recovering from the storm, and as the weather returns to normalcy, so too will the climate across politics, business, and everyday life. But Sandy will be long remembered as a resounding example of the perils of the unexpected. While many industries are still faced with new challenges brought by Sandy, others are rallying in response to increased demand and helping where they can.  Business is a confluence, and a great measure of success is about adaptability in times like these.

An Experience Worth the Price

We live in an economy where consumers’ purchase behaviors are constantly changing. Technology arms consumers with the ability to shop for the best price on a smart device without ever stepping foot into a retail store. And yet, there remains a segment of the marketplace focused on delivering a memorable in-store experience; so much so that it drives some of the priciest purchases we make.

On the Rue Montaigne, a step off of the Champs Elysées in Paris, the light bounces of the glass windows lining the street of the world’s most coveted designers. More than just brick and mortar, the stores experience is unlike what you will find at a shopping mall. At the door, you are not only greeted with a warm welcome, but given an attentive personal shopper to better guide your experience, which might last no less than 3 hours. As you scan the glass cases full of expensive couture and finest leathers, you are free to enjoy a luxurious glass of fizzing champagne, sit, and converse.

Same rings true in the heart of the “Quadrilatero della Moda,” the famed fashion district of Milan, where before paying a significant sum for a stunning handbag from an iconic designer, handmade espresso and a delicious, delicate pastry is first in order, on the house, of course. It is a celebration of the amazing experience, rather than a transaction with a stinging price tag.

The most expensive cup of coffee you'll ever buy

In a culture where the balance of power is weighed heavily to the consumer, the trend is often to offer more for less. In these exceptional cases, the purpose of shopping is so much more than buying a necklace or a bag; it is about the experience and the marketers know it. Offering luxury attracts customers and makes them more comfortable with spending out of their usual budget. It is a variation on the same psychology behind playing certain types of music in stores, and using specific language or imagery in advertising.

Focusing on the experiential aspects of not just retail, but other industries, is a smart way to give your brand a huge boost. There is a large body of evidence, from thriving high end restaurants to luxury car dealerships… elevating the purchase experience beyond a simple transaction is a powerful strategic move that can make all the difference.

Looking Ahead: Four More Years

**From the pages of Junction’s notebook: Read about the experiences, perspectives, and ideas of Junction team members.

Regardless of which way we voted, or how we feel about the results of Tuesday’s Presidential Election, each individual American citizen has hopes and fears for what the future of our nation looks like throughout the course of Barack Obama’s second term in office and beyond.

The political climate of the country has reached fever pitch, and the following thoughts from Junction team members reflect optimism and urgency towards Americans coming together to ensure a better tomorrow:

“My hope is that the next administration will have the leadership ability to reach across the aisle and govern to the middle. Our country deserves a responsible government that can move us forward as the world looks towards the U.S. for leadership.”


“My hope for the next 4 years is that everyone puts in the effort to come together for the purpose of helping the nation get better. We must find ways to do the right thing, not just on the federal level, but on the on the local and state levels as well.”


“I hope that all the politicking of this election cycle subsides quickly, and we forego the partisanship that has characterized the last four years in favor of doing what is right. If our newly elected and re-elected officials take the state of our union as seriously as the voters who put them there, I think the outlook is positive.”


“With the evenly divided electorate, it is essential that our newly elected leadership work together to reach common ground and move forward with positive and measurable objectives and goals for one America. If we are to turn the corner on this failing economy and make gains towards growing a prosperous future for all Americans, compromise and consensus must be the primary objective. Our ability to survive the many challenges we face as a free and just society will greatly depend upon our leaders’ desire and ability to seek and secure common ground and mutually beneficial solutions. Building policies that produce winners at the expense of losers will result in losses for all. We must insist that our elected officials work to build one united America.”


“As Americans, we are granted many freedoms, including the right to elect our leaders. Regardless of political affiliation, it is my sincerest hope that this election sparks a change in all Americans – a positive change – to work together. With any election, one candidate will concede and one will reign victorious, but I am reminded of the proverb “it takes a whole village to raise a child.” It will take all Americans to raise this country up again, not just one individual.

Calvin Coolige once said ‘All growth depends on activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.’ Let’s put aside the politics and get to work.”

Welcome to the Fiberhood

Google’s ambitious Fiber experiment has been rolling along rather quietly since its announcement made some big waves in the tech media in the middle of 2012. Initially, the project got a mixed reception; equal parts excitement and skepticism. The company’s largest pilot test has been ongoing in certain suburban neighborhoods of Kansas City, and so far, some areas have up to 40% of their homes now participating.

Google is using social networking to give the pilot legs and draw new subscribers, a campaign that is tied in with continued efforts to get Google+, the company’s own social network off the ground. The installation costs of the new technology are steep, but the company is waiving the fees for many new customers and as part of select subscription packages. Regardless of what it takes in terms of conversions and costs, Google is trying its hardest to prove that it is serious about disrupting the current cable and internet market.

Fiber is innovative and severely disruptive in more than a few ways; the service includes internet speeds of up to one gigabit (which is as much as 100 times faster than what most Americans currently have), and is available for free. Read it again, free. Fiber also carries a full TV channel lineup including Google’s own roster of 150 online channels on Youtube. Not only is the cost lower, encouraging some serious debate over the pricing of major competitors like Comcast and Verizon, but Google is also on the verge of a potential huge shift in the TV model by becoming a content creator, while controlling all the advertising that accompanies programming.

The most immediate implications for the Kansas City experiment may just be Google using a complete local ecosystem to observe more accurately how broadband subscribers interact with the Internet and television. Learning to predict user behavior, preferences, and wants is a powerful proposition for a company in Google’s position.

Many doubt the likelihood that Fiber will make a lasting impact on the market, but we are quick to forget that Google went from zero presence in the mobile phone market to Android phones owning  a 64.1 percent share of all phones sold in just four years. It is hard to undersell Google’s willingness to take new markets on headfirst. We could be witnessing the start of the next major change in broadband and media consumption, and Kansas City is the proving ground.