Tuesday Feb 17, 2015

Converting Likes to Profits: How Polaris Harnesses the Power of Social

[UPDATE: You can hear more from Polaris and Holly Spaeth at the annual SXSW Conference in Austin. Holly will be speaking on the panel, "When Quickies Aren't Satisfying: Loyalty on Social," taking place Friday, March 13 from 5-6pm at the Radisson Hotel (111 Cesar Chavez and Congress) in the Riverside Ballroom.  In fact, you can join Oracle, Polaris, General Motors and many more brands and thought leaders during Oracle's SXSW event all day Friday at the Radisson.] 

How does a company convert "likes" into dollars? Most businesses are acutely aware of the importance of social marketing for customer service and brand awareness. As this recent McKinsey report shows, businesses understand the importance of social tools but are still struggling to maximize their potential. A recent Forrester report showed that a majority of businesses aren’t leveraging social listening to uncover actionable business insights.

There are, however, some companies that are ahead of the curve and using social to enable key parts of their business from marketing to service to commerce to research and development. Minnesota-based Polaris, maker of riding machines like snowmobiles, ATVs and motorcycles, and an Oracle Social customer, is one such innovative company.  

The winning design for the Pink Ribbon Riders Campaign

“Polaris is a customer-centric organization—we believe deeply in putting the customer at the center of everything we do,” said Holly Spaeth, Manager of Interactive Media and Content at Polaris Industries. “Social is a central part to customer centricity, as it’s an arena where we can listen, learn and engage directly with our passionate fan base to make customer- and data-driven business decisions.”

At Polaris, social listening and engagement got into full swing in early 2012.  In fact, it was a simple t-shirt campaign that showed the Polaris executives how listening and learning from social communities could benefit their business.

The company had launched a brand-new Victory logo and wanted to generate awareness during the annual Sturgis Rally, including creating a new t-shirt design campaign. They had an agency design three concepts and asked their Facebook fans to vote on their favorite. Surprisingly, instead of a focus on voting, the fans overwhelming disapproved of the t-shirt designs. Consumers said the t-shirts didn’t “feel” like the Victory brand. They offered suggestions, including how to better showcase the Victory logo.  Polaris took the feedback and redesigned a new t-shirt that garnered fan praise, as well as strong awareness at the Sturgis event.

“It was just feedback on a t-shirt but it showed us the power of engaging and learning from our customers. We now apply that simple concept to marketing campaigns, product colors, accessories and even new product design. Social insights are being shared across the company and making a positive business impact regularly.” 

In early 2014, when Polaris was developing a color scheme for the new Victory Gunner motorcycle, they went straight to social and let the fans decide.

“We are quite literally co-creating with our customers, seeking their input and knowledge around likes, dislikes, wants and desires,” said Spaeth. “And they get inspired and passionate about being heard—especially around product and accessory colors. Color plays a big role and is an ongoing and important theme across our social channels.”

In late 2012, Polaris started seeing social conversations and themes around the term “pink.”  The conversations were correlating around breast cancer, Pink Ribbon Riders, and an interest in pink-styled designed snowmobiles.

“When the pink themes and conversations started across social we began to take notice. We continued to listen and monitor the increasing volume and positive sentiment and realized there was something there.”

But before actually executing on an idea, Polaris tested “pink” during the annual “snowcheck period,” a six-week period where consumers could pre-order custom sleds in select colors, and this time pink was offered. “Pink correlated and resulted in strong sales. So although ‘pink’ went against the traditional grain, we followed the data and connected with our R&D team to create something bigger around this idea of pink,” said Spaeth.

What Polaris created was more than a new product idea; they tied the “pink” theme around a charity campaign and sponsorship with the Pink Ribbon Riders, an organization dedicated to help women and men with breast cancer. 

“We executed a consumer-generated snowmobile custom design to support the Pink Ribbon Riders. Social insights were helping make decisions on a new charity partner, as well as a consumer-focused and engaging campaign.”

In the spring of 2014, Polaris launched its Pink Ribbon Rider Wrap campaign on Facebook, where consumers generated the designs and voted on the winner. A portion of the proceeds went to benefit the Pink Ribbon Riders. Thousands of social fans participated but it was Cassandra from St. Paul, MN that had the winning design.

“The reaction to the entire Pink Ribbon Riders Wrap campaign was tremendous, including a strong interest with our dealers and partners,” Spaeth added. 

“We recap our social and digital insights weekly across departments and, together with other customer data, use it as a guide to make better business decisions for marketing to services to sales to product development. And Product Development is always interested in what our social fans are saying to help with everything from product naming, design, color, accessories and more.” 

Friday Nov 07, 2014

Lessons Learned from Pivotcon: Listen, Learn & Humanize in the Age of People-Centric Business

By Meg Bear, Group Vice President, Oracle Social Cloud 

A few weeks ago I attended the annual Pivot Conference in New York City. The theme of Pivotcon, “The Digital Imperative,” focused on the creative disruption digital is having on society and how that is changing our culture, behaviors, businesses, homes, transportation, media and much more. The convergence of mobile, social and cloud technologies has altered how we view and interact with our world and empowered us to learn more, engage more, explore more, buy more, create more, share more and expand our digital capabilities beyond mere physical limitations.


(Photo L to R: Amy Sorrells, Oracle Social; Meg Bear, Oracle Social; Phil Colley, GM; and Rebecca Harris, GM)

Think about these changes within your own life. Uber has simplified and enhanced the transportation experience. We seek Yelp for locating the perfect spot to eat. We share stories on Facebook. We voice our opinions on Twitter. We network on LinkedIn. We control our homes remotely with Nest. We are never without our smartphones. And information is always just a click away. 

We are an empowered people. And it’s happening across all generations and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the rising millennials, no more a novelty but a mainstream reality, completely embody the digital imperative. They grew up mobile, social and open. They think and operate differently, embracing technologies for the greater good in a transparent, engaging and social way. They expect the businesses they buy from and work for to operate the same.  Here’s a reality check: In 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials – that’s your employees, partners and customers.

Organizations must completely re-think how they approach business. People now expect a higher level of interaction, personalization and value. Gartner analyst Laura McClellan said her research shows that in only two years 90% of companies expect to compete almost entirely on the basis of customer experience. Not on price. Not on product. On experience.  How’s that for a change?

Customer centricity and a priority on customer engagement is the business imperative. But I’d take that a step further. It’s not just a “customer” experience; it’s a “people” experience. Businesses need to enhance engagement and experiences not just for customers but also employees and partners. Believe me it all ties back to the bottom line. Happier more engaged employees can be your best brand assets. Ditto for partners. Listen, learn, personalize, engage, deliver value and build trust. You aren’t talking at “audiences” anymore; you are building relationships with people. If you listen carefully, with humility and openness, people will help guide you and co-create with you. You need to shift your idea of who has the power. Don’t operate as an impersonal entity; humanize your brand. Talk about a pivot.

Becoming a people-centric business requires major change and disruption. And it’s not going to be a clean, easy and fast process. But it’s something you must start championing inside your organization today. How? Well, that’s for another much longer discussion. But below are five reoccurring themes we heard throughout Pivotcon that are absolutely relevant to becoming a people-centric business. So think about how these should apply to across your business.

Collaboration: You absolutely can’t embrace major change and innovation without a collaborative effort across the enterprise. This falls in the “no more silos” bucket. CMOs can’t go it alone anymore. Neither can the CIO. Or the CCO. The famous Greek phrase, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” is totally applicable here. Break down those departmental silos and start communicating across departments and people.

Information: This is all about learning and insights. You need to understand your people (consumers, employees, partners) as well as possible. It’s not about the volume of data; it’s about actionable insights. One of my favorite quotes from Pivot revealed a certain truth: “We are drowning in data but starving for information.” But with the right technologies in place, you can aggregate, analyze and simplify data for invaluable insights that will allow you to understand and engage like never before. Listen and learn.

Integration: This refers to technologies. And as our partner Rebecca Harris of GM stated at Pivot, “Integration is the linchpin of the customer engagement strategy.” To truly be customer and people focused you can’t have systems that don’t integrate, communicate and exchange information. A big difference today is the pervasiveness of technology and the ability to integrate and weave it out the value chain to engage with the customer. Organizations must make integration key across the enterprise.

Personalization:  We are accustomed to technologies and experiences that are tailored to us. Whether that’s an ad, article, merchandise or media, the more it is targeted to our likes and needs the better it resonates and more value it provides. The data is out there to understand your people. You just need to listen, learn and follow their cues. Personalized content and interactions are the cornerstone to people-centricity.

Trust:  As Brian Solis said during Pivot, “Trust will be the new currency related to people-centric engagement.” We are operating in an open world where social networks bring forward the good, the bad and the ugly. Consumers don’t expect businesses to not have flaws, but they do expect authenticity and transparency when things don’t go right.  Just look at how GM and Chevrolet handled #ChevyGuy for establishing trust, not to mention authenticity and humanity. Businesses and executives who operate in an open and accountable manner will earn trust. And that will be key to cultivating and establishing relationships with your customers, employees and partners. 

Tuesday Aug 21, 2012

Social Content: Creativity + Common Sense

Are you stuck trying to figure out how to generate a consistent flow of quality content?  You're not alone.  Here are some the reason why brands get stuck and a formula for getting un-stuck. 

[Read More]
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