NEWS12 January 2010

Juicing on listening – ARF publishes new playbook

North America

US— Listening to customers is important, says the Advertising Research Foundation – and if you don’t believe it, just ask Tropicana. A packaging redesign for the juice drink brand met a firestorm of protest last year, forcing makers PepsiCo to change the packaging back just six weeks later.

It wasn’t that Tropicana’s managers failed to do their research; they failed to listen. “Conducting focus groups and testing designs, Tropicana and its agency completely missed the loyalist [customer] passion,” writes Steve Rappaport, the ARF’s knowledge solutions director. “Their work indicated that their research participants didn’t have strong feelings about the [packaging] image, so they felt confident about making a change.”

Only after the change was made was it discovered that some consumers had what Tropicana’s president called a “deep emotional bond” with the old packaging depicting an orange pierced with a straw, leading them to reject the new design which featured a photo of a glass of juice. “This case raises an important point made by listening practitioners,” says Rappaport. “We don’t always know which questions to ask, and of whom.”

Tropicana’s woes are just one of many case studies contained in the ARF’s Listening Playbook – a call to arms for the marketing and advertising industry to embrace what the organisation’s president Bob Barocci calls “the single biggest opportunity in the history of consumer marketing” – an opportunity, he says, that currently lies “dormant”.

Referring to a ‘listening workshop’ hosted by the ARF in November last year, Barocci says: “The disturbing thing to me was that many speakers seemed to be preoccupied with the obstacles to effective listening – no budget, nobody in charge, where is the statistical rigour, is it projectable, tough organisational issues, hard to sell internally, ROI tough to determine, legal has major issues… etc.”

The purpose of the book, he says, is to change that mindset. Case studies on the likes of airline JetBlue aim to get marketers enthused about the potential of social media tools like Twitter in helping companies keep their ear to the ground, hear customer complaints and respond rapidly.

But Twitter is just one channel. Beyond the fairly straightforward searching and monitoring of the ‘consumer backyard’ lies text analytics software, private branded communities and full-service listening platforms. As Rappaport notes: “The array of listening solutions available to brands is staggering… As we write, there’s a bit of a gold rush mentality in the market right now. Stagecoaches head west daily bringing additional energy, innovation and new ways of doing things.”

  • The Listening Playbook will be officially launched at the ARF Industry Leader Forum on 28 January. Click here for more information.