EMG's CASE District VI Presentation - Seismic changes in consumer behavior


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This presentation was used for an CASE District VI conference in Denver in January 2012.

Your consumers aren’t who they used to be, and likely never will be again. They don’t think the same, act the same, or make decisions the way they did even a few years ago. With chronic under-employment and global recession, the rise of distance education and the web, mobile communications, a higher ed bubble, and the emerging psychology of a deeply conflicted society, marketing and branding in higher ed will never be the same. Are you prepared to hear about the things you need to change?

© 2012 Educational Marketing Group, Inc.
All rights reserved. This document contains protected intellectual property. The information and materials contained herein may not be duplicated, reproduced, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without the prior written consent of Educational Marketing Group, Inc.

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  • chronic under-employment and global recessionTough economic times have made consumers more cost and value conscious and more deliberate and analytical in their choices – can I afford this? How long will that last? Where can I find the best value? The enduring and deep nature of the economic downturn has resulted in lasting changes in consumer psyche – not that consumers are afraid of spending money, but they have become much more direct and analytical about what their money is buying – looking for lasting value.the rise of social media consumersConsumers are connected in a way that was simply unimaginable 5 years ago. They will talk about you and expect you to pay attention to what they have to say. They will make decisions based on what they hear about you in social spaces, and they are not at all shy in sharing their own views about your performance.mobile multimedia communicationsNot only are consumers incredibly connected, they’ve also become accustomed to immediate information, immediate access to whatever they are looking for. I love the new commercials for 4G phones, where those equipped with 4G technology know about everything before it happens…only a slight exaggeration. Computing is modbile. Our futures are all mobile. the higher ed bubble: perceived cost versus perceived valueJoe Garcia, Lt. Governor and former president of CSU Pueblo, spoke to this issue at the kick-off speech: Higher ed used to be above the fray, not connected to consumerism, and without question worth whatever it cost. In fact, I remember when, not so long ago, when “customer” was a term virtually outlawed in higher ed. But today, because of the economic challenges and the increasing costs of education, a college degree is perceived by more and more consumers as a commodity – not much different from other important services that are available. In an age when we see MBA graduates driving taxi’s and managing fast-food operations, a college degree has lost some lustre. Competition from profits and non-profits alike, escalating costs, the increasing acceptance of distance education –consumers are evaluating education based on perceived and expected outcomes versus costs. a deeply conflicted society Today, most of us still believe in the basic tenets of what Lyndon Johnson called the Great Society, yet we are beginning to understand that we just can’t afford it anymore; we all still espouse the ideas of civility, courtesy, and respect, yet these attributes are so rare today that it’s surprising when someone is civil, courteous, and respectful, and we postulate “Wow, I bet people really take advantage of that guy.” And, of course, they do! We all still believe in the ideal of giving is better than receiving, yet we’ve become hyper-sensitive to making sure we get what’s due us! Consumers are more apt to say what they think any way they want – self centered.All these are signs of deep conflict of values, and it has incredible impact on how consumers make choices.
  • And these forces of change have had an very strong impact on consumers – they They expect you to prove you’re worth it.  Consumers are increasingly sophisticated and very skeptical – they have become super shoppers! The want you to prove that you are delivering the goods on two fronts: authority and value. By authority, I mean that the consumer wants to know what you are known for in your category. We refer to this as niche leadership positioning: in what areas are you the category leader? So that old marketing chestnut is more true and more compelling than ever: “If you’re not the leader in your category, create a new category!”They expect information on demand. With Googlesearch , and Groupon, and Yelp and Redlaser apps leading us on, we’ve all become the ultimate comparers. I do it, and most of you probably do, too. You look at who’s offering what, you read the comments, you compare. It’s instantaneous across all product and service categories…and it’s expected.They expect you to be responsive to their needs.  If you don’t provide the information that a consumer is looking for, somebody else will. Rest assured. That’s the nature of competition, and it’s tough and it’s ruthless, and there are no favorites. It’s survival of the fittest in providing quick, personalized responses to requestsThey expect to speak and you to listen. they talk about you on public forums – global forums - and they make decisions based on what they hear from others. Reputations are enhanced or reduced virally these days. We need to be listening. They expect to be in control. they want to shape how they experience your brand. Consumers are looking for brands where they can create their own authentic experiences. Is your service – your registration process, for example – built with the consumer in mind? Or with the staff member’s in mind?  
  • What I’ve just described are changes in consumers at large – whether those consumers are buying TV sets or health services or education. This data reflects a synthesis of results from five different surveys of institutions, public and private. Results synthesize aggregate responses from six segments: enrolled students, alumni, faculty, staff, prospects, and members of the public.Strong academic reputation has grown in importance for the last few years, as has preparation for career and grad school. These responses suggest that higher ed audiences reflect the overall consumer trend toward demonstrated authority and reputation and outcomes
  • This data reflects a synthesis of results from five different surveys of institutions, public and private. Results include total responses from six segments: enrolled students, alumni, faculty, staff, prospects, and members of the public.Strong academic reputation has grown in importance for the last few years, as has preparation for career and grad school. These responses suggest that higher ed audiences reflect the overall consumer trend toward demonstrated authority and reputation and outcomes
  • Survey data has also proven beyond the shadow of doubt that the web has become the principal relationship interface between colleges and students. It is also increasing in importance with alumni and to a somewhat lesser degree, donors.My only question is what at the remaining 20% of students doing? We actually suspect that perhaps they have misinterpreted the question or just chose the wrong button in answering.More than half of all students use the web as the primary method of getting information about colleges. The biggest source is the college website itself, but facebook and college search sites are also notable in the responses.And finally, survey data indicates that the proclamation that “email is dead” have been significantly premature. In fact, email is the single biggest response when students are asked, “how should a college communicate with you once you’ve requested information from them?”
  • We’ve also gleaned a wealth of data about today’s consumers from dozens of focus groups we’ve conducted with students, prospects, and parents throughout the U.S. over the past 18 months.For example…Mobile communications, for example, are still used by a minority of students, but that minority is growing quickly.We’ve also learned that there is an important place for print materials, despite the growth of electronic platforms. But the purpose of print materials has changed dramatically. They no longer are the major platform for detailed information – such as classes offered, or lists of majors, etc.Print materials have distinct impact, but it is more about creating personality, reinforcing the brand, and creating a personal and emotional connection with audiences. Most prospects and parents prefer that the bulk of information and details be available on the web, where it is searchable and customizable.
  • What students are looking for in communications from you have been evolving, too.Brand is much more important to audiences today than it was only a few years ago…students and their parents – as well as donors and alumni – want and expect messaging that define and support your niche leadership position. Why should you be seen as the authority in certain category of institution? Why should I choose you instead of your competitor, who is offering plenty of strong data on their strengths.And of course, expected outcomes have always been important, but are increasingly top-of-mind for consumers and those who influence them.
  • In the new world of marketing, we need to think about three important factors in driving our campaigns: data, data, and data. Used to be that data was used internally to guide strategy and tactics. Well, no more. Your audiences want to see those datapoints. Chew on them. Compare them with others. So data has become a marketing tool.And here’s something that we all know to be true: audiences these days are very opinionated, either for or against. What’s new is that they now have a global megaphone, a platform to spread their opinions to anyone and everyone, virally. They know how powerful this ability can be, and they’re completely willing to leverage it in their dealings with you.But here’s something you may not be aware of – something we hear in one focus group after another: audiences respect advertising. They listen to it, and it has impact on them. Even display ads, where we find that 45% of students report that they have clicked on a display ad in the recent past.
  • All of this reinforces something that we’ve known all along: that consumers own your brand, not you. Your brand, if it exists, exists only in their minds. This has always been true, but is stronger today than ever before. Consumers understand brands and as the earlier survey findings we spoke of demonstrate, reputation is the #1 motivational factor in the college decision process.
  • In years past, a college degree was something apart from crass consumerism. It’s mission of elevating the human spirit, creating well-rounded and well-educated citizens, and enhancing the futures of individuals has been reduced, in large part, to the act of ensuring the economic future of graduates. And it’s ability to do that is even in question.
  • November 3, 2011 NielsenThis is a wake-up call for potential advertisers waiting for a tipping point for mobile media or for smartphones to reach the majority,” said Don Kellogg, director of telecom research and insights at Nielsen. “We’re already there with certain segments – 62 percent of those ages 25 to 34 already have smartphones. That’s critical mass.”¶After young adults, however, the segment with the fastest-growing smartphone adoption rate is older phone owners, between the ages of 55 and 64. Although the penetration among those users is only 30 percent, that figure jumped 5 percentage points this quarter.¶Teenagers are still slower to adopt smartphones, probably due to the high cost of the devices and the expensive data plans they require.¶The survey also found that Android is hanging on to its position atop the totem pole of mobile operating systems in the United States, with 43 percent of the market. However, Apple is the top smartphone manufacturer, with 28 percent of smartphone owners owning an iPhone.
  • As we’ve noted, when institutions present a unique and compelling brand personality that is authentic, audiences are more likely to take note. Caution: the personality really has to be honest, authentic, and consistent. Most institutions fall down on item #2 by trying to convey too many things in too many different ways. The real key to the new, super consumers is to focus on no more than 4 key messages. Customer relationship management programs – there are many to choose from – is an essential tool for admissions, but communications offices have to become immersed in these programs to help guide and develop effective products and content to populate these programsWe’d recommend regular research to make sure your understanding of consumer needs and perceptions is current and accurate. It’s well worth the cost of a few pizzas every semester to conduction 90 minute focus groups with current students; and a survey every 1 to 3 years.
  • With all the hype lately, it’s easy to think that online advertising is the only way to go. But truth is, a cross-platform campaign is two- to three-times more effective than an one-horse effort. In fact, if you only have budget for a single platform, better to think about saving resources for when you are able to create a more well-rounded campaign.The web is clearly the platform for building relationships, and print materials should be used to create attitude and personal emotional connections.Whatever you are doing and regardless of your current social media and multimedia capacity, increase it.And regardless of your efforts in mobile content…do more.More Google mobile searches in last quarter of 2011 than from traditional desktop computers.
  • EMG's CASE District VI Presentation - Seismic changes in consumer behavior

    1. 1. CASE VI January 2012 – Denver SEISMIC CHANGE IN Consumer BehaviorImage: scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    2. 2. Original Presentation EMG Principals: Bob Brock, PresidentMarlene Brock, Executive Vice President CASE District VI Conference Denver, Colorado January 2012
    3. 3. forces of change• chronic under-employment• social consumerism• rich media on demand• educational commodity• deeply conflicted society
    4. 4. super consumersToday’s sophisticated consumers expect … ...you to convince them …information on demand …you to be responsive …to speak and you to listen …to be in control
    5. 5. Expectation: Prove you’re worth it.Consumers are increasingly sophisticated and skeptical –super shoppers everywhere! They want you to prove thatyou deliver the goods on two fronts: authority and value.What are you known for? This is niche leadership positioning.The old marketing chestnut is more true than ever: “If you’renot the leader in your category, make a new category!”
    6. 6. Expectation: Information on demand.With Googlesearch, Groupon, Yelp, and Redlaser apps leadingus on, we’ve become the ultimate comparers.We want to look at who offers what, we want to see it for real,read others’ comments, compare data, talk to others. Now.Rich media is instantaneous and requires enormous level ofcontent – imagery, video, data, information – and it’s expected.
    7. 7. Expectation: Responsive to audience needs.If you don’t provide the information that the consumerwants and expects, somebody else will.That’s the nature of competition, and it’s tough and it’sruthless, and there are no favorites.Education is no longer immune to survival of the fittestin providing quick, personalized responses to requests.
    8. 8. Expectation: They will speak and you will listen.Consumers want to talk about you. On public forums –global in reach – and they will make decisions based onwhat they hear about you from others.Reputations are built or reduced to dust in a heartbeat,virally.You need to be listening all the time.
    9. 9. Expectation: They will shape their experience, not you.Consumers want to shape how they interact with yourbrand, and when, and where.They are looking for choices, options through which theycan create their own authentic and satisfying experience.Is your service – your registration process, for example –built with the consumer in mind? Or staff members?
    10. 10. Let’s go to the data Data in the following slides reflects a synthesis ofresults from multiple surveys of institutions, public and private, conducted within the last 12 months. Results synthesize aggregate responses from six segments: enrolled students, alumni, faculty, staff, prospects, and members of the public.
    11. 11. higher ed survey data Top Attributes in the College Decision*1. Strong academic reputation 95.7%2. Students prepared for career or grad school 94.4%3. Intellectually challenging academics 90.2%4. Cutting-edge technology in classrooms, dorms, labs 88.5%5. Opportunities for internships, hands-on learning 88.4%6. Professors who are respected experts 88.3%7. Excellent student advising and career planning 86.6%8. Small classes and individual attention 85.5%9. A friendly, supportive campus** 84.6%* Percentage of respondents rating attribute 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale.** Primarily among undergraduates
    12. 12. higher ed survey data Less Important Attributes in the College Decision*10. Opportunities for students to work on research 79.5%11. High admissions standards 74.5%12. Opportunities for on- and off-campus recreation 65.4%13. Lots of student organizations and involvement 54.0%14. Successful, well-connected alumni 53.8%15. Attractive campus 53.8%16. Ethnically diverse campus community 53.3%17. Opportunities for community service 53.0%* Percentage of respondents rating attribute 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale.
    13. 13. higher ed survey data• More than 4 out of five students use the web in their college search• More than half of students prefer to search colleges mostly online• Email, website, and texting are preferred for recruiter communications
    14. 14. Noteworthy:More than half of all students use the web as the primarymethod of getting information about colleges.The biggest source is the college website itself, but Facebookand college search sites are also notable in responses.The proclamation from social media gurus that “email is dead”are premature. Email is the single biggest response whenstudents are asked, “How should colleges communicate withyou once you’ve requested information from them?”
    15. 15. higher ed focus group data• Access to up-to-date technology is a baseline expectation for any college• Expectation that messages and materials are targeting me• Mobile communications rapidly becoming the preferred platform• Regular flow of personalized communications means that you care• Print materials are important, but searchable web data is preferred
    16. 16. higher ed focus group data• Students attracted to clear presentation of a unique, relevant brand personality• Students want direct no-spin language on why you’re the best choice and the area(s) in which you are the category authority• Students (and parents) want to hear believable and relevant outcomes
    17. 17. higher ed focus group data• Used to use data for strategy, but now audiences want to be convinced with data points• Students and parents are involved and opinionated – for or against you• Audiences react immediately on viral media, which provides a global forum• Expect marketing and see it as a positive
    18. 18. insights• Consumers own your brand (not you)• Consumers are tuned into brand equity and reputation• Audiences are sophisticated consumers – highly responsive to marketing – know good marketing from bad – see marketing quality as a direct reflection of institutional quality
    19. 19. insights• Higher ed bubble: a college degree has become a commodity• Audiences increasingly question whether benefits are worth the cost• Cost is an important factor, but it’s not low cost, it’s perceived value that drives decisions
    20. 20. internal insights • Internal stakeholders are more active, involved, and vocal about likes and dislikes• Internal stakeholders – increasingly expect to see data on campaign efforts, investment, results – often become dissatisfied and vocal if they don’t have input or dislike direction
    21. 21. this ’n that• 88% of audiences 12 – 17 with cell phones use them to text• More than half of college- bound prospects use mobile devices to access websites• Online video communications have strongest impact on prospects
    22. 22. strategies for the new consumer1. Establish a unique, authentic brand personality2. Focus on only 3-4 brand attributes across all channels, and carefully tailor each one for each segment3. Support a robust CRM process for all segments to delight them with your responsiveness, attentiveness4. Take consumer pulse regularly with focus groups each semester, surveys every 1-3 years
    23. 23. tactics for the new consumer1. Market aggressively using cross-platform tactics2. Use Web as primary relationship platform, use print to create brand attitude and personal emotional connection3. Increase social presence, digital interactivity, and multimedia4. Go mobile…now
    24. 24. thank you!