Employees are consumers, which means they experience marketing from big brands at home, on the way to work and even at work. Even though employees have come to expect the same experience inside the workplace, internal communications has not caught up to current consumer marketing trends.

Davis & Company’s marketing experts, Vaishali Benner and Kim Cuffe, and host, Alyssa Zeff, discuss what communicators can learn from consumer marketing and what’s next for employee communication.

Episode transcript: 

Alyssa Zeff:      
Hey everybody, welcome back to Employee Buzz, I am Alyssa Zeff, your WhatsApp group chat participant, fancy fingernail design rocker and cyber stalker, I mean cyber research enthusiast. I am here with Vaishali Benner and Kim Cuffe, our incredible marketing team here at Davis & Company. Vaish, as we like to call you here, and Kim, can you quickly tell our listeners some fun things about yourselves?

Kim Cuffe:        
Sure, Alyssa. Vaish and I are actually both mothers of three, including twin boys.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Wow.

Vaishali Benner:
Twins are taking over the world.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Wow. All right.

Alyssa Zeff:      
So, listeners, today is a bit unique, but a lot of fun, as marketing experts Kim and Vaish are pretty tapped into consumer marketing, which is ahead of employee communication in terms of tools and technologies and trends, but that gives us a great place to look and to learn and follow. So we're going to discuss what's happening in consumer marketing, as well as what we can learn from it as internal communicators.

Alyssa Zeff:      
So, to get started, why should internal communicators care about consumer marketing?

Vaishali Benner:           
That's a great question. The first thing is, let's remember that our employees are consumers, which means that they're experiencing great marketing every day from extraordinary brands, and it is about the experience, so in today's market, you're not pushing messages anymore. Brands are not pushing messages, they're pulling consumers in. They're not selling them. So when they're pulling consumers into an experience, and like, great example would be Restoration Hardware is opening a New York City hotel. Kellogg's is opening the cereal café. So they're bringing, these brands, are bringing people into their experience. That's one example.

Vaishali Benner:           
The second is convenience. Everyone here has time constraints and they need the convenience of being able to shop online, pay online, split a bill through Venmo, order food through DoorDash, so being able to do what you want to do and have it accessible to you is really, really important.

Vaishali Benner:           
And last, you have to understand as internal communicators that your employees, being that they're consumers, they are making decisions on what they want and when they want it, and these brands are deciding based on that, so they're getting relevant information all the time, so they can see exactly, and make decisions based off of that. So I think those are some really great things that some brands are doing today in consumer marketing.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Yeah, and employees, that's the experience that they're used to, and the experience that they want, and that's how they process information, and that's really important. So thank you, Vaish.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Kim, what do you think are some examples of ways that consumer marketing influenced or paved the way for internal communications?

Kim Cuffe:        
Super question. First off, I think Facebook has really influenced communications. It's brought about Yammer, and other social platforms for workplace social networks, which are just great for collaboration. I think even Google Analytics. Now, communicators can actually measure what they're doing. They know what's working, what's not working. Google search has also educated communicators to know the importance of finding what they want, when they want. We want things quickly, so I think Google search is a great examples. The influx of mobile devices. I think this has forced communicators, basically, to think about their remote workforce, and how do they want to better reach them. The ability to create rich content like videos quickly, we want things quickly. This has allowed communicators to use some of those vehicles to reach their audience. And I think lastly, consumer marketing has also given consumers a voice, so they can quickly find their content and put things together quickly, and communicators have adopted these concepts.

Kim Cuffe:        
I think this came about in consumer marketing five to 10 years ago, and we're just like catching up.

Alyssa Zeff:      
It's such a great point, and I'm listening to you talk about these things, and I'm thinking about the projects that I'm working on, right? Helping a company launch Yammer in their organization, or another social platform for collaboration, helping another organization gather videos with people using iPhones.

Kim Cuffe:        
Exactly.

Alyssa Zeff:      
So that they can quickly generate that content and like you said, it's user generated, employee generated content. And your five to 10 years ago analysis is spot on, because I feel like where we are as employee communicators, we are probably about five to 10 years behind, so it's exciting to see where we might be five to 10 years from now, based on what you guys are telling us about.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Okay, so let's go rapid fire. Maybe both of you could answer this. Tell me three of your favorite consumer brands that market directly to you.

Vaishali Benner:           
Okay, so I'd love to go first on this, because I've grouped it into three. Food, fitness and fashion.

Alyssa Zeff:      
All right.

Vaishali Benner:           
And food is DoorDash. I just love how I can see where my food is, what stage it's in in getting to me. Fitness, OTF, Orange Theory, if you haven't heard of it, when you go to the gym, it's like real-time stats when you're working out. So I can see my mileage, I can see my heart rate, I can see everything, so I feel really good about seeing that right on the screen. And then fashion, for those that have not heard of this app, it's called LikeToKnowIt, and it's real people showcasing their fashion, and you can buy it straight from there. So, those are my three areas, in that order, food, fitness and fashion.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Nice. Kim?

Kim Cuffe:        
So for me, I'm an avid reader, but I don't have a lot of time. “Real Simple” magazine is just my go to thing, just to relax and unwind. But, they've got easy solutions for everyday life, and they keep it very simple, to the point. It's clever, and they use visuals. So that's my favorite thing, reading wise. And then, having a large family, you always need to feed them, they're always hungry. So I love the Open Table app. It's for booking restaurants quickly and with ease, and they have a mapping function, there's selection criteria, they check in with me. You can even get points.

Alyssa Zeff:      
I literally don't go to a restaurant in New York City if I can't get a reservation at Open Table. And there are some great restaurants in New York City that I am probably missing out on, but because I totally agree with that, convenience.

Alyssa Zeff:      
So what do you guys think we can learn from these brands as consumer marketing experts, and what it means for us as employee communication experts?

Vaishali Benner:           
You know, I think part of it, and a big part of it is visual. Today's consumers are all about what they're seeing, and that could be the beautiful food that you're seeing in DoorDash, or you know, Open Table. It could be a video. The way that we consume information has to be easy, and easy on the eyes, as well. So that could mean also text, too, copy, content. Convenient. We've approached this topic before, and it keeps coming back. Because if it's not convenient for a consumer, they're not going to do it. And I think that's the same for an employee. Like, what action do you want them to take? And make it clear, and make sure they know what's in it for them. What are they going to get out of it.

Vaishali Benner:           
The other part of it is celebrating. I want to know that I did good. It's great to hear that I accomplished this many classes. It's great to get something on my birthday. It is about me, as a consumer, so make it about me when I'm at work, too. So I think those are some of the things that we can learn from consumer branding.

Alyssa Zeff:      
So, another rapid-fire question. What are your favorite forms of communication in your personal life?

Kim Cuffe:
So for me, Alyssa, I would have to say text, email and Facebook.

Alyssa Zeff:
Vaish?

Vaishali Benner:
For me, it’s actually Siri, Alexia, Echo; anything that can talk back to me besides my children.

Alyssa Zeff:
What’s so interesting with the except of possible email, it’s amazing to me how little companies use these identical tools in communication with their employees; and the reasons why we like them because of their convenience and a lot of the other things that we’ve talked about, about the brands, really apply to consumers. What do you think about that?

Kim Cuffe:        
Well, I think, you're right, these tools are very convenient, but there's still this stigma in the corporate world, where some businesses are finding these tools distracting to their employees. Basically, they don't know how they fit in, and I think many workplaces are still limiting the use of social media during work hours. I think only, probably less than 65 percent of workplaces are allowing people to use social media. But, I think these tools are beneficial.

Kim Cuffe:        
For examples, social tools are known to increase productivity by as much as 25 percent. That's a big number. And they allow employees to communicate effectively with their customers and their clients, but also, they can collaborate with their colleagues. Social media sites can also provide platforms for employee recognition. This improves morale, this improves retention. So, I think these tools can also ... basically it makes employees our brand ambassadors.

Alyssa Zeff:      
100 percent, your employees are your best brand ambassadors, and why stifle them from being able to communicate great things about your brand, it’s when you have a platform where they can just be communicating what you want them to communicate about your brand.

Kim Cuffe:        
Right, and it's basically free promotion of your business.

Alyssa Zeff:      
100 percent.

Alyssa Zeff:      
So what's next? Vaish, do you have any thoughts on what trends are now in consumer marketing, and where we're going next?

Vaishali Benner:           
I have a lot of-

Alyssa Zeff:      
I want to hear them!

Vaishali Benner:           
I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, and I believe there's many, many thoughts on this, but there's a few that stand out to me. The first thing is experience, is making, again, making your moment memorable, pulling your employees into the message. The second thing is augmented reality. We've heard these buzz words, augmented reality, virtual reality, I'm doing VR, I'm doing AR, what does that mean?

Vaishali Benner:           
So, to just make sure everyone's clear, virtual reality is more of living in the fantasy world. Gaming has a lot of virtual reality. Augmented reality is bringing your reality, bringing something into your world. So Wayfair is a great example. Wayfair, what they do is you can take a picture of a product, put it into your living room, and see, at scale, what it looks like. And you can make a better decision. So that experience is mind blowing, I think, to be able to do that. You know, take a position. This is very cool. A lot of brands are not on the sidelines, they're on the front lines. When you think of the Nike ad, "What girls are made of," they are getting behind ... they have a position, and they're getting behind women. That's important, people care about that. I think as companies, we have to realize what's going on out there, and address it.

Vaishali Benner:           
I will say this, there is a trend towards digital detox. And what that means is that face-to-face is still there, traditional ways of doing marketing, still there. The millennials, and the Gen Z generation, there's some abandonment of social media, because they want to have some face to face time. They want to talk to somebody. So I think there's an opportunity to make that a little bit unique in the workforce and do that more than what we're doing today.

Vaishali Benner:           
And if you just look around, there's also like digital detox vacations, and digital detox boxes, where you can put all your devices in a box and lock it for an hour. This is happening, so we need to address this also in the workplace. What is the good balance? You know, I think we should look back, because I think what is old is new. iTunes to vinyl, e-readers to book. So, there's some of that happening out there. Amazon's opening stores, book stores!

Kim Cuffe:        
Right.

Vaishali Benner:           
So when you look at what people are doing, it's like okay, how can I apply this to what's happening in the workplace as well? I don't think we abandon some of the old ways, I just think we adopt new ways, but we bring back some of the old ways, too.

Alyssa Zeff:      
You know, my brain, every trend that you just mentioned, my brain want, "Okay, I can think about how I can do that." Like augmented reality, we have so many clients who are global, and they host global meetings, but they can't necessarily bring everybody together, so you rely on things like webinars and that kind of thing, or even just plain old fashioned teleconferences. But imagine really bringing that too much ... and feeling like you were in the room even more, with things like augmented reality, going back to face to face. We are constantly recommending that to our clients.

Alyssa Zeff:      
So these trends, and watching them, and maybe we don't have to be 10 years behind, maybe we can shrink that a little bit.

Vaishali Benner:           
We can go back and then forward again.

Vaishali Benner:           
But there's one more that I think that's really important, it's the power of people, and influencer marketing. In 2017 and 2016, there was a huge celebrity marketing going on, and endorsements, which was poorly accepted. And I think now people are looking at real people, and how can myself as a real person influence the market by my decisions that I'm making? I think there are influencers in the workforce, within organizations, that have a lot to say, that other people follow and believe in what they say. And I think tapping into those people is important.

Vaishali Benner:           
You mentioned brand ambassadors before, Kim, so it's kind of in that realm.

Alyssa Zeff:      
So, why do you think companies ... I mean Kim, you talked earlier about why companies are afraid of some of the current tools, what do you think gets in the way?

Kim Cuffe:        
I think cost, a lot of the time, gets in the way. And they think time. They think they're going to be spending a lot of time on these social platforms, and it's going to take away from their work. Also, I think privacy comes into play, as well as security.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Yeah, absolutely.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Okay, our last question. If our listeners want to learn more about consumer marketing, and what they can learn from it, what are some resources, where can they go?

Vaishali Benner:           
So I have three places, I think, that people can go, internal communicators. The first is you. You are the go to. Go to yourself-

Alyssa Zeff:      
Oh, not me?

Vaishali Benner:           
You Alyssa, you Alyssa!

Alyssa Zeff:      
Everybody call me.

Vaishali Benner:           
Call Alyssa, here's her number.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Text me.

Vaishali Benner:           
But, you are a consumer. So think about, just the question that Alyssa asked us today, in the rapid fire. Think about how your favorite brands market to you, and what are your expectations, and what are your favorite ways in how you receive a message, and what's the experience? So that's number one.

Vaishali Benner:           
Number two is, we are so focused on what's Nike, what's Apple? What are these big brands? What's Pepsi doing? And Coke? The big brands, actually they've got a lot of money, that's why they're taking out these big Super Bowl ads. My idea is focus on the brands that are very digital savvy, internet savvy. So an example of that is if you've heard of Serta and Tempur-Pedic, the mattress companies. Casper came into the market, it was an internet brand, and they just bang, took the market, right? Completely. And what they did, with not a lot of money, was they stole market share, they stormed the market. And that's the same thing with like Harry's Shave Club, you know, with Gillette and Schick. They came into the market, same way, through the internet, doing a lot of different tactics.

Vaishali Benner:           
So I would say to an internal communicator that has a tight budget, is maybe not look at some of the big brands, but look at these brands that are kind of entering through the digital market, and see what they're doing, because some of them are doing really cost effective, social, influencer marketing, grassroots type of things.

Alyssa Zeff:      
I mean, we always, what we pride ourselves on at Davis & Company, is being employee centric, and thinking through the eyes of the employee, and what they want, and what they need. And those are great examples of companies who just focused on their potential consumers, and reached them where they are, and how they wanted to be reached, and were successful accordingly. It wasn't with 30-million-dollar advertising budgets, it was with very targeted, knowing what their consumers were looking for, and knowing how to reach them.

Vaishali Benner:           
Exactly.

Vaishali Benner:           
And the last one is, if all else fails, just Google it. Page one.

Alyssa Zeff:      
All hail Google.

Vaishali Benner:           
All hail Google. Page one. Not page two.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Page one.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Great. Well thank you both so much for joining me today, I really appreciate this conversation.

Vaishali Benner:           
Thank you, Alyssa.

Kim Cuffe:        
You're welcome. This was fun.  

Alyssa Zeff:      
Thank you again both for being here, and again, appreciate your insights.

Vaishali Benner:           
Thanks so much, Alyssa.

Kim Cuffe:        
Thanks.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Thanks for listening to Employee Buzz, where practical advice meets fun. We want to know what topics you're interested in hearing, so rate and review on your podcast platform.

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