What customers would like to get for 2017 when it comes to GREAT customer service. | Urheber: MaskaRad | Fotolia #97117209

In short, we all have wishes for 2017 (I wish for better customer service in my Christmas stocking). The bad news is, you better manage three challenges to improve your customer service.
The good news is, there’s some low hanging fruit: change quality control, improve procedures for handling client requests / questions, and use one little modification of your marketing team’s behaviour.
It’s that easy, trust me. We spell it out below.

Customer service is constantly gaining importance, and we need the right procedures to deal with a flood of inquiries. Online chat is often expected, and 24/7 service is the norm.

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We discussed how challenging this can be a fortnight ago in, Booking.com, Yeego: NH Hotel Group #epicfail. Now we present another case and we have some pointers on how customer service mishaps can be reduced in our and your organisation.

1. Mistakes happen: Let’s make fewer errors

We all make mistakes and that won’t change any time soon. Keeping the number reasonably low, however, is a great start to improving things.

For instance, avoid situations in which your service or advertising is confusing for your clients. In turn, they have to get clarification = more work for you. Worst is if they decide not to buy because asking is too cumbersome for them. Instead they choose a product that may not be as good as yours but seems better because the service is more easily accessible.

One example is below. If your Cyber Monday Week ad is incorrect, you will get people like me to inquire.

Answering customer inquiries that result from our mistakes may be the right thing to do… but avoiding the situation altogether would be better. In turn, we have to answer fewer emails from clients :-)

Vidar Brekke - CMO Highsoft explains 2016-12-06 in an email to DrKPI: "Highstock, Highcharts and Highmaps, ... individually would amount to $2370. The savings are $1210, not $550, which equals a savings of over 50 percent, not 65 percent. We made the necessary corrections on our site."

Vidar Brekke – CMO Highsoft explains 2016-12-06 in an email to DrKPI: “Highstock, Highcharts and Highmaps, … individually would amount to $2370. The savings are $1210, not $550, which is equals a savings of over 50 percent, not 65 percent. We made the necessary corrections on our site.”

The above email is wrong: a 65 percent discount means it should cost $829. The same error was still on the website December 1. I and many other newsletter subscribers got another email with the wrong pricing on December 1, 2016.


Discounts are popular, but you have to get it right. Moreover, if a client points out the error and wants the product at the discount you stated, you should come though on your promise.

2. KISS – Keep it simple, stupid: Beware of scalability

In 2012 a Long Island student created a ruckus by going public with the fact that Steve Jobs refused to be helpful for her semester assignment. But he was of the opinion that helping students was not part of his job description.

From: Steve Jobs [address and header confirmed – CA]
To: Chelsea Isaacs
Subject: Re: Mr. Jobs – Student Journalist Concerned about Apple’s Media Relations Dept.

Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry.
Sent from my iPhone

See more here: 2010-09-20 – The Guardian – Steve Jobs: not what you’d call helpful to a trainee journalist. At the time, I wrote the following in our previous blog called Commetrics:

Let us be clear: a CEO like Steve Jobs has better things to do than help a student write her paper for a university course. Of course, if this had happened with my company’s CEO, the student would have gotten an answer. But at most, we get one such request a month AND we enjoy giving an answer since it allows us to gain some more insight.

In our case study with Highsoft, I went to the trouble to write an email to Grethe Hjetland, Highsoft’s CEO. I pointed out this problem to her, suggesting she get it fixed quickly to avoid any backlash.

I got no answer for more than two days. So I went to the trouble to write to the Chief Marketing Officer.

For Ms Hjetland it might be useful to have a procedure in place for such cases. The procedure would spell out what is to happen when she is out of town.

One possibility is an assistant who checks your email every morning and does triage, deciding which emails the CEO will need to reply to herself. Emails in a second group the assistant forwards to those best qualified to reply. The last group of emails get replied to by the assistant (if a reply is needed), or are simply archived.

If done correctly, this limits the number of emails the CEO has to wade or muddle through every morning while on vacation or a business trip. If emails are passed on, however, the procedure needs to include a follow-up. For instance, I triage of emails myself. Some emails that I am not qualified to reply to are sent to those within the organisation.

However, five days after I pass on an email, I will check whether the person has sent a reply. Or I might just send a short note to the person who inquired, saying something like, “I hope you have gotten an answer from us regarding the question you sent me…”

Generally, my email gets a response from the client 99 percent of the time. Usually it states that they are pleased that I have followed up. Sometimes I also get information that helps me do my work better.

Take-away – your customer service must be up to standard

Like Steve Jobs taught us, a company’s goal may not include helping a student get a good grade, but surely we want to address issues raised by clients as quickly as possible. Of course, in our small organisation I can answer most incoming emails myself. In Grethe Hjetland’s case, in a large organisation this is not possible. Instead, she needs a procedure in place that helps her get rid of emails like mine, while still getting them answered.

I got an answer in a roundabout way (see below). Unfortunately, this meant I had to spend more time than necessary to get it resolved. Totally unnecessary if your customer service is up to snuff.

Traditional red Christmas stockings - what we wish for 2017 - better customer service | Copyright: Family Business | Fotolia #94352650

Traditional red Christmas stockings – what we wish for 2017 – better customer service
| Copyright: Family Business | Fotolia #94352650

3. Truth in advertising: Do not add insult to injury

Since 2005, Cyber Monday takes place the Monday after the US Thanksgiving holiday and following Black Friday. It has turned into a four-day weekend of pre-Christmas sales. These days, Cyber Monday is spreading its wings to various countries in Europe such as the UK. Even in Switzerland, some store chains like InterDiscount have specials on Cyber Monday.

This is probably the reason why Norwegian company Highsoft AS sent out a mailing to its subscribers with the offer shown above. The CMO and myself went back and forth, and he acknowledged and apologised for the error.

Remember, 65 percent of $2370 is $1541. Truthful advertising requires that the final sales price is therefore $829.

Around December 16, just about three weeks after I pointed out this error, the Chief Marketing Officer had passed on my last email reply to an associate. This new person wrote me the following email:

From: Katharina von Oltersdorff-Kalettka at highsoft.com
Subject: Re: Cyber Monday – Misleading Ad?
Date: 19 December 2016 at 08:28:24 GMT+1
To: Urs.Gattiker

Hi Urs,
thanks for getting in touch.
I am Katharina, one of the Global Account Managers at Highsoft.
I am more than happy to give you the (although no longer valid) price of $1160 for the Highcharts Suite. This is a package price that includes Premium Support. An option for purchasing it without the premium support is not available.
Let me know if you would still like to proceed and I can arrange for that.
Much thanks,

With regards,
Katharina von Oltersdorff-Kalettka
Global Account Manager
Highsoft AS

Remember, 65 percent of $2370 makes up $1541, which would give us a sales price of $829.

What does the above email suggest?

  1. After several email exchanges, Vidar Brekke, Chief Marketing Officer of Highsoft decided to pass on the case to a co-worker. But how much information (i.e. all the email exchanges he had with me) did he pass on to her?
  2. Ms von Oltersdorff-Kalketta either did not get a copy of the whole conversation I had with Vidar Brekke or she may not have read it properly. Nevertheless, it sounds like I should be grateful to get the 50 percent discount.

What adds insult to injury is that it should show and reflect the adverised 65 percent discount. Truth in advertising requires that you keep your promises. Does this not violate my trust? Mind you, this is a company that claims on its website:

We are trusted by… 72 of the 100 largest companies… of the Fortune Global 500.

Trust is great, including truthful advertising. From Highsoft I wish to get truthful marketing campaigns and a speedier customer service. Moreover, starting in 2017, I do not want to get the runaround anymore when I point out an error in advertising.


As an entrepreneur I have learned that it is sometimes smarter and faster to get the job done yourself. In this case, I would have sent the last email stating the final price, i.e. $829 to customer. The associate would have gotten a carbon copy and would have processed the order. Then she would have sent a confirmation to me about the order, such as a pdf file. In turn, our accounting department could process the payment.

  1. Apparently, CEO Grethe Hjetland does not have a procedure that takes care of such incoming email. But she requires one, considering the amount she must be getting, making it impossible to answer mine, and
  2. CMO Vidar Brekke should always finish a job he starts. In this case it would have resulted in this potential client not getting more run arounds.

Highsoft AS provides a great product that the company continues to improve continuously. Hats off!

If it now could just do the same in its sales and marketing, this would be the best service the company could do for all its clients. Wouldn’t it? And customers’ word-of-mouth marketing will surely help improve brand awareness.

4. Have your say – join the conversation

Source: Steve Jobs and great customer service: 3 keys to success

What is your opinion?

  • Do you remember the last time you had a company wriggle out of honouring its own advertising?
  • What procedure do you have in place, if a customer or potential customer sends an email to any C Suite employee?
  • What bugs do you hate the most when you need customer service?

The author declares that he had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry (i.e. I neither got a freebie from any of the mentioned companies nor are they our clients to the best of my knowledge).

By the way, we had a similar problem with a customer for our DrKPI software. I decided that it was our advertising error. Truthfulness in advertising is very important to me. Accordingly, the client who made us aware of the error got a freebie worth $1475. All others who paid or ordered before we changed the price, got a refund for the difference due to our error.

We felt that this was only fair, because we do not want to be accused of false or deceptive advertising.

I hope next year will bring us all better customer service. Happy Holidays | Copyright: JenkoAtaman | Fotolia #125884035

I hope next year will bring us all better customer service. Happy Holidays
| Copyright: JenkoAtaman | Fotolia #125884035

Final remarks

In case you’re interested, while Highsoft AS has a blog, it does not allow for client engagement, such as the option of leaving a reader comment. This means fostering engagement and dialogue has been deactivated. Surprising and so much Web 1.0.

Here’s the blog’s data as of today, and get more from DrKPI here.

Highchart Software's Corporate Blog does not allow for reader comments | so Web 1.0 instead of Web 2.0 | Urheber: DrKPI®

Highchart Software’s Corporate Blog does not allow for reader comments
| so Web 1.0 instead of Web 2.0 | Copyright: DrKPI®

My Feedback for NH Hotel Group: Reservation Helpline = #bigfail | Urheber: Anyaberkut |auf Fotolia #107478254

Summary: Leveraging your digital prowess means providing great online service to start with.
This case study outlines how digital failings can lower trust and reputation.
How this affects your brand equity is discussed.

Last month I made my travel plans to attend the 43. Deutscher Marketing Tag (43rd German Marketing Day, see the interesting program – PDF file, 2.4 MB).

One of the first questions was whether to book my hotel using an online platform or directly on the hotel’s website?

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Of course I had heard about the duopoly of Expedia and Booking.com. They handle four out of five agency bookings in Europe. At 80 percent, that means that the third operator, HBS, has apparently lost a lot of ground recently. Other small competitors and start-ups, such as  bookbedder, are offering property owners better terms.

But hotel owners do not necessarily like these platforms. For instance, you pay a 12 to 15 percent commission to Booking.com. However, regardless of customer evaluations, your property may still rank seventeenth on the list. If you increase Booking.com’s commission to 40 percent, you’re suddenly ranked first, as experienced by Thomas Küble, manager of Berne’s Ambassador and City hotels.

Brand equity seems to play some role in this game of chess. According to David A. Aaker brand equity is like a chest of drawers with the following:

1. Awareness of the brand, meaning our target audience knows about our brand – or not.
2. Associations with, and beliefs about the brand (e.g., associating the brand with sustainability).
3. Attitude towards the brand (i.e. positive, negative or no opinion).

The following NH Hotel Group reservation staff case neatly illustrates how digital prowess can influence a person’s belief about a brand. We also outline how someone’s attitude toward the brand changes in the process of making a hotel reservation.

1. Price match

The first thing a hotel would want to do is match the price on any of these platforms. In other words, you do not have to undercut them, but offering the same value for money is obvious. Let me explain.

For my stay during the Marketing Day in Leipzig, I looked at Booking.com and other platforms, including the hotel’s own e-commerce shop: NH Hotel Leipzig Messe.

NH Hotel Leipzig Conference - Surprise us, please.

NH Hotel Leipzig Conference – Surprise us, please.

When I checked the NH Hotel Group’s own reservation platform, I found the price as listed below. An additional €10 or more on top would be due for breakfast.

Room rate of €98.90 plus breakfast = 30 percent more than elsewhere online. Does that build customer loyalty?

Room rate of €98.90 plus breakfast = 30 percent more than elsewhere online.
Does that build customer loyalty?

So I started searching the web to see if I could find something cheaper. I found several platforms that offered me a room in Leipzig for a similar or even lower price. Because I wanted to stay near the conference venue, the NH Hotel Leipzig Messe was ideal. What puzzled me a bit was that some platforms offered me a lower price for this hotel than its own website did.

Hence, I checked if the hotel would match any of those lower rates.

2. Make things easy for your client

The price guarantee below shows that for all practical purposes, advance bookings have to be paid in full and are non-refundable. Quite common in the industry (see also Accor Hotels). This rule is important for getting the refund, as I will explain a bit further below.

The rate conditions are standard, i.e. you pay in advance and incur a charge if you cancel your reservation.

The rate conditions are standard, i.e. you pay in advance and incur a charge if you cancel your reservation.

So I wanted to take NH Hotel Group up on its offer to match a competing platform’s offer. You can get hold of reservation staff via phone or chat.

I tried the chat twice, i.e. I lost the agent once so I had to try a second time. After the first try, I called, but was told the phone agent could not help.

So after wasting 10 minutes on the phone I tried the chat a second time to see what the NH Hotel Group would do about following its Best Price Guarantee (see above).

To do this via the chat, you need to present NH Hotel Group with the competing offer. So I sent the yeego.com policy as a screenshot.

Yeego - owned by Italian Escapade S.R.L. offers a 25 percent better deal than the NH Hotel Group's own website. Does that make economic sense?

Yeego – owned by Italian Escapade S.R.L. offers a 25 percent better deal than the NH Hotel Group’s own website. Does that make economic sense?

Yeego’s cancellation policy (see above) is actually way better than what NH Hotel Group offers (see below).

When a best price guarantee is worth less than the paper it is written on - NH Hotels - sounds great, but in reality it is a #epicfail.

When a best price guarantee is worth less than the paper it is written on – NH Hotels – sounds great, but in reality it is a #epicfail.

3. Building trust: Apply your Price Guarantee correctly

The agent from NH Hotel Group compared the Yeego policy with theirs. Anyone would expect that NH Hotel Group would offer me the room for €80 less 10 percent, as stipulated in the policy, which would add up to €72 including breakfast. Think again!

Below I show the critical part of the chat protocol indicating why NH Hotel Group was ‘unable’ or ‘unwilling’ to follow their Price Guarantee Policy.

NH Hotel Group's Best Price Booking Guarantee is a strange one... if the competition's conditions are more lenient and generous, NH does not match the offer... go figure!

NH Hotel Group’s Best Price Booking Guarantee is a strange one… if the competition’s conditions are more lenient and generous, NH does not match the offer… go figure!

As you can see further, Yeego.com offers me a refund in full minus a €15 fee. All I have to do is cancel at least seven days in advance using their website. By contrast, NH Hotel Group only offers me a ten percent refund.

Obviously, Yeego is more generous than NH Hotel Group, even with their refund policy. Which means – according to their rules – NH Hotel Group is not required to honour their price guarantee. That does not make sense, but it is exactly what the reservation agent told me as shown above.

What does this tell us? Read on and find out.

[su_box title=”3 takeaways: How hotels make it EASY for Booking.com, Expedia and HBS.com to succeed” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

1. Damaging trust: Make sure your staff does not truly understand your policies

If you offer to price match, and take an additional ten percent off (in my case €72 price for room and breakfast), do it. In other words, don’t tell me that because the other site’s refund policy is better, and yours is misleading, you won’t make it right. You’re basically telling me you don’t want my business, and that’s just ridiculous.

Using a loop hole to avoid honouring your own policy when push comes to shove damages clients’ trust in your brand.

2. Buyer beware: Use your digital means to annoy your clients

“We’ve seen from our customer research that 65 percent of all guests are likely to re-book hotels where they’ve had a great experience, and staff attentiveness ranks as the top driver of great hotel experiences.” – PWC

Having to jump through too many hoops to get an answer from your service agent does not make a great FIRST impression.

Worse is that I will likely tell my colleagues and friends about it. In short, through this blog entry, you and many others now know the NH Hotel Group’s price guarantee is not worth the screen you see it on.

If this does not amount to an example of what negative word-of-mouth marketing can do to PR, what does?

3. Damaging reputation: Adding insult to injury

Making it hard for your client to get their problem resolved does injury to your relationship. It also shows that you still need to learn a lot in order to master digital sales. However, you add insult to injury if you fail to do right by your client.

Two things can happen. First, customers may shy away from booking a room via your own platform. Instead they may prefer using Expedia or Booking.com to make a reservation. Second, for each room sold that way, your net revenue will be reduced by 15 percent or more. This is the additional cost you must bear in the form of a commission paid for each room and night sold through these platforms.

As a business owner, I find this a strange way to improve your company’s ROI (return on investment).[/su_box]

4. Have your say – join the conversation

Source: Booking.com, Yeego: NH Hotel Group #epicfail

What is your opinion?

  • Do you remember the last time you had a company wriggle out of honouring its own policy?
  • How do you ensure that your employees know how to interpret a company policy correctly?
  • What bugs you the most when it comes to shopping online?

The author declares that he had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry (i.e. I neither got a freebie from any of the mentioned companies nor are they our clients).

To put the icing on this proverbial cake, maintenance of NH Hotel Group’s website is done during the week.

So, when people want to book on a regular weekday morning, they get nothing. My visit on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, around 08:30 (MET) yielded this:

Your site is under maintenance during regular local business hours. Does this build customer loyalty? Maybe try Friday or Saturday night at midnight, instead? You know, when people aren't trying to sned business your way... All together now: #epicfail

Your site is under maintenance during regular local business hours. Does this build customer loyalty? Maybe try Friday or Saturday night at midnight, instead? You know, when people aren’t trying to sned business your way… All together now: #epicfail

Final remarks

Because Yeego.com offered a better guarantee (i.e. refund policy), I booked there for €80 including breakfast. I will see on November 23 how attentive the staff is when I stay overnight.

In David A. Aaker’s language about brand equity, this case illustrates that my association and beliefs about the brand changed. I associate it not with keeping its promises as stated in the Price Guarantee. My attitude towards the brand has moved from no opinion to a negative one. Maybe my visit to the Leipzig property will change that.

Crowdsourcing consumers started in 2007 with getting them in creating selfie videos to asking them to design luxury watches today | Author : Rawpixel.com| Fotolia #88900750

Summary: What went wrong with content marketing during 2015 and 2016?
What are the 3 critical things you must do to produce successful content that creates buzz for 2017?

This blog entry is part of the DrKPI #Trends2Watch Video Series for 2017.

The series’ main focus is trends, without giving you a checklist to solve everything. Instead, we point out what went wrong and what things we must change to succeed next year. In fact, it’s best if you start implementing these suggestions right now, while putting together content for your next blog post.

♥ Curious? Join 1,500+ other subscribers to this blog’s newsletter and read on!

1. What is Marketing?

Marketing is often misunderstood as being the same as sales. However, marketing focuses on the needs of the clients. Theodore Leavitt put it as follows:

Selling is preoccupied with the seller’s need to convert his product into cash; marketing with the idea of satisfying the needs of the customer by means of the product and the cluster of things associated with creating, delivering, and finally consuming it.” – Theodore Leavitt (see https://hbr.org/2004/07/marketing-myopia)

Thus marketers must learn their customers’ needs and how the company’s current products satisfy them.

In turn, gaps can be identified and with the help of R&D, for instance, new products can be developed. The product can then be sold because it solves another important problem your client may have.

2. What is Content Marketing?

The above indicates that content marketing is also often misunderstood. Thus people produce content that tries to sell their product or put it in the spotlight.

However, good content marketing supports our efforts in general marketing. That means the primary focus for content marketing must be helping us understand customers’ needs. While redundant at first glance, content marketing supports our efforts for better understanding of what the client needs as part of our overall marketing strategy.

Content marketing focuses on clients’ and prospective customers’ needs and problems. It tries to address these by providing content that answers questions clients need or want answered. Good content provides solutions or new insights to issues or problems that matter to our target audience.

There is a large group of customers that appreciate content that solves real or assumed problems. An example is:

How to do your make-up in 30 seconds every morning

Content marketing addresses the needs of clients. This may be as simple as:

“How do I build my own bookshelves?” or
“How should I organize may sales activities each month?”

Of course, if your blog focuses on sustainability and the blog entry talks about aquaculture, your content is a bit more complex than if you explain the make-up bit. But if that is what your target audience needs, that’s the kind of content you want to try to create.

3. Improving our Content Marketing for 2017

In a customer support forum it is perfectly all right to talk about how to better use our product. The same applies in a product blog, where we update readers. For instance, we may have power users share their insights and tricks with others. We may also report about upcoming product updates or possibly workshops being held nearby for users of our software.

While the above helps with current clients, it may fail to attract potential clients. The latter do not necessarily want to know about our product or updates. Instead, their focus is on solving their own problem(s), such as:

  • how to shop for clothes that make you look great,
  • the 10 best restaurants in Torino, Italy, and
  • how to show how my content marketing helped our bottom line.

Some of these issues and possible solutions I point out in the video below.

VIEW the 1-Minute Video below for more details
Download the slides used in the video (500 KB PDF).

[su_box title=”3 takeaways: How to make sure your content provides value for your target audience.” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

1. Avoid preparing generalised list content, such as “10 best tips…”.

Whatever it is, focus on providing added value or solving a problem that is of concern to your target audience. For instance, 3 points that help you make a better video than the one I made above. That will get my interest, guaranteed :-)

2. Talk with your clients.

  • What concerns do they have (“making sense of web analytics is tough”)?
  • What are their pain points (how to…) for which they would love to consume content (e.g., slides, video, blog entry)?

3. Get client feedback about your content.

You wrote about a problem, because of the input you got about the topic from clients (see point 2). After it is published, call your source and ask them for feedback about how useful the content is or what is missing. Even better, ask them to do so in the form of a comment on the post. You can then can reply to further help your audience.[/su_box]

4. Have your say – join the conversation

Source: 2017 trends: 3 rules for better content marketing

What is your opinion?

  • When was the last time you read interesting content on a corporate, fashion, music or hobby blog?
  • Do you like to get slides or checklists to download in a blog post?
  • What irks you the most when it comes to corporate blog content?

The author declares that he had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry (i.e. I neither own any of these brands’ products nor are they our clients).

Short content with little depth will not do

These days we are inundated with data on our newsfeed, social networks (e.g., Instagram images), YouTube, etc. Some of us even read newspapers in digital or, surprise, traditional format.

Here is a short video from 5 marketing influencers (how did they become marketing influencers?), that talks about the evolving content marketing trends for 2017.

Six minutes in length, of which only 1 minute by 1 person provides this viewer with some value. That is a recipe for failure in Content Marketing for 2017. It also means that those that supposedly know may not know that much more than you do. Pity.

If you have not already done so (of course you have!), please make sure your content for 2017 has added value for your clients :-)


Guess who says something that makes sense in the Content Marketing Trends Video for 2017.

If you watch this video and have the feeling that you now know what 2017 will bring (i.e. challenges or opportunities for those creating content), you are way ahead of me – so please share!

EU Referendum, European fallout, broken utopia, like fake online reviews: IT CANNOT BE TRUE, CAN IT? | Urheber: Miriam Dörr| Fotolia #111044349

Summary: What does the Brexit crisis have in common with fake online reviews?
What role can data analytics and analysis play in this saga?
This post provides guidance for depending on hashtags and online reviews.

Pollsters and punters had the Remain campaign winning the Brexit vote by a hair. But the headlines this and last week speak to a different tune.

The Pound Sterling fell as traders prepared for a cut in the interest rate. Some felt that Britain was starting to imitate Greece and called it Britain’s Greek tragedy…

So are we analysts and number crunchers to blame? Here are some things the Brexit crisis has taught us big data pundits.

1. Hashtags do not win elections

Groups tapped into social media in the hope of persuading the young to join in (or out). Stars joined campaigns and let themselves be used as messengers in videos. Nevertheless, all this failed to sway enough voters to go to the polls.

Just about two weeks before the referendum was held Thursday 2016-06-23, Adam & Eve DDB tried its luck with an online video campaign featuring celebrities and swear words, including this example:

Nevertheless, featuring Keira Knightly failed to give it much traction on YouTube. Maybe just another example for how advertising professionals know far less than they claim about what it takes to make a viral video.

Inspiring young people to vote in the EU referendum proved tough in the UK. But other countries have similar experience. For instance, in Switzerland younger people tend to vote less often than their elders.

Brandwatch did a study about hashtags for the Brexit campaign. Unfortunately, data are sketchy. Did they include the hashtag #voteremain that was apparently used 600,000 times in their analysis? And what about others?

#Voteexit was used over a million times, but was that the only Brexit hashtag? What about those social media users that used several hashtags in their tweets for one campaign?

♥ Curious? Join 1500 other subscribers to this blog’s newsletter and read on!

Besides, using a hashtag does not mean my tweet is positive toward that particular side of the campaign. And does voicing our opinion using social media mean we go to the trouble of voting?

Nor has social media been known to change people’s firm opinions, so who cares about the social media echo chamber. It is the voting booth that counts, stupid.

2. Fake online reviews and your cash register

Like hashtags fail to necessarily sway a large group of voters, so do fake online reviews. But some attribute increasing importance to them. In fact, Social Bites won awards and was feted by social media ‘influencers’.

Unfortunately, it all turned out to be a fake used by Mark Cowper to show how much social network content is fake (see image below). The Twitter account has now been closed.

In particular, this highlights how influencers let themselves be swayed and thereby provide their fans or followers with useless information or fake content / reviews.

Read: Fake online reviews

What is really sad is that the campaign grabbed a lot of attention on social networks and in the media.

But can we conclude that all this hype would have resulted in more sales? The site never got launched, but this could well indicate that buzz has little to do with your bottom line.

Social Bites won awards and was feted by social media ‘influencers’ but it was a fake.

Social Bites won awards and was feted by social media ‘influencers’ but it was a fake.

Nevertheless, fake online reviews are becoming a plague. So much so that the UK government decided to investigate online reviews late last year.

Read the interesting press release here: Press Release – UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) takes enforcement action against fake online reviews

March 2016, the authority published some guidance for businesses on what is okay under the law. Check out the report here: Guidance Online reviews: letting your customers see the true picture – see image below.

What do you need to do if you are a business whose products are being reviewed?

What you need to do if you are a business whose products are being reviewed?

3. Should I put trust in reviews from associates?

Mark Cowper’s experiment nicely illustrates the problem of how sharing of fake reviews and wrongful information affect one’s online reputation.

In turn, he wanted to illustrate that we need a review platform that provides us with product reviews from our trusted network.

The idea is great. Getting recommendations from my trusted network sounds like a classic word-of-mouth marketing approach.

We love to hear our friends’ experiences before we buy (see screenshot below – find and save recommendations from your trusted network).

Recomazing, a social network that enables people to review, share and find reviews from their real-life network of friends and relatives.

Recomazing, a social network that enables people to review, share and find reviews from their real-life network of friends and relatives.

Unfortunately, the Recomazing network is a perfect example of sunk costs. I have already invested in having an online presence on such platforms as Twitter, Google+, Flickr, Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram and Tencent.

So starting anew on Recomazing also means some switching costs.

  • Is it worth it?
  • Who has the time to join another network, never mind write and read product reviews about things one will never buy?
  • Do we have the time – or is it just so entertaining (e.g., like watching a video) that we do not mind spending time on a network about product reviews?

Besides, while this may work in OZ (Australia and New Zealand), hardly any of my friends in Europe use it. So am I wasting my time joining? Probably.

Watch the short video below and you’ll see what I mean.


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[su_box title=”3 takeaways: Use product reviews wisely” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

1. Hashtags help but may not make your cash register ring

Do we use actionable metrics, i.e. metrics which we can take action on?

If one million users use a hashtag, will it result in Trump or Clinton winning the election?
As the Brexit referendum illustrates, hashtags and social media activity did not swing the Remain vote enough to make a difference at the polls.

2. Do we understand the metrics behind the analysis?

If we analyse the numbers, were the online reviews from real or fake customers?
Are those people regulars or Chinese tourists that failed to understand the customer survey they were handed in German?

And before I forget: Have we even thought about the possibility of errors in our data set due to e.g., sampling bias, response bias or sampling error?

3. Wait a while before asking your out-of-town customers for feedback

I remember having dinner with my family at a restaurant in Amsterdam. Before we even got the bill, we were invited to rate them. The waiter brought us an iPad where we could enter our review right away.

It’s better to wait and then send your client a short survey (5 questions max). Or invite them to write a review / testimonial for your webpage. And yes, writing the review on a platform like TripAdvisor might not hurt.

Research demonstrates that giving your customer four weeks before asking for feedback is a smarter approach if you want better reviews.

Interesting read: How to boost online ratings legally

More interesting reads – misinformation tends to ripple… facts remain scarce

a) Word-of-mouth marketing can make a difference (in German)
b) Data analytics: Lessons learned from Ebola
c) Can infographics show you the money?
d) Scottish referendum: A false sense of precision?
e) Data analytics: UPS or Apple?

4. Have your say – join the conversation

Source: Fake reviews? Lessons from Brexit

What is your opinion?

  • How do you decide what to buy?
  • Do you have a circle of friends that write online reviews regularly?
  • When was the last time you shopped for a brand or stayed at a hotel because of a review?
  • Do you remember last time your friend recommended a product based on their great experience (e.g., running shoe, coffee maker or going to shop at a store with knowledgeable and friendly staff) and you took their advice?

The author declares that he had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry (i.e. I neither own any of these brands’ products nor are they our clients).

WORD OF MOUTH MARKETING helps influence the public and hopefully strengthens the brand .... ideally resulting in a sale. WORD OF MOUTH MARKETING helps influence the public and hopefully strengthens the brand .... ideally resulting in a sale.WORD OF MOUTH MARKETING helps influence the public and hopefully strengthens the brand .... ideally resulting in a sale.| Fotolia #109130295

Summary: We all know the secret of real style is having the personality to match.
The key lessons from Donald Trump about style and influence are not what you think they are.

This is a series of posts that began with, Influence marketing experts’ top secrets. Today we focus on the ingredients that help one become an influencer.

Recently I had a talk with two friends in brand marketing and one in the hotel business. Here are some of the topics we covered.

1. Storytelling: Just ask Pension Guggenberger

If you are a Gaestehaus Guggenberger, you do not have a multi-million dollar budget like the Mandarin Oriental group to tell your story. Hence, a global advertising campaign “He’s a Fan / She’s a Fan” with award-winning French actress, Isabelle Huppert or Morgan Freeman is out of the question.

Nevertheless, you can focus on what some call “signature stories”. This is an intriguing, authentic, involving narrative with a strategic message. Stories have been shown to be superior to facts in getting attention, being remembered and getting people to change opinions.

The story should represent some form of strategic statement (see Karen Dietz) about the firm’s mission, values, brand or customer relationship. In turn, it can help achieve corporate strategy.

As a family business for more than 30 years, we need to find a story that helps people relate to the hotel, including “heroes” who have done great things for guests (i.e. family members and employees).

Bottom line: If famous people are part of your marketing campaign, some celebs will do your brand and sales efforts some good, and others will not.

If we lack the cash, we can touch customers and clarify our business values by creating a powerful narrative – storytelling at its best.

Donald always has a story to tell – on and off stage. We may not like it, but it is interesting if not outrageous, and it engages. Hillary doesn’t manage this very well, but Sanders is giving it his best shot.

Read: Aaker, David & Aaker, Jenifer (2016). California Management Review, Vol. 58 No. 3, Spring 2016; (pp. 49-65) DOI: 10.1525/cmr.2016.58.3.49 (short synposis Stanford U.).

2. Superstar economics works – ask JK Rowling

As the author of the Harry Potter novels you have shown yourself capable of telling a great story.

But besides the story, if you are famous like JK Rowling, that helps you sell books. She used the nom de plume Robert Galbraith for The Cuckoo’s Calling, supposedly his first novel.

Shortly after it was published in April 2013 it got a few reviews, but nothing spectacular. Over seven months and with plenty of marketing, it sold only about 450 hardback copies in the UK under Galbraith’s name. But somehow through word-of-mouth or gossip it was revealed that JK Rowling was the author of The Cuckoo’s Calling, at which point it surged to bestseller status on Amazon within a week.

Meanwhile, my book sold just under 1,000 copies in the first seven months even though the publisher had a hiccough. Such a number is great for a non-fiction, technical book. Nevertheless, without much marketing behind it, this illustrates that selling a lot of books is a tough job.

In this example superstar economics or brand recognition means your name is sufficient to cut through the increasing clutter of rivals and newcomers.

Bottom line: Name recognition makes things easier. For JK Rowling it means selling more books, for Hilary Clinton it won her a New York senate seat, and for Donald Trump it means… (see below).

3. Understanding influence: Ask style bloggers

You may not have the winning combination of a thought-provoking, interesting and possibly entertaining story to tell. Nor may the superstar economics or brand recognition of your name be good enough to get through the clutter of rivals and newcomers.

Authenticity is one more way to reach out. But for this Instagram fashion bloggers need to wear clothes that actually suit them. Furthermore, their style needs to express something of their personality, instead of the homogenous fairy dolls that typically populate the red carpet.

Some like Michèle seem to suggest that, “Real style is having the personality to match. I know it when I see it.”

As we discussed in the last blog entry, being female and young seems to help. Apparently, fashion labels believe that a 20-year-old blogger can sell a 50-year-old professional the brand’s latest creations.

Just because somebody has many followers or fans does not mean they can convince people to run out and buy their latest skirt from brand X. This even applies if you are making a living from brands, but actually are lost in a mess of peroxide and passionless fashionability.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3112″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”401px” Title=”Michèle knows what influence is, but cannot give us the numbers.” alt=”Michèle knows what influence is, but cannot give us the numbers.”]

See the above in action when you read, Hello, I’m Michèle, I’m a foolish, dumb, little blogger (so worth it – thoughful and sassy).

Bottom line: Influencer marketing is a great field where few can show anyone the numbers. It is not good enough to claim, “I know it when I see it.” Otherwise, why do brands fail to sponsor bloggers over 30? Do these people not need clothes, accessories or cosmetics?

4. Eyeballs matter: Just ask Donald Trump

So your story is authentic, with substance and intriguing. You are famous and your voice is being heard through the noise. But do you have the personality and style, if not substance to go with it?

This is what the US Presidential primaries illustrate. All candidates have or had a story to tell, but some are clearly better at being more authentic and engaging than others. One thing is clear, Trump was already considered the most visible of contenders in 2011 for November 2016’s possible GOP (Grand Old Party = Republican Party) presidential candidates in the US election.

Donald Trump has gotten more nightly network news coverage than the entire Democratic field combined (see report). Mrs Clinton has struggled to get the air time that Mr Trump has, a skill that helped him beat 16 rivals.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3567″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”731px” Title=”Social media metrics and US primary-election candidates: Trump tweets from his smartphone – not like others first checked by press officers.” alt=”Social media metrics and US primary-election candidates: Trump tweets from his smartphone – not like others first checked by press officers.”]
Above is from The Economist 2016-02-29: American presidential candidates and social media

Most of Donald Trump’s speeches or events tend to be carried live by US television networks. To illustrate, in week 21, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC chose to broadcast Mr Trump’s event in North Dakota, instead of an event by Mrs Clinton held in Las Vegas. This even though Mr Trump has essentially wrapped up the Republican nomination while the Democratic primary election battle rages on.

Mr Trump plays the media well and the media allows itself to be played with. It will be a tough fight for Mrs Clinton.

Interesting read: Does your marketing influence B2B decision-makers? Word-of-mouth is a winner – marketing, not so much. EMarketer. Retrieved, January 15, 2016 from http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Your-Marketing-Influence-B2B-Decision-Makers/1012927

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3555″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”779px” height=”337px” Title=”Defining influence: There may be no “one size fits all”, but if we cannot agree on a definition, how are we supposed to measure it?” alt=”Defining influence: There may be no “one size fits all”, but if we cannot agree on a definition, how are we supposed to measure it?”]

Bottom line: If you get a lot of TV airtime and are often written about in online and traditional media, it helps – as Donald Trump knows. It makes you even more famous (see point 1 and #helpilayda crowdfunding campaign).

5. Influence is tough to measure, but Donald Trump appears to have some

As our discussion in the Xing Social Monitoring Group between Jan SedlacekAldo Gnocchi and myself illustrates, influence is a difficult concept to grasp and measure.

When you come across a statistic that suggests nearly two out of five managers are influenced by their peers and colleagues, you start to think.

How much do they listen to their colleagues?
Does it stop them from firing somebody?
Will it get them to stay at my hotel the next time they are in Munich?
Will they change their vote from Trump to Clinton?

Word-of-mouth influences somebody to consider a new product or another brand, hotel, etc, but thinking about or even considering buying a brand is one thing. Going out and buying the product is a big step further than that, and reading an influencer’s tweet or blog entry will not do the trick alone.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3553″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”335px” Title=”Measuring Klout almost makes sense, but not quite… Jaron Lanier” alt=”Measuring Klout almost makes sense, but not quite… Jaron Lanier”]

The above is from our Social Media Monitoring group on Xing – Jan Sedlacek posted an entry.

Influence is difficult to grasp and even more challenging to measure. For instance, for an outsider it is hard to understand that a tennis player such as Maria Sharapova, who does not rank in the top ten, garners the most lucrative sponsorship deals. Nike was served disappointing news in March 2016 when Sharapova was found to have failed a drugs test. In turn, the company dropped its sponsorship of the tennis star.

And while Roger Federer is no longer at the top of the rankings, his sponsorship deals outshine those of Novak Djokovic, the current number one.

Accordingly, we do not know if Roger Federer or Morgan Freeman bring more guests to the hotel that features them in advertising. They might put our brand in a better light. We hope so. Unfortunately, we cannot be certain.

[su_box title=”Table 1: JK Rowling, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton share their secrets” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″ width=”px 780″ ]Here are the four factors to consider

1. Superstar economics works, but most of us ain’t superstars

So if you have a reputation in sports or as an actor, great. If not, most of us have to do without a Susan Sarandon or Julia Roberts as an ambassador to increase our occupancy rate at our small family hotel.

Hence, many small steps make the difference in selling enough product or services. Following tips 2 -3 below also helps a great deal.

2. Eyeballs matter, but you must tell me a great story

This year’s US primaries have demonstrated that getting free TV, print or digital media coverage helps a lot.

But are you outrageous, entertaining AND enough of a big mouth to get everybody’s attention? Do you mind getting the facts wrong? Donald Trump doesn’t care much about facts or people’s feelings (a somewhat scary combination if he becomes US president, I think).

Nevertheless, most of us might not want to be that rude. Nor do we come close to his skill at playing the media. Therefore, do not waste time trying.

Instead, be ready to tell an interesting story when given the chance. Hence, we need an:

inspiring and clarifying story that helps people relate to our label, brand or firm to get customers and media interested.
I still have to write mine – starting now. How about your story?

3. Setting goals helps, but focus on the top three tasks

How much money do you want to raise for a very sick child? In turn, what are the three most important things you need to do to raise these funds?

How high an occupancy rate do you wish to achieve for first and third quarter? What do you need to do today to raise your occupancy rate accordingly?

Your stories, content marketing, and social media use all have to help you make it happen.

Hence, a 0.25 percent click rate for Donald Trump on Twitter might be great (see image below). It could possibly bring him another few voters when every single one counts to win the US Presidency in November 2016.

But for you, going to a luncheon organised by the Chamber of Commerce might be more beneficial for landing a new B2B (business to business) client than wasting time on Facebook. Whatever you do, decide, because time and resources are limited.


Does the #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #Trump2016 campaign on social media like Twitter get people to change their vote come the election?

Does the #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #Trump2016 campaign on social media like Twitter get people to change their vote come the election?

Donald Trump’s 2016-05-22 tweet and its statistics.

The secret to real style is having the personality to match and doing things with some substance. Of course, our behaviour may influence our kids every day.

But just because I clear the breakfast table does not mean I influence my kids to help. In fact, unless I have a serious word with them tomorrow morning, they continue to leave a mess. The result is that I have to continue cleaning up after them every morning. NOT.

Some interesting reads

How useful is Google search data when predicting primary elections?
YouTube stars gain appeal

5. Have your say – join the conversation

Source: Real lessons Donald Trump can teach us

What is your opinion?

  • Do you know a small business person that is influential in your circles? How did it happen? Offline, online, or both?
  • Is social media just an instant signal or does it influence our decisions in what to purchase?
  • How do you decide which are next quarter’s top three activities to improve your bottom line?

The author declares that he had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry (i.e. I neither own any of these brands’ products nor are they our clients).

6. Just do it: Ask Renata Flores Rivera

Incidentally, you can be part of a minority, use a Michael Jackson song and sing it in your native tongue. That is what Renata Flores Rivera did (Quechua are a native minority in Peru). She was heard and became famous across her native country.

Nevertheless, most of us do not even manage to be heard and seen through the clutter in our industry or field of work. Just live with it.

And no, 15 minutes of fame (Nat Finkelstein and Andy Warhol saying) may not be in your cards – it’s that simple.

VW BP Daimler Toyota Mitsubishi Why do companies risk their reputation?

Please read Updates about Mitsubishi, Opel, GM, VW in the comments below.

Summary: VW intends to repurchase 480,000 vehicles in the US. Estimates put the final bill in excess of €45 billion. But how much damage will this cause to their:

– brand
– image (e.g., the image of the VW or Audi brands), AND
– reputation (e.g., reputation of the brand or company)?

Volkswagen has an interesting portfolio consisting of luxury brands as well as truck and low-cost car brands, as shown below.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3719″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”449px” Title=”Volkswagen brands read like a who’s who – how much will the emission scandal damage the value of their brands?” alt=”Volkswagen brands read like a who’s who – how much will the emission scandal damage the value of their brands?”]

1. Defining the terms

In daily life we may talk about brand, image and reputation interchangeably, without drawing a line between them.

But we cannot truly appreciate the value of something, if we do not unterstand what it is we are examining. And Jeff Bezos may have thought he was talking about brand, when he was actually talking about the reputation of the Amazon brand with its clients:

Your brand reputation is what people say about you after you have left the room.

We need to define brand, brand image and brand reputation. Only then can we be sure that we share the same vocabulary, which is the basis for understanding each other.

You need a great product. Your image of offering great design or R & D does not hurt the company either (for example, Apple). Crowned with a reputation for offering great client services (e.g., your neighbourhood grocer), you should do well in the market place.

[su_box title=”Table 1. Defining brand” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]
The word brand originated with the practice of putting a hot stamp on the bodies of young livestock to indicate ownership (i.e. branding calves). In the corporate world, a company’s logo or the lettering used for write its name may similarly serve as a stamp. It brands the firm.

The cattle brand helps one separate stock from Ranch A and Ranch B. In turn, the company’s brand or its logo help us recognize the product on the shelf.

The brand symbolizes what we stand for in the minds of people that we are trying to reach, influence and move to action (see Deborah Maue, 2015).

Brand is what the corporation tells the public or its investors, the news it shares about itself or the product, and most importantly, what it wants and aspires to be.

This gives the brand manager some control over the brand.

A brand helps reduce uncertainty for a client. The customer knows what they get, such as a hotel chain’s rooms offering the same features (make-up mirror, good hair dryer) as standard around the globe.


But these days, mistakes can damage a brand’s image and consumer trust in the brand may evaporate as well.

For instance, in a 2016-04-20 media briefing Mitsubishi Motors president Tetsuro Aikawa tried to take responsibility for the manipulated fuel-economy test data. It affects 4 mini-car models sold in Japan, about 625,000 vehicles since 2013.

In just three trading days, the fuel-economy scandal has destroyed 42 percent of Mitsubishi Motors’ market value.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3711″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”339px” Title=”With the increasing complexity of the marketplace, CONSUMERS focus on select dimensions of products such as price, not quality.” alt=”With the increasing complexity of the marketplace, CONSUMERS focus on select dimensions of products such as price, not quality.”]

As the above research illustrates, with increasing market complexity, consumers may fall back on such factors as price, instead of focusing on quality.

Hence, as BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster suggests, Mitsubishi Motors can hope that people will forget that the company abused customer trust by falsifying fuel economy test data.

If that happens, customers may no longer focus on this disaster. Instead price or options offered with its cars may be most important in the decision-process to buy or not to buy a Mitsubishi Product.

[su_box title=”Table 2. Defining brand image” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

A brand’s image tells us the qualities of the company or its products. Image is based on how much effort a company spends on getting its message across and its target audience to believe it (e.g., just do it – Nike).

Advertising is about image.

For instance, green advertising helped BP recover from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This means the visual, the look, the controlled viewpoint about an issue the company cares about, such as the environment, makes up the corporate or brand image.

As the video clip below shows, with the help of TV spots Volkswagen was trying to portray itself as producing cars running on “clean” diesel engines. Until September 2015 when the fuel emission scandal began, consumers believed this story.

Advertising can be used to improve a corporate image or try to portray a greener image than one might otherwise have in the public’s eyes.

Watch this humorous VW commercial aired in the US.

[su_box title=”Defining brand or corporate reputation: An experience-centric concept.” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

Attitude denotes the subjective, emotional, and cognitive based mindset (see Schwaiger, 2004, p. 49), which implies splitting the construct of reputation into affective and cognitive components.

The cognitive component of the construct can be described as the rational outcomes of high reputation. Examples include high performance, global reach and one’s perception of the company (e.g., great employer, wonderful customer service).

The affective component of reputation is the emotions that respondents have towards a company. Thus, people talk about these things with friends (word-of-mouth). Media coverage can also influence how we feel toward a company.

Reputation is hard-earned and generally long-standing. Nevertheless, it can be harmed by a new product that is shabbily put together or a big product recall as Toyota experienced with Prius in 2010 in the US and elsewhere.

Reputation is temporal, meaning for example that bad customer service will result in bad customer testimonials on webpages or blogs (what is called earned and social media).

Reputation is primarily based on my experience (i.e. cognitive) and what my friends say (affective). Hence, a bad experience may get me to write a bad product review or a post on Facebook. Good and bad press about a brand is also shared with one’s friends…


Interesting: Fiske, Rosanna (2011-01-26). Image vs. Reputation: Which Reigns Supreme? Advertising Week, retrieved April 24, 2016 from http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/image-vs-reputation-which-reigns-supreme-125527?page=2

General Motors learned the temporal nature of reputation in 2014, after managing to deflect most of the blame for a 30 million vehicle recall on the habits of the old guard of the company, prior to a massive government bail-out. Never mind that GM knew all along about the ignition switch issue that caused up to 169 preventable deaths.

On February 1, 2010, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak claimed that he had experienced a ‘software-related acceleration problem’ with his Prius, that causes the car to go wild under certain conditions when cruise control is engaged.

This and his comment that, “This is software. It’s not a bad accelerator pedal. It’s very scary, but luckily for me I can hit the brakes,” spread like wildfire via newswire, Twitter and others.

In early 2010 I wrote:

“We all remember when Audi (Volkswagen) faced unintended acceleration problems with its 5000 model in the US in the mid-1980s. Its initial response was to run advertisements of its top executives talking about its vehicles’ mechanics.

Audi was vindicated eventually but its effort to regain customers’ trust flopped amid perceptions that it built bad cars and was not taking the problem seriously. It took Audi 10 years to recover from this public relations debacle…”

Of course, one can only hope that #dieselgate will not hurt Volkswagen and its brands for another 10 years. But the share price drop as well as the compensations to be paid to US car owners whose models are affected suggest that it will be worse (see chart below for more information).

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3710″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”456px” Title=”-15.4 percent yer-on-year fall in VW brand car sales in the US, 1 in 20 German jobs depends on the sector.” alt=”-15.4 percent yer-on-year fall in VW brand car sales in the US, 1 in 20 German jobs depends on the sector.”]

2. Bottom line

Arguing which has greater influence — image or reputation — is likely a moot point.

Nevertheless, the two are linked, as the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill suggests. At the time, many Americans called for BP boycotts and sales took a hit despite the fact that BP was still selling the same fuel it was selling before the crisis.

In essence, BP’s negative reputation caused consumers to perceive BP’s brand differently.

Reputation, then, is best used as a way for companies to differentiate themselves from other organizations with the same brand.

It takes plenty of money and effort to build a great image. But one mistake can cost a company dearly. For instance, Nike and TAG Heuer ditched Maria Sharapova, the world’s highest paid female athlete, after she revealed she had failed a drugs test at the Australian Open in January 2016. Both brands felt it was too risky to continue sponsorship.

Although the two brands avoided a fall out from Maria Sharapova’s problems, the athlete’s marketability as an image ambassador was severely damaged.

Two intangibles VW and Mitsubishi Motors and competitors have to face.

  1. The effect on sales over the next couple of years, AND
  2. The effect of tighter regulations on future margins of car manufacturers.

How do VW car owners feel about the option of being offered a buy back or going for the fix and getting paid for it? We do not know if they will prefer getting $5,000 on top of the $1,000 they already have, or returning their car at market value. However, how owners perceive these options (positive or negative) and how VW handles European regulators and customers will affect its reputation.

As far as Volkswagen’s image is concerned? The damage may pass. However, regulator fines, compensating customers and losing sales will continue affecting the firm’s bottom line for a while yet.

Nevertheless, both VW and Mitsubishi have not had their last chance to hurt their reputation. How they handle their respective scandals from here, and whether they reform their corporate culture, will matter. Moreover, the possibility, not yet addressed, of the scale of lawsuits from aggrieved U.S. dealers and individual U.S. states for VW’s possible fraudulent advertising should worry shareholders.

What VW’s #dieselgate and Mitsubishi Motors’ falsified test results says about these companies’ internal procedures and ethics is another chapter in this saga.

3. Have your say – join the conversation

Source: Brand image and reputation: VW pays dearly for #Dieselgate

What is your opinion?

  • What do you advise a company to do when a public relations disaster is in the making?
  • Will people forget Volkswagen #dieselgate as they did the BP Horizon Deepwater disaster?
  • Did UK and French regulators do the right thing, waiting until US regulators set the stage (e.g., how much compensation per car, fines, etc.)?

The author declares that he had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry (i.e. I neither own any of these brands’ products nor are they our clients).

Check the original research first, before you re-tweet the URL

Summary: 4 tips for using storytelling to create great fact-based content.
Martha Lane Fox (founder of lastminute.com) is right in suggesting instinct should be ditched.

Recently I came across a LinkedIn Update from my colleague Karen Dietz that made it clear that if I started my blog post with a story, I would get:

  1. 300 percent more visitors, And
  2. 68.5 percent more reader engagement beyond the first mobile phone screen.

Who would not want to achieve such results? I was intrigued.

Then my colleague Sandra turned around and said:

“Urs, show me the numbers.”

I answered:

“Sure Sandra, no problem. I just need to dig for them first.”

So I shared my insights with Sandra, but also thought that my experience hunting for these numbers is definitely worth sharing with you!

Learn about 4 things great bloggers do better.

This post is part of our series on business analytics and big data.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3581″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”309px” Title=”Karen Dietz Update on LinkedIn: Is this maybe too good to be true?” alt=”Karen Dietz Update on LinkedIn: Is this maybe too good to be true?”]

Permanent Link to the above Status Update from Karen, found on my LinkedIn Update list 2016-03-27.

1. Storytelling is what it takes

So I clicked on the LinkedIn post that got me to Karen’s scoop.it page with the story (2016-03-28). There I clicked a link again. This brought me to 5 Storytelling Methods to Captivate Your Audience (2016-02-28), published in the Search Engine Journal.

Here the author outlines that somebody else did an A/B test. One of the blog entries had a story at the beginning and the other started with the topic of the blog entry right away. Sure enough, the former supposedly got 300 percent more readers than the one without a story at the beginning.

The Search Engine Journal’s entry referred me to a Buffer blog entry by Alex Thompson entitled, The power of storytelling: How we got 300% more people to read our content, from 2014-04-22. Here, he supposedly unravels the mystery by going into detail as far as this case study is concerned.

After some digging, I learned that the A/B test was really sending two types of emails containing the blog entry. One began with a story and the other dove right in.

Okay, is testing whether a blog entry attracts readers versus what works better in an emailed newsletter the same? Personally, I think those are two vastly different things.

Plus, Alex never gets around to telling us exactly how many people participated in the A/B test and how the sample was selected (e.g., clients, webpage visitors, combination thereof, etc.).

But the example below does not suggest this kind of storytelling works, does it?

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3675″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”563px” Title=”Nemu Chu at Kissmetrics Blog – telling me a crazy story in 173 words before you get to the beef I want to read is not effective use of the story metaphor ” alt=”Nemu Chu at Kissmetrics Blog – telling me a crazy story in 173 words before you get to the beef I want to read is not effective use of the story metaphor”]

2. Gut feelings are out, science is in

The fact is that science tells us that a person decides whether or not to read your story within the first five to ten seconds. If just your title is 12 words long, you have five seconds left to get the person’s attention – at most.

Using a story about driving a Porsche blindfolded is cute… but will it get your target audience’s attention? Of course, we are all smart and at least one of us will point out:

What is the target audience? Are these geeks doing social media monitoring, managers or housemen/housewives?

This is an important question. Research with over 400,000 page visitors to some of the biggest websites in the US provides the answer. It points out regardless of your target audience, they want a headline that is relevant to them. As well, if the first three lines of text fail to convey anything important, 60 percent will already be gone by line four.

Hence, striving for high quality content means short introductory stories at the beginning might work very well. Long-winded intros are less likely to encourage your reader to go beyond the second mobile screen.

3. Facebook or Twitter: Check before sharing

Getting 300 percent more readers thanks to starting a blog entry with a story is a wonderful result. But I hope you do not mind me asking:

– What type of story are we talking about (e.g., length, relevance, etc.)?
– What type of story will work with my audience?

I was unable to get an answer to these questions in those blog entries as mentioned above.

So I took the trouble to dig a bit deeper in the subject matter. For instance, in the Search Engine Journal’s entry the author had used a model from a study on mice (see below).

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3598″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”781px” height=”472px” Title=”Nice graphic – that is the proposed model, but what about the one confirmed by Lisrel analysis? That looks a bit different!” alt=”Nice graphic – that is the proposed model, but what about the one confirmed by Lisrel analysis? That looks a bit different!”]

I then found the original paper from which the above graphic was taken. Read it here (sign up free to view and download the paper): The Customer loyalty to content-based Web sites: The case of an online health-care service. Journal of Services Marketing, Vol 18(3):175-186, May 2004

The paper yielded some interesting new facts that we should ponder.

For instance, on page 179 of the paper, the reader is told that the study is based on 421 usable responses on a health site. Where the site is located and in which language content is written is not clear.

We are also told that the online survey was responded to by 6 percent of those that were asked to fill it out while visiting the website. Moreover, 93 percent of these respondents are women (see page 180).

Just looking at this information tells us that the study does not allow us to generalise from its findings due to sample selection and so forth.

Also, “Need fulfillment” is set to equal content quality by the Search Engine Journal’s author Razvan Gavrilas. However, as the study clarifies, need fulfillment was measured using four items. We are not given their exact wording except one: Net Clinic meets my personal needs (page 179). For all I know, this could mean finding the doctor’s address I am looking for. That does not measure content quality, does it?

Put differently, the study does not address quality content. Hence, the Search Engine Journal’s author simply misconstrued the study’s findings, then wrote a great story about it. But storytelling based on misinterpreting research findings does not help us gain and maintain our readers’ trust.

4. Checklist

This story perfectly illustrates that one best check one’s sources carefully. Unless you prefer to have metaphorical egg on your face as a blogger?

Here are four science-based tips that will help you use storytelling effectively while building trust and reputation for your publication.

[su_box title=”The no bullshit guide to better blogging” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]
1. Mobile readers want you to get to the point – fast.
First, tell me why you think I should read this, and what I will get out of it (20 words max).

Second, don’t give me a 170-word story about the blindfolded Porsche driver. Start your blog entry with a great story but keep it to about 30 to 50 words maximum.

By the time they hit 60 to 100 words (including the headline), readers want to be convinced that reading onward is worth their time.

2. Remember your favourite librarian’s advice.
I remember a librarian telling students in her workshop for new library users: “When doing your semester paper, do not cite an article you found in some paper’s reference list before checking the original. It could be that the author misquoted it or misinterpreted the original paper’s findings.”

Of course, for some of us the clincher was that she stated: “If your professor knows the author or has read the original study, they will know if you misquoted or misinterpreted something. That could not only be embarrassing, but as importantly, lower your grade.”

Just checking a URL in a LInkedIn news update leading to a blog will not do. Go to the original study the blogger refers to and make sure they got it right.

3. Great science is a start.
As a blogger, check your sources. Does the article or white paper from Adobe represent science or a poorly-veiled sales pitch, though nicely packaged?

A first danger sign is a report that contains superfluous content or lacks a method section. Another sign could be that a lot of color and ink has been wasted to make things look pretty, but the report lacks any depth or detail.

4. Instinct and gut feelings have no place here.
Some examples:

10 Qualities of People With High Emotional Intelligence
These Are the 30 Most Motivational Books Ever Written
9 Affirmations the Most Successful People Repeat Each and Every Day
The Top 8 Skills Wealthy People Have Mastered

The headlines above are great link bait. And yes, unless our headline stirs the reader’s interest, they will never read anything beyond it.

Nevertheless, claiming something or suggesting a checklist based on your opinion will not do. Martha Lane Fox is right, ditch your instinct and opinions, but back your choices up with data and facts.

Of course, some master the art of an attention grabbing headline and then really deliver the bacon in their blog entries, such as: WordStream: 5 Lazy Tips to Cut Your PPC Budget in Half


5.  Bottom line

CLICK - Starting with best science is a good start, but it must also lead to a better life.Asked what advice she wished she had received at 25, Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of Lastminute.com led with hiring. Instinct should be ditched, she told the BBC, in favour of a slower-burn audition of candidates (as mentioned by Emma De Vita 2016-03-28, FT p. 8).

Believing a person’s CV or LinkedIn Update (with a link to an article) is fine. Better yet is to go and check the original article, including research, to see if the claims made can be trusted.

In the case of hiring, encourage many staff to talk to the person. If possible, ask the candidate to spend a day or two at your office.

Headlines such as “6 things successful people do every morning” are great teasers. Inc. Wire is a master at this. However, besides some opinions from the authors of such entries, science does not play any role.

Instead, reading tea leaves or misinterpreting research if some is used is most likely the case. In turn, the suggestions should be taken with a grain of salt.

Would you rather trust a therapy to save your life based on somebody’s opinion or the best science and tests?
Are you willing to invest your hard earned cash in something somebody just believes in?
Would you not sleep better tonight if the numbers tell the story?

Let us focus more on observation of behaviour, instead of claims or accounts of people’s behaviour (e.g., as stipulated by authors of a blog or magazine article).

6. Have your say – join the conversation

I have decided to follow Sandra’s advice: “Urs, show me the numbers!”

  • What do you advise corporate bloggers to do to write high quality content?
  • Do you like reading a made-up kind of story at the beginning of a corporate blog entry?
  • Do you prefer the author cutting to the chase straight away in a blog entry?
  • Does any news you get from corporate blogs affect your decision-making at work?

The author declares that he had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry.

Final thoughts

The sad fact is that in a world where BuzzFeed, Gawker, Vice, Vox and others increasingly chase advertising dollars, fewer and fewer resources are left over to check original sources. Instead, storytelling or headlines use click bait, sensationalism and so forth to get the clicks needed to gain the most pageviews.

The only option we have is to not waste our time on such content. If many of us stop, it will result in fewer clicks and advertising dollars for such sites. I have therefore decided to no longer visit Inc. Wire’s content. Nor do I care about Gawker or BuzzFeed. But I will not hold my breath that things will improve soon… Of course, quality content is not free – somebody pays. In the case of this blog, it’s my company :-)

Pray for Ilayda Yildiz #helpilayda

Help for cancer patients: FIND the right treatment and hospital.

Need this in German?
– Crowdfunding Kampagne: Rettet Ilayda

Ilayda’s Blog
Facebook Page
Donate now please – it makes a REAL difference

We have raised about €550,000 and we thank all those that keep donations coming in.

This blog entry is part of our series on viral marketing and word-of-mouth marketing – WOMMA

The 2016 Campaigning Summit Switzerland (CSCH) was held about ten days ago. This year’s event was great, just like in 2015. We met some very interesting people during #CSCH16 and we look forward to #CSCH17.

This year we made a real effort to get input from campaigning experts at the event. We wanted their input regarding our strategy and what needed to be done. We wanted help to further improve our chances for a successful project that crowdsourced people to help our crowdfunding campaign succeed, which would make it possible for a young girl to receive life-saving cancer treatment.

The support we got was amazing. People contacted their virtual as well as offline networks to reach out to the crowd for support. Of course, our hashtag #helpilayda seemed to help as well.

At the center of this story is Ilayda Yildiz. She was born December 17, 2005 in Singen, Germany, a community on the Swiss border. On February 27, 2012, shortly after turning six, Ilayda’s parents were informed that preliminary tests suggested their child had leukemia. Additional tests revealed it to be acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), also known as acute lymphoid leukemia or acute lymphoblastic leukemia. About 75 percent of all childhood leukemias are ALL (see New York Times – Leukemia In-Depth Report very nicely structured, plenty of facts, numbers and diagrams).

For 20 percent of those suffering from ALL, chemotherapy will not help. This is what happened to Ilyada Yildiz, who is now 10 years old, and has been fighting her disease for four years. Estimates suggest:

6,000 people in the US (National Cancer Institute),
1,500 in Germany, and
150 in Switzerland die annually because they suffer from a chemotherapy-resistant type of leukemia.

But thanks to a new therapy called T cell therapy, 92 percent of 39 kids treated using CAR T-Cell therapy showed no evidence of cancer one month after treatment (see Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).

Various tests have found that the “CAR T-cell therapy can help patients that suffer under acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL),” (see ASH 2014, Abstract of study 382).

Unfortunately, this therapy is not covered by German or Swiss health insurance. The result is that those patients – primarily kids – die.

Just imagine what might happen if the treatment were covered:

Every year up to 1350 of 1500 patients in Germany, 130 of 150 patients in Switzerland and thousands more in France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands could be cured!

To help save Ilayda Yildiz’s life, we launched the #helpilayda #crowdfunding #campaign.

We recently spoke with Ilayda’s dad, Nuhaci Yildiz and asked him some questions. Here is the extended interview, translated into English. The shortened German version was also distributed to the press.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3545″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”410px” Title=”Nuhhaci Yildiz, Ilayda’s dad – #helpilayda” alt=”Nuhhaci Yildiz, Ilayda’s dad – #helpilayda”]

Your donation will help save Ilayda’s life – donate now to the campaign trust account

1. Did you ever imagine you would get the funds you need?

All we knew was that we had to do everything we could to raise the necessary money. So many people have helped with that, and to this day, some of the most important wish to remain anonymous. They helped us with strategy, went out on their own and made amazing contacts, who in turn have supported our efforts and still do.

Thanks to social networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, as well as YouTubers, bloggers, and print media, the campaign has gained enormous momentum since the end of February.

2. How much money have you raised so far?

We’ve raised over €500,000, and new donations come in every day. Even those funds will be put to good use, as the costs of follow-up and any additional treatments could easily reach another several hundred thousand, according to the doctors.

3. How do you feel about celebrities joining your cause?

We’re grateful, of course, but that was really just the beginning. The original idea behind having people like like Manuel Neuer, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sally and Bülent Ceylan take selfies was actually to cheer Ilayda up. Later, those selfies were shared among people’s social networks.

The major work of the ‘helpilayda’ campaign has only been going for about 10 days. We’re not quite sure where and how the donations are coming from. A lot is coming in through social media, but associations, private citizens, and corporations are also donating, among others. Plus a lot of supporters have done mass mailings and telephone campaigns on their own.

It is equally important that our situation is seen as an example of how amazing it is when people from across Europe and beyond help one another. Differences, whether race, religion, creed, or origin do not matter, and that fact is deeply moving.

4. Has Ilayda become a symbol for the fight against childhood cancers, and does that inspire pride, in spite of all your worry?

I don’t think I would use the word pride here. But I am convinced that many readers of this blog have been affected by similar situations in their lives, either directly or indirectly.

For example, someone in your immediate or extended family has a serious illness, which causes the family as a whole much pain, sorrow, and worry. Fear, loss of security (such as losing your job, as I did), etc., are all things that make a difficult situation even harder.

Our family is only one example. I am in awe of all the families I have had the privilege of meeting in the last five years. Many were brave and tried to make the best of very difficult situations, both medical and emotional. Each family suffers greatly when one of their children is so ill for so long.

5. When will Ilayda fly to the US and which clinic will she be treated at?

That’s an excellent question that we don’t know the answer to because it depends on so many factors.
Dr Rupert Handgretinger and his team in Tübingen are working to figure out when exactly Ilayda will be ready for such a long trip. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to leave within a couple of weeks, at the latest, because whatever we do, time is a critical factor. I’m sure the results of the next bone marrow biopsy will also play a part.

The clinic that will provide the treatment is also not yet clear, partly because we don’t know how soon Ilayda can fly to the US (i.e. a US travel visa), and which clinic can provide the best care as soon as possible. Of course, we hope to be on our way very soon. Even we still have several questions and this uncertainty is difficult to cope with.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3546″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”410px” Title=”Ilayda Yildiz having a good time” alt=”Ilayda Yildiz having a good time”]

6. What kind of therapy does Ilayda need?

Ilayda needs Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, which requires gene manipulation. Basically, the patient’s own T-cells are removed and modified in the lab so they recognize other cells with a specific protein and attack them. The CD19 protein, which is found on the surface of almost all Type B cells (both normal and cancerous) can be used for this type of therapy. These modified T-cells are known in the medical field at “CD19-chimeric antigen receptor T-cells” or “CD19-CAR T-cells” for short (more information from the US National Cancer Institute).

7. Once the treatment is successful, what, besides good health, is your greatest wish for your family?

My fondest wish is that we will be able to live a completely normal life again. For us, that means the children go back to school in Singen and play with others their age and enjoy their youth. My wife will have a little more time to do the things she enjoys. And hopefully, I’ll quickly find another job. Those are our most important wishes. A simple life that unfolds predictably.

8. What has been your experience of your fellow human beings during all your years of struggle? How has Ilayda managed to touch so many people so profoundly?

Many people have helped, both near and far; in Germany and neighbouring Switzerland. Most surprising has been the support from lands far from Singen, like the Netherlands and the US. We haven’t been able to meet many of these people in person yet. But they have all helped us with administration, communications, and much more.

The medical personnel has also been absolutely amazing in treating our daughter and their support has been huge. We would like to thank all of them for their care.

9. How is Ilayda’s sister?

Given the situation, she’s doing quite well. Of course, her school work is suffering, no question. But her life philosophy and way of being are often pillars of strength for us. I admire her strength and optimism.

10. Should people keep donating? Surely, you’ll need funds to live on after all these years of caring so devotedly for your daughter. Where should the donations be sent?

Our donation campaign is only about Ilayda. What we’re concerned about is the cost of follow-up care and check-ups. Just last week, we learned that this will be equally expensive. The cost is a question we are often asked, but unfortunately, we ourselves don’t know the answer yet. If only we did.

At the moment, none of the doctors has an exact figure, but we know that our health insurance certainly will not cover it. But thanks to the many donors and helpful people, we hope to be able to manage this as well. Still, the first step is Ilayda’s treatment in the US, so she can finally go back to leading a normal life.

Her strength and sheer will to live inspire me every day, and often bring me to tears. Despite everything, my wife and I are hopeful for a happy future.

Your donation will help save Ilayda’s life – donate now to the campaign trust account

Please help Ilayda.

Register yourself to get our April post about the 6 best monitoring tools we used for this crowdfunding campaign via email.

The authors declare that they had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry.

[su_box title=”Table 1: Creating a Foundation: Help Ilayda – The tear of an angel” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″ width=”px 700″ ]At the moment we are trying to decide whether we should start a non-profit foundation, and if so, how. A foundation would enable full tansparency of when and how the donated funds are used, which is extremely important to the family.

Here is a summary:

  1. The mission of the Foundation is the advancement of science, research, medical care, and youth aid, as well as the support of people whose physical, mental or spiritual situation requires help from others.
  1. Fulfillment of this mission will be achieved through eight specific areas of focus:
  • Public education regarding rare diseases and how we can help through conferences, publications, and lectures;
  • Support for research and development;
  • Education for children, youth, and adults dealing with illness regarding their situation;
  • Assistance with or complete assumption of treatment costs, including but not limited to travel, housing, follow-up care, and check-ups, as well as delayed costs such as care assistance, and education, which are not covered by public health schemes, insurance companies and / or public institutions;
  • Day-to-day assistance for affected parents and children, such as housekeeping assistance, childcare, transportation, physical maintenance, and stress management;
  • Safeguarding the livelihood of parents and children in order to maintain an adequate quality of life;
  • Supporting children of affected adult patients or siblings of affected juvenile patients through activity programs, field trips or individual gifts;
  • Sponsorhsip of projects, organisations, people or establishments (i.e. pediatric cancer wards), with a mission and vision that aligns with our own.


How can you help?

We want this story to go viral and hope that through this crowdsourcing effort we can secure the funds needed to save Ilayda’s life, BUT after reading Ilayda’s blog entry, we need your help:

– What skills, talents, know-how, contacts can you offer to help save Ilayda’s life?

– Any other suggestions or ideas you have about the guidelines for our non-profit foundation?


Update 2016-03-17
Yesterday American doctors informed us that our budget should also include an item for follow-up treatment.
By now we have raised some money and are continuing to also raise funds to be able to pay for subsequent check-ups and treatment. We can do this with your help. Thank you.

Update 2016-03-15
#helpilayda we have collected more than €420’000
we stop at €800’000 ==> depending on where in the USA the therapy will happen, it will cost more or less.

Update 2016-03-14
#helpilayda we have collected more than €300’000 

Update 2016-03-13
#helpilayda we collected over €200,000 so far – a first in the D-A-CH region of countries – social media can make something happen.

Our campaign to secure the funding needed to save Ilayda Yildiz’s life is in full swing. Our German blog entry, #helpilayda – Crowdfunding Kampagne: Rettet das Leben von Ilayda Yildiz, was launched successfully last Friday.
Ilyada’s Blog
Facebook page
Donate now please – it makes a REAL difference

This blog entry is part of our series on viral marketing and word-of-mouth marketing – WOMMA

Who and what is this story about?

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3448″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”410px” Title=”This picture(right-hand side) shows (from left to right) Nuhhaci Yildiz, Hülya Yildiz, Ilayda Yildiz and her sister” alt=”This picture  (right-hand side) shows (from left to right) Nuhhaci Yildiz, Hülya Yildiz, Ilayda Yildiz and her sister”]

The above picture shows (from left to right) Nuhhaci Yildiz, Hülya Yildiz, Ilayda Yildiz and her sister.

At the center of this story is Ilayda Yildiz (second from right in the picture above). She was born December 17, 2005 in Singen, Germany, a community on the Swiss border. On February 27, 2012, shortly after turning six, Ilayda Yildiz’s parents were informed that preliminary tests suggested their child had leukemia. Additional tests revealed it to be acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), also known as acute lymphoid leukemia or acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The majority of leukemias diagnosed in childhood are ALL.

About 75 percent of all childhood leukemias are ALL (see New York Times – Leukemia In-Depth Report very nicely structured, plenty of facts, numbers and diagrams).

For 20 percent of those suffering from ALL, chemotherapy will not help. This is what happened to Ilyada Yildiz, who is now 10 years old, and has been fighting her disease since 2012. Estimates suggest:

6,000 people in the US (National Cancer Institute),
1,500 in Germany, and
150 in Switzerland die annually because they suffer from a chemotherapy-resistant type of leukaemia.

But thanks to a new therapy, 92 percent of these patients can recuperate fully.

Unfortunately, this therapy is not covered by German or Swiss health insurance. The result is that those patients – primarily kids – die.

Just imagine what would happen if the treatment were covered:

Every year up to about 1350 of 1500 patients in Germany or 130 of 150 patients in Switzerland and thousands more in France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands could be cured!

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3457″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”410px” Title=”Ilayda backstage in Stuttgart with Violetta from the Disney Telenovela” alt=”Ilayda backstage in Stuttgart with Violetta from the Disney Telenovela”]

The above image shows Ilayda backstage at Violetta – the Disney Channel Telenovela where a talented teenager returns to her hometown in Buenos Aires after living many years in Europe.

Where does this leave Ilayda?

Like 20 percent of leukaemia patients, Ilayda suffers from a type that is described as chemotherapy-resistent.

Her only option is a personalized treatment called T cell therapy.

This is a process whereby the patient’s own T-cells are removed and genetically engineered to attack his or her cancer cells. The modified t-cells are called CD19-chimeric antigen receptor T cells or CD19-CAR T cells (information from the US National Cancer Institute). These modified cells are then reinjected into the patient. In various tests, the “CAR T-cell therapy can help patients that suffer under acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL),”  (see ASH 2014, Abstract of study 382).

This treatment has been tested and successfully administered to several patients. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has conducted tests under the auspices of the US FDA (Federal Drug Administration) for CAR T-Cell therapy; they are leaders in the field.

92 percent of 39 kids treated using CAR T-Cell therapy showed no evidence of cancer one month after treatment. – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

How YOU can make a REAL difference in Ilayda’s life

We decided to try to raise the money to save Ilayda Yildiz’s life, so we launched the #helpilyada #crowdfunding #campagin.

We have all heard about crowdfunding campaigns to launch new products or influence the Presidential campaign. We also have seen others raise €100,000 or more for a child.

So, here is the poster for our campaign – you are welcome to use it to share good thoughts!

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Download the poster (745 KB PDF) for Crowdfunding Campaign #helpilayda: Please print and share

3. We need €823,471 to save Ilayda Yildiz’s life

So we need people like you. People who care about others and are willing to do some good. It will not cost you a fortune, and some will give more than others. No matter what, every donation is generous and every single dollar counts towards helping to pay for Ilayda’s treatment.

Crowdfunding is part of fundraising, but crowdfunding focuses on one project with a time limit.

In the case of the #helpilyada crowdfunding campaign we want to raise enough money to pay for Ilayda to receive life-saving CAR T-cell therapy at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP for short).

For instance, we need resources to pay for Ilyada and her family to get to Philadelphia (US) and back. Her parents and sister will have to accompany her to provide the support she needs to keep up her spirits.

So if you know an airline that could help, please reach out to us here through the blog or via the contact form. We will get in touch with you like Speedy Gonzales.

But real cash is necessary to pay for the laboratory and genetic engineering work at the hospital to produce and pay for the CD19-chimeric antigen receptor T-cells, or CD19-CAR T-cells for short.

The procedures and required hospital stay must be financed as well.

At this stage the family has raised €90,650 (2016-02-03), so there is still a long way to go – another €700,000. Ilayda’s parents are at their limit. Their financial resources are tapped out, and the emotional rollercoaster hasn’t helped.

Likes on Facebook are great. Using our hashtag #helpilayda helps too. But what we need most is donations from the heart!



Even Christiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) has joined the fund raising efforts for Ilayda Yildiz. He wishes her great success.


Your donation can be the last bit we need to make it happen and save Ilayda from a life cut indecently short.

[su_box title=”Table – this is how you can help Ilayda today” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″ width=”px 700″ ]1. Money matters.

In this case it is money that will make it possible for Ilayda to get the life-saving treatment, so please give now:

Here is your chance to be part of the group that support Ilayda’s fight for survival – do it with a smile.

2. How can we get airline tickets, hotel stays and so forth to make this happen?

We need your help to connect with those who can provide tickets. Can you make use of your contacts?

Ilayda’s parents and her sister (what a trooper she is!) will have to travel with her, so Ilayda has the emotional support she needs to keep fighting.

What about Novartis, can you help us get Ilayda into their European trials? Anybody have an idea, maybe Susan Longman who is Head, Drug Regulatory Affairs, Europe and Great China at Novartis Pharma AG?

3. Will we get the crowdfunding or is it a pipedream?

We do not know if we will succeed with this crowdsourcing project. But we feel it is worth every hour of our time to help save another child’s life.

We need your support and help to make this happen. Your comment here, and your Like is an important step. But please do not stop there, go beyond and become one of our donors.


4. Can Novartis help?

Novartis plays a big part in these trials, as David Lebwohl and Usman (Oz) Azam (both Novartis employees) point out. David Lebwohl also states that:

The treatment doesn’t exist until we transform the patient’s own cells into CTL019 cells and deliver them back to the patient.

According to this blog entry, the company is looking at doing cross-country trials, in turn bringing CTL019 clinical trials across borders…

Apparently, European health authorities have helped Novartis start clinical trials across the Atlantic, as mentioned by Eric Couture, head of Regulatory in the Cell and Gene Therapies Unit.

5. What can you do?

We want this story to go viral and hope that with this crowdsourcing effort we secure the funds needed to save Ilayda’s life, BUT after reading Ilayda’s blog entry, we need your help:

– What skills, talents, know-how, contacts can you offer to help save Ilayda’s life?

– As of 2016-02-03, we have raised €90,650, but we still need YOUR CONTRIBUTION to get another €709,350 to make this happen.

6. More interesting information

Crowdfunding campaign: Save Ilayda

Update 2014-03-07 DrKPI – #helpilayda – CyTRAP Labs GmbH donated €750  – Please contribute as much as you can and help us save Ilayda Yildiz’s life

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3428″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” class=”alignleft” width=”780px” margin=”2px” height=”407px” Title=”#helpilayda Crowdfunding campaign – save Ilayda’s life” alt=”#helpilayda Crowdfunding campaign – save Ilayda’s life”]

More information about the CAR T-cell therapy

Ilaydas blog

NIH – US National Cancer Institute – CAR T-Cell Therapy: Engineering Patients’ Immune Cells to Treat Their Cancers

Brower, Vicki (April 1, 2015). The CAR T-Cell Race. Retrieved March 2, 2016 from http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/42462/title/The-CAR-T-Cell-Race/

President Obama’s “Moonshot” to Cure Cancer

Orphan Healthcare – Foundation for Rare Diseases

Your donation will help save Ilayda’s life – donate now (trust account)

Please, don’t forget to to ask your employer to match your donation. This will help your donation go much further! Thank you. 

The authors declare that they had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry.

Drinking Red Bull boosts job performance
Math-myopia and Prince Harry: do these numbers from Red Bull about performance enhancements make sense?

Will drinking Red Bull and smoking cigars boost our productivity at work?
Will sleep deprivation increase the number of mistakes we make?

This post addresses these questions, as well as how math-myopia affects love for metrics and statistics about sports, dieting, work injuries and so forth.

This blog entry is part of our series on business analytics and big data

If you read German, check out our series on political campaigning and the usefulness of polling (US presidential election).

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1.1 Making a good guess: Avoid base rate neglect

When we combine two pieces of information, we tend to ignore one of them completely. This phenomenon is called “base rate neglect”. For example, the base rate tells us how many people are affected by bowel cancer (6 out of 100), or how many have a fatal injury at work (i.e. 142 deaths per year in the UK – a rate of 0.46 deaths per 100,000 workers).

Knowing the base rate helps put things in perspective.

1.2 Our culture makes it acceptable to say, “I do not do numbers.”

Imagine a study that presents a test that is 75 percent accurate. In 25 percent of the cases where the test predicts a self-reported injury at work will happen, it does not. This is called a false positive.

What is the chance that the person has a work-related accident? Intuitively we might say that in 75 percent of cases a fatal accident will occur. However, the correct answer is, ‘we do not know’ – unless we have the base rate.

To illustrate, if we test 100 people and 4 come out positive, 3 were rightfully identified to likely have a work-related accident and 1 was wrongfully identified. But wait! Of the 96 others, 24 (= 25 percent) will have a false positive. This means we predict a non-fatal work injury, but they will not have one.


Unfortunately, in a culture where Prince Harry can publicly state that he may not have the math skills to be an air ambulance helicopter pilot, he is likely to ignore the base rate…

The base rate is a good way to start if we want to forecast something or put test results in perspective (see Tables 2 and 3 below).

Below we illustrate this a bit more with an example based on a May 2015 Financial Times article, which nicely illustrates how things can be misconstrued by journalists.

To reduce this risk, we must go to the trouble and check the numbers.

Financial Times gets the ball rolling

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Great headline. Unfortunately, the FT journalist fails to refer us readers to the original study from which she got these numbers.

I left a comment, asking author and Employment Correspondent Sarah O’Connor for help.

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My comment (see above image) did not get published, nor did I get an answer from the journalist regarding my query.

So as a paying subscriber, should I trust these claims? Might it be wiser to go and check?

You guessed, I continued digging myself. An interesting journey that took me 28 minutes…

The Daily Mail

I found an article from the Daily Mail (see image below).

But it referred to an earlier article by Mail staff referring to a study by Uppsala University (Sweden) researchers.

References? None whatsoever!
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So where did the Financial Times’ (FT) journalist find the information if not from the Daily Mail?

Huffington Post links to FT

The Huffington Post managed a link to the FT article from which it had copied. In other words, to avoid copyright infringement the journalist had done a fast re-write. The content was the same as in the FT article using different wording.

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So the Huffington Post failed to add substance to what was posted in the FT. What now?

Vitality Health Life – study cannot be found

You might suggest as a good next step to go and check whether the sponsor of a study might offer the full report. That is what we did.

Unfortunately, the sponsor’s website did not make it easy – it failed basic usability requirements. After some digging we found something, but it did not link to the original or complete report either.

You got that right, the sponsor did not provide the full report. Just a bit of information and nothing more. Real bummer.

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Do another organic search

Maybe a search with different keywords could help? Read on and find out. Incidentally, why not subscribe to this blog’s newsletter right now?

[su_box title=”Table 2: 6 things we must do to make sure the numbers add up” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″ width=”px 700″ ]

2.1 Go search for the original (see organic search data in image below)

This got me the link to the Rand Corporation. Here something was written up about the study. But once you have the original study, read it carefully, including the method section.

2.2 Read the method and result section carefully

To illustrate, I recently read:

Murray, Sarah (2016-02-26). Frustrated US workers go it alone. Freelancing. Work is becoming more flexible but less secure. Financial Times, FT Executive Appointments. Employment Global Best Practice. Retrieved, Feb. 27, 1026 from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/6030a0dc-d0b2-11e5-92a1-c5e23ef99c77.html

I went to the original study, Freelancing, and found another study where the authors do not provide a methodology section.

After reading such a study, make sure the following four questions are answered and if not, don’t make decisions based on such work:

2.2.a — How was the sample selected? No information given in the report!
2.2.b –What kind of survey was used? No information given!
2.2.c — Were participants interviewed using an online survey? No information!
2.2.d — Was a combination of landline and cellphone random digit dialing samples used to get responses through interviews? No information!

If the report does not provide information regarding questions 2.2.a to 2.2.d, should I trust it?

Put differently, as a shareholder or tax assessor, would you trust the company’s financial statements if answers to such auditor questions were missing?

Certainly not, so why should you trust such numbers for an opinion poll? I rest my case!


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Rand Corporation

A short description is offered and at the bottom a link to the report. Another page opens with another description about the study. Eureka – I can finally download the report.

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The report itself is very interesting. On page 11 it introduces the reader to the concept of abseenteeism and presenteeism.

– Absenteeism refers to the measure of days absent from work
– Presenteeism refers to the measure of reduced productivity while at work (e.g., due to headache, flu, etc.).

On page 12, it goes on to say, “The instrument consists of six questions with a recall time frame of seven days. The questions ask whether the respondent is employed; the number of hours missed from work; the number of hours actually worked; and the degree to which the respondent feels that a health problem has affected productivity while at work and affected their ability to do daily activities other than work. WPAI-GH outcomes are expressed as impairment percentages, where higher percentages indicate greater impairment and lower productivity. We use the following three work-related impairment percentages calculated on the basis of the WPAI-GH scale

– Per cent work time missed due to ill-health (absenteeism),
– Per cent impairment while working due to ill-health (presenteeism),
– Per cent overall work impairment due to ill-health (absenteeism and presenteeism).”

Hafner, Marco; van Stolk, Christian; Saunders, Catherine, L; Krapels, Jochim; Baruch, Ben (May 22, 2015). Health, wellbeing and productivity in the workplace. A Britain’s Healthiest Company summary report. Retrieved, May 31, 2015 from http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR1000/RR1084/RAND_RR1084.pdf

What is the problem with the Rand study?

The survey depends on how well subjects recollect facts from last week. But do seven days in a person’s year accurately reflect the status of their health? Additionally, does it make a difference if we collected these data in July, October, December or February of the year we studied?

Finally, large companies are over-represented in this sample. Moreover, companies with under 50 employees – over 70 percent of British firms – could not participate.

So is this a great study? It is very interesting, but the journalists’ interpretation of these data far exceeds what the authors infer from their own data.

By the way, there is research that is far better suited than the above to learning how sleep deprivation can affect job performance or studying math.

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Lack of sleep increases risk of failure in school

Uppsala University to the rescue

Olga E. Titova, et al., (2014) Associations of self-reported sleep disturbance and duration with academic failure in community-dwelling Swedish adolescents. Sleep Medicine doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2014.09.004 Retrieved May 31, 2015 from http://www.researchgate.net/…… (click on citation to get study link since it is too long to post here).

The study included 20,000 adolescents aged 12 to 19. This longitudinal study was conducted from 2005 to 2011. About 30 percent of participants reported regular sleep problems.

The study found that if you have less than seven hours of sleep, data indicate an increased risk of failure in school.

The group also found in a previous study that going without a night of sleep increased toxic substances in the brain. Possible increased risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis was reported. Other prior research shows how the brain uses sleep to cleanse itself.

Interesting Reading

2015-07-20 – One night of sleep loss can alter clock genes in your tissues
2015-07-13 – Sleep loss makes memories less accessible in stressful situations
Three studies show that teens should decrease screen time before going to bed

Bottom line: Show me the data…

[su_box title=”Table 3: Does the story meet 2 critical benchmarks?” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″ width=”px 700″ ]

1. Does the article provide the reader with a link to the original study discussed?

Every journalist does some research before writing their story. If the original material is available online, why not reference it? Saves your reader time and gives them a chance to read up on this interesting topic.

Hence, the printed article should provide a link to the original source(s). At the very least, it should refer to the online version of the article where links to the original sources are provided.

2. Does the study report provide the reader with a method section?

Explain succinctly how you did the study, such as:

“The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted February 18-21, 2016 among a national sample of 1,002 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in the continental United States (501 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 501 were interviewed on a cellphone, including 312 who had no landline telephone)….

A combination of landline and cellphone random digit dialing samples were used… Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Respondents in the landline sample were selected by randomly asking for the youngest adult male or female currently at home. Interviews in the cell sample were conducted with the person who answered the phone, if that person was an adult 18 years of age or older.”

Great read: PEW – information about our survey methodology

For those like Prince Harry, who claims, “I can’t do maths,” the above paragraph can be a lifesaver.


If you read an article like the one for this post, better check the number to see if the headline by the journalist can be justified from the study’s results. Very likely it cannot, so putting decreasing amounts into content seems to only viable strategy left.

And to answer our question in the title: No study shows drinking #RedBull boosts job performance.

However, it does increase your daily sugar intake significantly, which is probably not a good thing.

Join the conversation

  1. Do you have an example of how mathematics phobia is affecting basic mastery of mathematics skills?
  2. Do you have a good example of a sponsored study that addresses some of the issues outlined here?
  3. How do you make good guesses about things that affect your decision-making (i.e. invest my money here or there…)?

Of course, I will answer you in the comments. Guaranteed.

Can we trust these numbers?

Interesting reads point out that trust is learned more than inherited. Trust is socially received and transmitted.

The truth about trust
Van Lange, P. A. M. (2015). Generalized trust: Four lessons from genetics and culture. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24, 71–76.