Monday, November 1, 2010

Rough, Tough Social Media Monitoring: Carhartt

This post was originally created as class assignment #1 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on September 27, 2010.
This post was originally created as class assignment #6 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on November 1, 2010.
The first step in creating a “listening strategy” FOR Carhartt is to listen TO Carhartt. The descriptions they share on their official website (which they go to lengths to brand as “official”) about their company, product line, distribution and target audience provide a quick sketch of the brand’s marketing footprint. That insight will help guide the creation of a social media strategy for them, and will provide a benchmark for determining how what others say about the brand compares with what the Company is saying.

Company: Carhartt is a Dearborn, Michigan-based clothing manufacturer. “For 120 years, Carhartt has created and manufactured premium work clothing known for exceptional durability, comfort, quality of construction, and fit that you can feel in the fabrics and see in the performance.”

Products: “Expanding the line from the traditional outerwear pieces, Carhartt now offers a complete product line for warm and cold weather alike that includes jeans and work pants, shirts, sweats, shorts, tee's and accessories. A variety of features such as premium fabrics, rugged construction, and comfortable fit are just some of the hallmarks of Carhartt workwear that fit our customer's needs in the toughest conditions.”

Distribution: Carhartt men’s, women’s and children’s clothing is sold primarily via a network of independent retailers and chains, as well as direct online and via a number of online retail partners.

Target: Carhartt summarizes their target market as follows: “As a choice brand of those who work and play outdoors, Carhartt is proud to serve a variety of workers in many industries including construction and manufacturing along with farmers, ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts.”

Carhartt’s current social media profile:
Carhartt participates in the social media conversation. Their website includes several new media features, including a number of blogs (currently 7, including product, and customer service, and topical), an online promotions (the October promotion, “Built to Outperform Sweepstakes” is assumed to be representative example of their ongoing activity), and they also engage via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube.

Scope of Social Media Monitoring Strategy:
For the purposes of this analysis, we will assume that Carhartt has a current strategy and system for capturing and analyzing the conversation that happens on their own website and social media channels. Test monitoring indicates that Carhartt representatives promptly respond to questions, comments and complaints left on their site and communicated directly to the company through social media. The monitoring strategy outlined here will expand on that, helping Carhartt monitor what’s being said outside of their “official” channels.

Who and what to monitor:
Carhartt can mine a tremendous amount of actionable information by tuning in to the social media conversation. The following categories are recommended for inclusion in their ongoing monitoring strategy:
Consumer reactions to products, including
  • Core target: Feedback on Carhartt’s own product performance claims (durability, warmth, etc) from users in their defined target (construction workers, farmers, outdoor enthusiasts, etc.) will help Carhartt gauge whether they’re putting the right stuff in the market, and whether it’s performing as promised. Test monitoring confirms that this audience is not shy about providing feedback
  • The “Anti-Target”: Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of monitoring Carhartt in social media is listening to Carhartt wearers the company is NOT expressly targeting: This group wears Carhartt for an “urban cache” they associate with the brand. Test monitoring indicates that this target is young, urban, and draws trend inspiration from street sports such as skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX bike racing, etc., as well as hip-hop and rap music. Even if Carhartt chooses never to court this buyer directly in the U.S., these consumers reflect the critical youth voice in fashion and culture, and can greatly expand overall market awareness of the Carhartt brand (or, if they chose to, could brand Carhartt as a loser).
  • International – a quick look at their own link to Carhartt Europe and comments monitored both here and abroad indicate that outside of the U.S., this “Anti-Target” is a primary target.
  • Consumer and Influencer reactions to advertising and promotions – Carhartt recently launched a new tv campaign and cross-media promotion, which generated significant response from both consumers and the media. Interpreting this feedback will help them determine whether and how to modify the campaign going forward.
  • Price/discounting/promotional information – which promotional levers are getting people’s attention (since Carhartt retailers appear to have significant latitude in how they price and promote, it would seem that the company could learn a lot by listening to retailers are going to market). For example, in test monitoring, a promotion through Cabela’s for a t-shirt selling for under $5 generated significant conversation.
  • Competitive information – At the very least, Carhartt should be monitoring what’s being said about core competitors like Dickies, Columbia, and Patagonia. Test monitoring indicated that consumers are choosing between these brands, and looking for recommendations from others.
  • Sentiment: In each of the above categories, a mechanism must be in place for evaluating whether mentions are positive, negative, or neutral; all impact brand awareness and resonance. Some monitoring tools allow the user to evaluate and manually assign sentiment, while others provide an automated assessment. Carhartt should be cautioned that automated assessments of sentiment are not perfect (it’s difficult for a computer to determine whether someone is happy or angry).

Keywords to monitor:
Primary keywords to track would include:
  • Carhartt
  • Work clothes, work clothing
  • Competivie brand names, including Dickies (Williamson Dickie), Patagonia, Columbia
  • Urban fashion brands (as determined by an expert), such as Stussy
  • Keywords specific to promotions, such as “Built to Outperform”
  • At least initially, also consider tracking “Carhart” to compensate for possible misspellings

Tools for Monitoring
Since this strategy calls on Carhartt to monitor numerous categories of information, a comprehensive tool or set of tools with broad functionality is called for, specifically:
  • Multiple social media platforms: Simply monitoring tweets will not provide adequate; blogposts, news mentions, and shopping sites must be monitored as well. And since Carhartt has evolved into a “lifestyle” brand (for both their primary and “anti” targets), sentiments shared on Facebook pages are also relevant to understanding and monitoring brand image and trends.
  • Team monitoring capability – the strategy must include a plan to divide listening responsibilities (and corresponding analysis and response duties) among experts within the company, and the monitoring tools must have this capability. If feasible, individuals currently responsible for monitoring Carhartt’s own channels should expand their monitoring to include the external conversation.Since Carhartt is currently monitoring and responding to comments on their own sites.
  • Reporting and Analytics – the effort is only worthwhile if actionable information is not only captured, but aggregated and analyzed. Ultimately, whichever monitoring tool or tools Carhartt chooses must be able feed into a comprehensive dashboard that all users can access (even though it is recommended that one administrator have oversight, working with each “listener” to summarize information.

I’m reluctant to recommend specific tools based on the information available to “free test drive” users like me. But among the monitoring tools offered for consideration, I would recommend that Carhartt explore HootSuite Pro (a paid upgrade):
  • It monitors the major social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Fan Pages, LinkedIn, PingFM, WordPress, MySpace, Foursquare)
  • It can accommodate multiple users
  • It provides advanced reporting and analytics (even the ability to be combined with Google Analytics).

Incorporating Google Alerts into the listening mix would round out the strategy, providing additional monitoring of blog and news mentions.

(Carhartt may also wish to investigate having a more customizable monitoring system. A good place to start the search might be a social media monitoring resource wiki like this one.

Initial Findings from Test Monitoring:
The tool I used to conduct test monitoring was SocialMention, a free monitor that combined much, but not all, of the functionality recommended in the strategy. (It lacks some features like the ability to conduct and save multiple searches simultaneously, although it does provide for exportable CSV data).

A real-time monitoring of the keyword Carhartt on SocialMention illustrates just how much social media monitoring could reveal about Carhartt’s brand image:
  • Carhartt is being talked about, and overall sentiment is neutral-to-positive
  • Carhartt’s new TV campaign is being talked about (and in general, the reaction is positive)
  • Facebook mentions confirm that Carhartt is a go-to brand when the weather turns cold
  • Consumers are debating between Carhartt and Patagonia for cold-weather dressing – a competitive brand to watch
  • Examples of the “Anti-target” from Twitter and YouTube illustrate that a younger, edgier audience sees the brand as cool on its own, and by association with other lifestyle brands: Twitter: “Drooling over this setup…The Kona Bicycle Co, Jake the Snake, bike rack, Carhartt threads, and Smith optics”

Most amusing thing heard on Facebook, from Alaska news source the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman:
“Today a reporter from an Italian fashion magazine called to ask me for the name of Sarah Palin’s fashion consultant. I wish I’d thought to tell him ‘that’s Carhartt, with two Ts’.”

photo credits:  Label by mrdrei.andrei; Overalls by rasenicks

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