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01.08.16 / Architect’s of Next: Building emotional connections / Yossi Erdman, AO.com

He’s really got under the skin of what social media should be for brands: experimentation, real customer understanding and constant interactions.

A degree in psychology and 10 years as a radio DJ in Tel Aviv has given Erdman the perfect grounding to really understand how people want to engage with brands. During his time on the radio, he was the voice and substance – creating brand promotions that talked to the listener. He is driven by a healthy dose of realism that people don’t care much about brands: “Unless you can create a meaningful connection with someone they aren’t going to take any notice of you. And for that to happen it has to be about their story, their experiences and how a brand fits with their life. If we were giving away a phone for example, we did it by asking about messages you never meant to send. That’s funny and relatable. That’s a connection.”

Erdman moved to the UK six years ago and was looking for a role that would really benefit from his experience and skills in engaging people. Social media was a natural step and AO was the perfect match. “AO has always had the customer at the very heart of what they do, it’s why they’ve disrupted the appliance industry like no other. I do just what I did on the radio: bringing the products to life by getting AO customers to tell us their stories,” explains Erdman. His frustration is that most brands still don’t yet realise this. It’s about storytelling but it’s not about their story.

He’s the first to admit that on the surface home appliances aren’t that interesting, until you look at the emotional connection you have with them. When your washing machine breaks down it becomes the most important thing in your life. That, in part, informs his overall approach to AO’s social media – it’s not about big campaign spikes but being always-on: “We don’t know when you might need your next appliance, so we always have to be in the back of your mind. That’s why we focus on lightweight interactions. I see so many other people overthinking it and trying to go big everytime, which is hard to achieve, particularly on a consistent basis. You need little and often. Push the button and move on.”

“Too often I hear people asking the wrong questions to begin with: I need a video that costs £10k, where can I find a production company? What’s our seeding strategy? That completely misses the point. You need to think about starting small and about what your customer wants to see from you. Then you can put your feet down, start to run faster and invest more money.”

Erdman knows social has to be about authenticity and relevance – do they really mean what they say or is it just to convince me to buy something? He wants to show the genuine excitement customers have around the AO brand. He recalls a woman from Wales sending in a funny but emotional video about the death of her washing machine: “It was so personal, and she’d taken the time to come to us. We had to respond, so we called her and told her we were sending her a new one that day. That was recorded and went up on YouTube and Facebook, the response was phenomenal. We now do a surprise and delight ‘competition’ every week and record winner’s reactions. Even if you weren’t the winner you want to listen to the reactions.”

But it’s not just Erdman’s uncanny ability to understand what gets a customer to meaningfully engage, he is very aware that the environment he’s in is always changing. What worked on social last year doesn’t necessarily work today. That’s probably why, refreshingly, Erdman doesn’t extol past successes but uses them as a springboard to achieve something even better. The focus for the AO brand & social team is constantly evolving and testing its social approach, content and ideas: “There are very few rules for what you need to do on social media and those rules are always changing. To stay ahead you have to be flexible and keep experimenting. I see too many people in social media hold back on an idea because they’re worried they won’t get positive results to report back. That’s not where success comes from. It should be more about learning what works and what doesn’t, and that comes from trying and being prepared to fail.

It’s a salient point worth reminding ourselves, how well do you know your customer if you don’t know what doesn’t work? And with that he’s off back to Manchester, succeeding in not being afraid to fail and at the same time making the world of washing machines a far more exciting place.

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This is our #ArchitectsOfNext series, where we aim to inspire others with firsthand insight into how people shaping innovative digital engagement models think and deliver their work.

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