Friday, September 30, 2016

Brand Personality as a Point of Difference

Southwest Airlines is one of the earlier high profile examples of this. Co-founder and former CEO Herb Keleher, pursued a leadership style based on values, attitudes and culture and created a no frills airline that was fun. He believes in "hiring for attitude and training for skill." He has also said, “A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear.” 

GEICO has its lovable, charming gecko. Which led to more insurance companies trying to create their own personalities through advertising campaigns and their characters, such as Progressive's Flo.

As I recall the brands I have worked with over the years, brand personality has been an important part of several brand positioning projects. Here are some examples of that.

  • I worked with a federal credit union whose mantra was "simple, easy, fun." "Fun" was clearly differentiating in their category but we had to define how that personality attribute would play out at each point of customer contact.
  • We worked with a watch brand that was a symbol of its wearer's hyper-competence and hyper-confidence. 
  • I am currently working with a reinsurance company that is known for having a "sense of humor" because of a previous leader's personality. We may adopt that as a permanent part of that brand's DNA.
  • We positioned a health care system as being serious. It's point of difference was that it was a serious place for serious, complicated diseases and injuries. 
  • We helped a golf brand take on the personality of a serious, skilled, competent player so that the brand could be worn as a badge by people who were serious about golf.
  • I worked with a property management company whose primary point of difference was its friendliness and responsiveness to renter's needs.
  • We helped an insurance company adopt a set of values that is based on Christian values, generosity and caring for one another as a community.
  • When I was at Hallmark, the company's mission was to help people share their feelings and nurture relationships. We decided the brand's essence was "caring shared."
  • I worked with a continuing care retirement community that decided to focus on "family" including the love of family and family relationships.

While brand personality can be the result of a carefully crafted advertising campaign, more often than not, it becomes part of the brand's DNA. It becomes institutionalized and internalized by each employee. It even becomes part of the hiring criteria and performance appraisals. Consider choosing a unique and compelling brand personality as a part of your brand's unique value proposition.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Numbers versus Feelings

I have to admit, I am a sucker for rankings. For years, I led the alumni admissions efforts for my undergraduate alma mater. In that capacity, I followed every college/university ranking scheme published. I knew how the scores were calculated, where our school ranked, what its competition was and how to sell against that competition. 

More recently, I have been intrigued by municipality rankings. I think my interest began with the Places Rated Almanac and the Vacation Places Almanac. Since then, I have discovered that municipalities have been ranked in an amazing number of ways by a large number of organizations. Here are just some of the hundreds of ways in which municipalities are ranked:

  • Population
  • Best places to live
  • Livability
  • Cost of living
  • Best run 
  • Safest 
  • Most Bible-minded 
  • Cleanest
  • Equality index
  • Most dangerous
  • Most diverse
  • Highest quality of life
  • Greenest
  • Smartest
  • Richest
  • Best schools
  • Worst drinking water
  • Coolist
  • Most hip
  • Highest tax burden
  • Best for families
  • Best public transit
  • Most beautiful
  • Innovation
  • Best overall

Closer to the topic of this blog post, our BrandInsistence(SM) brand equity measurement system measures over 90 brand equity components. Each component receives a score and the scores are compared across customer segments and brands in the category.  My point is, I love numbers and the insights that they can provide. Having said that, sometimes it is useful to step back and ask, "How does our brand make people feel?" Forget the numbers, how does our brand make people feel?

Does your brand make people feel nostalgic? Does it make them feel important? Does it make them feel smart? Safe? Nurtured? Excited? Alive? Loved? Peaceful? Energized? Tough? Invincible? Playful? Naughty? Powerful? 

Or, does it make them feel used? Stupid? Angry? Inept? Impatient? Irritated? Small? Helpless? 

Think about it. How does your brand make people feel? At each point of customer contact? What does this mean for your brand? Is this what you want people to feel? Is this helpful in creating brand loyalty and brand advocates? Think about it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Strategy Alignment in Support of Brand Quality Perceptions

Recently, I have been helping owners of a luxury watch brand rethink their pricing strategy as it relates to their brand strategy. One of the exercises I engaged them in was to explore a wide variety of their strategies to determine to what degree they supported their intended brand image. In particular, I wanted them to think about all of the things that could enhance or detract from brand quality perceptions.

This is something every brand manager needs to think about whether working on a luxury brand or some other type of brand. Each of these is a signal to a brand's quality.

  • Craftsmanship
  • Design/Styling
  • Look/feel
  • Durability
  • Reliability
  • Awareness
  • Brand cache
  • Pricing 
  • Country of Origin
  • Scarcity
  • Outlets at which they are sold
  • Where they are advertised
  • Service and support
  • Reviews
  • Word of mouth
  • Brand story

It is surprising how many times we discover disconnects between the brand's intended image and the image that some of its strategies convey.

Assume you are a luxury brand. You should not sell in Wal-Mart. Depending how "high end" you are, you might not even want to sell in Target or Macy's. Luxury brands need controlled prices. The brand owner does not want to see them deeply discounted throughout the marketplace. You wouldn't expect to find a great watch brand produced in Mexico using Chinese movements. Nor would you expect to find a great wine brand produced in Siberia or Yemen. Luxury brands shouldn't seem to be ubiquitous in massive quantities. Even worse, the excess inventories should not show up on every discount website. A luxury brand should not show up on for $2.99 no matter how old, ragged or used. Some brands are only sold in their own stores on Rodeo Drive, Fifth Avenue and similar shopping districts in a handful of upscale communities worldwide. Rolex advertises at elite sporting events (maxi yacht races, polo matches, equestrian events and other similar events), not football games or bowling tournaments. 

It is amazing how many times one finds one or more of these out of alignment with what the brand is trying to communicate. I encourage you to to assess your brand's alignment against each of these. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

What Motivates Your Customer?

Let's start by thinking about what motivates marketers to perform their jobs. One might be inclined to say it is the mix of right brain (intuitive/creative) and left brain (analytical) activity that motivates that person. Or perhaps it is the project variety. Or the camaraderie of other marketers. (After all, they are more interesting than accountants, right?) But what motivates a salesperson? The opportunity to interact with other people and schmooze? Or, more likely, it is the ability to earn a lot of money. How about a market researcher? Is it the "aha" of discovering a previously masked pattern or enabling an important insight? Or perhaps it is the Zen of crunching numbers and building charts. How about for a graphic designer at an ad agency? Is it the fun environment? Perhaps it is the freedom of creative expression. Or maybe it is the pride of seeing one's finished work in the marketplace. What motivates a direct marketer? Or a digital marketer? Or a product manager? Or a brand manager? Or a brand licensing manager? Or a trade marketing specialist? It could one of a hundred different things. Or it could just be the security of a regular paycheck for work that one can perform with some level of competence. 

Now flip this question over to your customers. What motivates a person to buy a specific watch? Or a car? Or a painting? Or a bottle of wine? Or a pair of shoes? Or jewelry? Or a scarf? Or patio furniture? Or a book? Or orange juice?

Let's just take watches. Is a watch a timepiece for him or her? Is it a status symbol? Is it jewelry? Does it need to match a particular outfit? Does it communicate a specific lifestyle? Or a specific personality? Is it for a specific use? Does it accompany one scuba diving? Does it need to be a specific color? Does it need to indicate how affluent one is? Does it help one not to miss appointments? Does it need to work across wardrobes and occasions (including formal and informal) or does the person have a different watch for every type of wardrobe or occasion? Does it need to be a smart watch? Does it need to perform multiple functions beyond telling time? Or is it just a pretty object and an impulse purchase?

Now lets take cars. Is the car purchased with a specific sized family in mind or is it mostly a personal vehicle? Is price an object? Is fuel economy or gas mileage important? Does it need to convey a specific personality or lifestyle? Does it need to be fun to drive? Does it need to look sexy? Will it be a status symbol or just a simple mode of transportation? Is it important that it has a specific range? Does it need to haul a trailer or carry heavy loads? Will it be used for work? How many miles will it put on in day, a month or a year? Is color important? Is passenger capacity important? Is storage capacity/trunk space important? Does it need to carry canoes, kayaks, bicycles and other recreational gear? What special amenities or creature comforts are important? GPS? Satellite radio? Heated seats? Moon roof? Self-cleaning windows? 360 degree cameras? Seats with a back massage function? Automatic parallel parking systems? Does the car need to serve as a self-expression vehicle? If so, what does it need to express? Is it a car for a macho guy or a sophisticated urbane gentleman or a metrosexual? Does it scream "I'm different. Look at me."?

The point of all of this is to point out that purchase motivations can be much more complicated than a superficial explanation would imply. A skilled marketer needs to understand all of the motivations and how they apply to different customer segments and product and service ranges. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Brand Research

On occasion, I run into people who are confused about the different types of research that can be conducted on behalf of brands. Frequently, people confuse brand tracking studies with brand equity research and sometimes they confuse brand valuation methodologies with brand equity research. Here is a brief description of each type of research:

  • Brand tracking studies: These are repeatable studies that are conducted annually or even more frequently. Some companies run them on a continuous basis. Their purpose is to measure the brand's health against key metrics over time to see if the brand is improving, remaining stable or in decline. Typical measures include awareness, preference or favorability, market share, share of requirements and the brand's net promoter score (an attitudinal loyalty measure). Sometimes the studies include other measures such as brand personalty attributes. These studies tend to be high level and not very diagnostic. 
  • Brand equity research: This research is designed to measure all aspect's of a brand's equity. Our BrandInsistence brand equity measurement system measures more than ninety different components of a brand's equity. Its primary focus is on the five drivers of customer brand insistence - awareness, relevant differentiation, value, accessibility and emotional connection. These systems indicate overall brand health, but also should be diagnostic in that they should be able to pinpoint the components that are helping the brand and those that are working against the brand. This allows the brand manager to take the appropriate corrective action. Our brand equity measurement system also maps the brand's positioning against that of its competitors to identify brand positioning opportunities and vulnerabilities. Brand equity research can be repeated every year or every other year to measure progress against key goals and actions.
  • Brand positioning research: This research indicates how the brand is perceived in the customer's mind. It consists of scaled questions that can be mapped (benefit importance versus brand delivery) and open-ended questions (What makes this brand different from or superior to other brands in this category?) While this is often conducted as a separate study, we include this research in our BrandInsistence brand equity research. 
  • Brand valuation methodologies: Some brand managers feel the need to measure the value of their brands as assets. A handful of firms conduct this type of valuation. It is mostly conducted as a "black box" exercise. The outcome is a number - the value of the brand as a financial asset. These numbers can be quite large, especially for top brands whose values can be in the tens of billions of dollars.
  • Brand asset mapping: In this research, brand associations are identified along with the relative strength of their link to the brand. Product, usage, personality and a variety of other associations are explored. This is primarily used to identify brand extension opportunities. 
  • Brand emotional response mapping: Brands tend to evoke specific emotions. In this research,  a brand is tested against hundreds of different emotions and feelings to provide a map of the brand's emotional signature. 
  • Brand positioning statement research: In this research, we explore customer feedback regarding the brand positioning statement created by the marketer. Usually, several brand positioning statements are explored simultaneously. Each statement is tested against appeal/purchase intent, uniqueness and believability. We also ask for feedback on what people like and don't like about the brand positioning statement. This research is used to choose, refine and validate brand positioning statements. 
  • Brand identity research: There are several different types of brand identity research. Each one tests one or more of the following: congruence with brand positioning and promise, key brand associations, reinforcement of specific personality attributes and other qualities, preference/ranking, recognition, recall and emotional response. 
  • Brand name research: This research tests different brand names against the following criteria: preference/favorability, ranking (among other options), associations (especially to identify unintended associations), clarity and congruence with the brand's promise.
  • Brand tagline research: This research tests different brand taglines against the following criteria: preference/favorability, associations (especially to identify unintended associations), clarity, congruence with the brand's promise and likes and dislikes. 

I will stop here. I haven't begun to explain brand advertising research, which I will reserve for another blog post. 

For more information on brand research, read Brand Aid, second edition available here

PS - For you non-biology majors, the image is of a dissection kit. These research approaches are used to dissect and study brands.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Marketing Research

Not all marketing research is equal. Marketing research varies greatly in quality and efficacy. Here are the components of marketing research that can add to or detract from its efficacy:

  • The purpose of and objectives for the research.
  • The action standards for the research, that is, the actions the research results will influence.
  • The research methodology or methodologies chosen.
  • The choice and order of the questions.
  • The wording of the questions.
  • The rating or ranking scales chosen.
  • The research instrument design and its impact on what analysis can be performed.
  • The analytical methods chosen.
  • How open-ended responses are coded.
  • Who is selected as research respondents. Who is included and who is excluded.
  • How the respondents are segmented.
  • The sample size. 
  • The sample size for each segment.
  • How the respondents are solicited and what incentives they are given to participate.
  • Whether they are biased in any way prior to participating in the study.
  • How the results are presented.
  • How the results are interpreted.

I say this because I have seen outstanding, nuanced and highly insightful research leading to breakthrough marketing approaches and I have seen significantly flawed research leading people to the wrong conclusions and bad decisions. Be careful about who you hire to conduct your marketing research. It could make all the difference in the world.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Just for Fun - The Loudmouth Brand

Brands always try to stand out as being different. And increasingly brands serve as self-expression vehicles for their customers. Here is a brand that does both to the extreme. Introducing the Loudmouth clothing brand. These images will tell you all you need to know about this brand and its bigger than life personality. 

For hundreds of additional men's and women's clothing design choices go here