Monday, July 9, 2018

Targeting Children to Create Early Brand Loyalty

Studies have shown that children are expressing brand awareness as early as age two and that the average three year old in the US can recognize 100 different brands. Young children cannot distinguish between fact and fantasy so many consumer packaged goods companies target children when they are most susceptible to marketing messages. 

In fact, many brands try to build their brand franchises early by targeting young people. 

It has been disclosed in court filings that tobacco companies had historically targeted different youth market segments in their marketing campaigns. I am sure tobacco companies supported the chocolate cigarettes that I and my elementary schools friends used to buy at our corner store. National Rifle Association (NRA) is a significant sponsor of Boy Scout Camp rifle and shotgun ranges and sponsors many joint programs in the shooting sports including the BSA/NRA Brownell Youth Ambassador Program. And many businesses sponsor youth sports, including paying for uniforms on which their logos are displayed. The Strong National Museum of Play features a Wegmans Super Kid's Market that teaches children how to shop for groceries at Wegmans. There was a time when most airlines gave out free branded "junior wings" or "kiddie wings" to younger flyers. And Cub Cadet and other vehicle brands sell toy riding tractors and other vehicles.

Product placement in television programming and movies targeted at children is widespread. Further, there is increased product placement in children's fiction books. American Idol, America's Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars and The X Factor are some television programs with the most product placements. Brands also frequently appear in The Simpsons, Futurama and South Park, though in some cases, it is as a parody. Many people may remember the Reese's Pieces placement in E.T. Animated films with the most product placements include Foodfight!, Eight Crazy Nights, Free Birds, Curious George, Oliver & Company, The Chipmunk Adventure and Bee Movie. 

Marketers are also using YouTube videos, social media celebrity endorsements and mobile alerts to reach the youth markets with brand messaging.

For better or worse, many brands have targeted youth to begin building a lifetime of brand loyalty. Pediatricians, psychologists and others have pushed back on this citing consumerism, materialism, the over commercialization of our society and the focus on brands as an indicator of social status as the negative consequences of these efforts. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Brands - The Broad View or the Narrow View

I tend to think about brands in the broadest terms, but others view brands in narrower terms. When someone talks about a brand others may or may not have the same understanding of what that person means. And when someone says he or she is a brand consultant, that person may mean it in the narrowest sense, the broadest sense or something in between. The same thing is true for the brand manager title. 

This is the continuum of how one might perceive a brand from narrowest perspective to the broadest perspective:

  • A name
  • An identity system (name, icon, type fonts, colors, etc.)
  • A unique value proposition or a promise of relevant differentiated benefits
  • All of the above plus a unique essence and personality
  • Manifesting itself as a unique and compelling customer experience
  • Supported with a certain type and level of service and technical assistance
  • Possessing a certain set of values and standing for something
  • Pursuing carefully crafted customer engagement strategies
  • With a thoughtfully designed underlying organization culture
  • And a carefully crafted business model
  • Led by someone with the perfect leadership style for the brand

The difference in how one thinks about brands can be due to any or all of the following:
  • How one was schooled in branding
  • How brand management and marketing was organized in the organizations in which that person has worked
  • What that person's training and background is - graphic designer, copywriter, account executive, brand manager, marketing researcher, merchandising designer, digital marketer, CMO, general manager, CEO
  • Whether that person's experience was primarily with graphic design firms, advertising agencies, media planning firms, marketing research firms, brand identity firms, web development firms, brand strategy consultancies, general management consultancies, staff marketing positions, line marketing positions, sales positions, organization design/organization development positions or something else

Obviously the skill sets and scope of work vary greatly depending on how one defines "brand." And the complexity, expectations, experience level and focus of the work will vary greatly. If you have been assigned the role of brand manager or brand champion, make sure you know how people in your organization understand the meaning of "brand." You don't want to be focused on logo design when people are really looking for a culture change or vice versa. Also, when you are hiring a firm to help you with your branding, make sure you know what type of firm with what skill sets you are hiring. I wish you great success with this.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Timeshare & Resource Sharing Brands

I remember thinking that timesharing and resource sharing would eventually hit every industry back in the mid to late 1980s when I was responsible for new product development at Hallmark. It was a trend that I thought would explode due to the more efficient sharing of resources. Back then, timesharing mostly applied to vacation rentals. Since then, RCI, Wyndham Worldwide's vacation timeshare exchange network has been one of my clients. But consider the categories and brands in which timesharing and resource sharing now operate:

  • Home rental - Airbnb, VRBO and numerous other brands. I use to rent my Adirondack home when I am not using it.
  • Home exchange (aka house swapping) - Love Swap Rental
  • Couch surfing - Couchsurfing
  • Motor vehicle sharing - Zipcar, GetAround, Enterprise CarShare and others
  • Ridesharing - Über, Lyft, Sidecar
  • Car subscriptions (allowing one to drive a selection of cars for a monthly fee) - Clutch, Carma Car, Flexdrive and others
  • Boat chartering - Sun Charters, Charter World and others
  • Boat sharing - Carefree Boat Club, Boat Share Direct and many others
  • Boat exchange - BVC International
  • Jet sharing (air charter, fractional jet and jetpooling) - CEOFleet, JetSuite, PrivateFly, NetJets, Flexjet and others
  • Bike sharing - Zagster/Pace, Velib', Citi Bikes, Bixi and others
  • Computer sharing - at public libraries and cyber cafes
  • Art rental programs - numerous local brands throughout the US
  • Sharing communities - Ouishare, Shared Squared, The People Who Share, Unstash, Let's Collaborate, P2P Foundation

And, in a way, hotels and libraries have always existed based on the resource sharing concept, as have country clubs and yacht clubs. 

So what are the other advantages of resource sharing (outside of resource efficiency and lower costs per usage)? Lack of maintenance and insurance worries. Fewer possessions to which one might feel tied. A much lighter environmental footprint. Lowered entry barriers for people with more modest financial means. The possibility of greater variety. And even a sense of community and sharing.

So, if you want to create a breakthrough business and brand, consider what else can be timeshared and then build a business and brand around it. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Customer Journey Mapping

I have witnessed dozens of approaches to customer journey mapping leading to dozens of different types of customer journey maps. They all have one thing in common - they attempt to map the customer journey. Many approaches overlay the purchase decision hierarchy: awareness -> consideration -> preference -> purchase -> repeat purchase -> loyalty -> advocacy. Each approach highlights individual customer touch points and the quality of the interaction at each of those touch points. The touch points could be through a mobile device, over the telephone, in a magazine, on a television, in a conversation with a friend, in a store, at the point of purchase, at a service location, at a technical support desk, at an ATM or somewhere else. 

Mapping this journey is only useful if it helps identify purchase influence or decision points and how to affect outcomes at those points.

Obviously, the journey is different for every customer and sometimes for the same customer at different times. So, there is no definitive map that outlines the journey for all customers from every segment for every need state. 

The journey will be different depending on the type of purchase. For instance, large, one-time purchases have a different journey than the purchase of everyday consumables. Consider the purchase of a new home or a yacht versus that of toilet paper or milk.

And impulse purchases are an entirely different category of purchases. 

Some purchases are habitual. The trick with those purchases is to interrupt the habitual behavior if you are interested in stimulating brand switching. It is important to identify the most promising points at which to interrupt that habitual behavior.

Sometimes a brand can insert itself in the process while a customer is looking for another brand. Again, identifying the best place to do this is critical to success.

A brand is particularly vulnerable to brand switching if it is less than totally accessible. For instance, another brand may be able to get the sale if the preferred brand is not available 24/7 or does not offer 24/7 support. It is also vulnerable if it is "out of stock" or otherwise unavailable. Greater responsiveness on the part of a substitute brand could get the sale if the preferred brand is not nearly as responsive.

Another thing to consider in the customer journey is at what points emotional connection can be made with the customer. I lead volunteer development (fundraising) efforts for a number of not-for-profit organizations. In that role, I have learned that an organization needs to raise friends before it can raise funds. Initial interactions with potential donors are focused on creating relationships and emotional connections, not asking for money. That comes later. The same is true for brands.

It is also important to determine how much of the purchase decision is based on price, convenience, brand loyalty, habit or category enthusiasm/exploration for a given customer in a specific category. This will impact how to alter interactions at specific touch points or whether to create additional touch points.

It is important to identify the customer's emotional state at each touch point. It is also important to discover what triggers the purchase. And finally, identifying the "moments of truth" can be very helpful.

Anthropological research and depth interviews will inform the mapping, as will other carefully constructed research methodologies. 

The key outcome of this process is to identify places in the shopping process at which brand choice can be influenced and a purchase can be stimulated. Further, customer journey mapping affords the opportunity to improve the customer experience at each touch point.

Finally, it is important to note that customer journey mapping is not "rocket science." It is a label applied to a more methodical and thorough process for understanding the customer's journey and how to best make it work to your brand's advantage. I wish you great success in mapping your customer's journey.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Common Brand Problems

Over the past twenty years, I have helped more than 200 brands in a wide variety of product and service categories. Here are the most common problems that brands seem to encounter.

  • A disruptive technology has made the brand's core product obsolete. Example: Kodak.
  • The brand's level of service and product innovation has not kept up with the competition. Example: Burger King.
  • Stuck in the middle. The brand is neither low cost/high convenience nor does it deliver a high-end or unique customer experience. Example: Sears.
  • The brand has extremely low customer awareness. Example: many start-up brands.
  • The category has matured and all of the brands in the category seem to offer the same product quality, functions and features. Example: this has occurred in many categories.
  • The category has been infused with new life through investment in advertising/marketing, but the brand in question has not participated in that investment. Example: any insurance brand that has not begun advertising at a fairly high level.
  • The CEO or other organization leader has created a dysfunctional culture. Example: more brands than you would think.
  • The brand's leadership is risk-adverse and so the brand (and its products and services) has not been proactive about reinventing itself. Example: numerous brands, Hallmark being one of them.
  • A venture capital firm buys the brand, strips out costs and assets, dresses the company/brand up for sale but has not really invested in the long-term viability of the brand. Example: I have encountered many examples of this. I do not want to name them.
  • Profit-focused management driven by Wall Street demands has gradually reduced the quality or increased the price of the brand's products (or both) until the perceived value is noticeably diminished. These actions can also be influenced by retailers such as Walmart that have huge leverage over manufacturers and how they price their products. Example: Newell (Rubbermaid). 
  • In the effort to increase sales significantly, a more upscale brand broadens distribution to a mass channel, significantly diminishing its brand cache. Example: Columbia (vs. Patagonia or North Face).
  • A brand walks away from or ignores its primary differentiating benefit in an effort to broaden its offering and gain more sales across more customer need segments. Example: Volvo (safety).
  • A premium brand extends its product line down to the mass market but in so doing risks decreasing the social status associated with the brand. Example: BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar have had to grapple with this tradeoff as they try to extend down into the aspirational or mass luxury market
  • Through rapid expansion and wild success, the brand becomes ubiquitous increasing the difficulty of maintaining uniform quality standards and feeling more commonplace in peoples' minds. Examples: Nike and Starbucks.
  • The company and brand have been complacent for a long time, so much so that they have not kept up with evolving customer needs or the competition. Examples: Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
  • The brand's product or service is so new, revolutionary or complex that people really don't understand what it does or how it works. This is a communication problem. Example: I have encountered this with several high-tech start-up brands that are based on new product concepts.
  • Management does not have a good understanding of who their target market is, what they really want or what messaging or product configurations would work best for them. Example: I have encountered this more often than one might think. Stuhrling (watches) is one example of this.
  • The brand has a ill thought through pricing or distribution strategy that does not support the positioning of their brand. Example: I have had a few clients that have had these problems. 
  • The brand's founder, leader or spokesperson has encountered personal problems that reflect negatively on the brand. Examples: Anita Bryant and Sunkist and President Donald Trump and the Trump brand.

Hopefully, none of these problems seem familiar to you or applicable your brand. If they do, you need to take action before it is too late.


Friday, June 22, 2018

Politics, Brands & Research

Some politicians intuitively know what to say to motivate voters. However, there is generally much more science to creating political brand messaging than the average person might suspect. For instance, the first step would be to identify a voter segmentation scheme. And it should be substantially more nuanced than Democratic, Republican, Independent, Liberal and Conservative. Voters can be segmented across a myriad of beliefs, values, attitudes and other motivators.

For instance, here are some possibilities for voter segmentation:

  • Staunch Democrat vs. Staunch Republican
  • Staunch Liberal vs. Staunch Conservative
  • Globalist vs. Isolationist
  • Interventionalist vs. Non-interventionalist
  • Think government can be helpful vs. think government is the problem
  • Afraid of big-corporate control of government vs. think government should get out of the way of private industry
  • Think some government oversight and regulation is necessary vs. think the less government oversight and regulation the better
  • Deep down, view America as a white, Christian nation vs. deep down, view America as a land of opportunity for everyone regardless of ethnicity or religion
  • Think diversity creates problems vs. think diversity strengthens and enriches our society
  • Pro-choice vs. Pro-life
  • Believe capitalism coupled with socialism works best vs. believe unfettered capitalism works best
  • Believe federal, state and local governments all have a purpose vs. believe government should mostly be local
  • Believe the primary purpose of the federal government is its citizens' physical safety and security vs. believe the federal government also has a role in its citizens' health, financial security and quality of life
  • Believe in Keynesian Economics vs. Monetarist Economics
  • Open-minded vs. Close-minded
  • Believe the world is ultimately good vs. the world is ultimately evil
  • Individualist vs. Collectivist
  • Generally an optimist vs. generally a pessimist
  • More cooperative vs. more competitive
  • Have some connection with the military vs. have no connection with the military
  • Prefer spectator and participatory sports vs. prefer culture and the arts
  • Confident about one's place in society vs. insecure about one's place in society
  • Successful in life vs. less successful in life
  • Selfish vs. selfless and compassionate
  • Focus on law, order and justice vs. focus on compassion and mercy
  • Generally trust other people vs. generally do not trust other people
  • Conspiracy theorists vs. people who are generally reluctant to believe in conspiracies
  • Fear of global climate change and environmental disaster vs. no fear of these things
  • Fear of nuclear war vs. little fear of nuclear war
  • Fear of terrorism vs. little fear of terrorism
  • Believe that racism exists and is a problem vs. do not believe racism exists or is a problem
  • Believe in survival of the fittest vs. helping one's neighbor

I could go on and on with this list, but you get the idea. Once people are coded against these segmentation schemes, quantitative research can show which attributes are most correlated with voter choice.

Qualitative research, and in particular depth interviews, can provide much deeper insight into sub-conscious motivators, especially related to fears and deeply held beliefs and values. These interviews might last two to three hours with each individual and would include laddering, guided imagery and projective techniques among others. The attitudinal statements in the above list are often identified or explored in greater depth in qualitative research. 

Powerful wedge issues will be discovered in the depth interviews. And then key messaging for those wedge issues will be tested. Ultimately, one can determine the likelihood of changing each voter segment's vote by using each wedge issue statement.

Finally, you overlay the power of big data analytics to individuals and you can get most people to vote any way you want them to. And the beauty of this is that the voters tend to think that these carefully crafted messages were their own ideas, not some carefully thought through voter manipulation scheme. 

The final messages need to be powerful emotional triggers, usually tapping into deeply held, and often subconscious, fears.

Frankly, my greatest concern is that someone who has little to no interest in the health of our nation uses these techniques to be elected for personal gain - greed, power, etc. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Brands and Rituals

For most people, the mention of a ritual conjures up images of religious or even occult ceremonies. It might include robes, chanting, incense and even perhaps sacrifices upon an alter. But a more universal definition of ritual is something done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol. 

So all of the following might fall under the label of ritual:

  • Baptizing an infant
  • Buying a diamond engagement ring to propose marriage
  • Buying and decorating a Christmas tree prior to Christmas
  • Sending a birthday card to someone on his birthday
  • Carving a jack-o'-lantern for Halloween
  • Having an Easter egg hunt on Easter
  • Putting a child's tooth under the pillow for the tooth fairy
  • Serving turkey and cranberry relish for Thanksgiving 
  • Wearing a cap and gown and receiving a diploma upon graduating from high school or college
  • Sunday brunch with friends
  • Having a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper in the morning
  • Brushing your teeth after a meal or before you go to bed
  • Establishing a special date night each week
  • Saying grace before a meal
  • Summering in the same place year after year
  • Rubbing a good luck charm before a game
  • Having a standing lunch with a group of friends each month
  • Having a glass of wine with dinner
  • Having a nightcap before going to bed
  • Shopping at the Public Market every Saturday morning
  • Bowling every Wednesday night
  • Playing bridge every Friday night
  • Tailgating before a football game
  • Grilling in the summer

My question for you is, "In what ways could you establish your brand as an integral part of a ritual to achieve brand loyalty?" Put another way, "How could you make using your brand a habit by establishing it as an important part of an ongoing ritual?" For instance, could you associate your brand with picnics, Super Bowl parties, morning rituals, bedtime rituals, Sunday rituals, graduation rituals, weddings, birthday parties, Sunday drives, annual vacations, after work happy hours or some other repeated custom?