Monday, May 20, 2019

Sling TV

I love the Sling TV ads. Here's why. Like the first GEICO ads that featured a cute gecko as a mnemonic device to help you remember the name, Sling TV uses strong references to swinging to do the same. Further, like the GEICO ads, it is entertaining and funny. The commercials might even be described as campy. The commercials capture and keep your attention. From there, they go on to the brand message, explaining what Sling TV is and why you will like it. One of the concepts that works in both its reference to swinging and Slinging is "freedom" as many people seek freedom from their cable TV provider and their long-term contracts and high fees. For all of these reasons, I think these are strong ads.

You can see some examples of these ads here:

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Dissecting the Apple Brand

While Apple has never been a client of mine, I have been an Apple customer for years. I am writing this blog post from a MacBook Air attached to my iPhone while listening to iTunes. I am writing this because the brand has been a very successful iconic brand and I thought it would be fun to explore the brand positioning, personality and associations. These thoughts and observations are purely my own and may not reflect the actual brand position or promise.

First, the brand is simple and easy to use. In fact, it is intuitive. When I switched from a Microsoft computer and operating system to an Apple computer and operating system, I did not refer to any instruction manual. I just turned the device on and started using it.

Second, it is sleek and aesthetically pleasing. Its design is minimalist. It and my Tesla Model 3 have that in common. In fact, my iPhone pairs nicely with my Tesla and my Bang & Olufsen headphones have an external volume control that works seamlessly with Apple devices. I feel that these brands fit well together because they share a focus on excellence, innovation and clean design aesthetic.

Apple has not been an open platform. It controls what software is used with its devices, almost eliminating compatibility problems, speeding up processing time and making it more difficult for viruses and malware.

Apple has become the un-Microsoft brand. Put another way, it has become the superior alternative to Microsoft-powered devices. People have tired of the problems associated with Microsoft-based platforms, especially related to computer security, viruses and malware.

In-store customer service is top-shelf, furthering the hassle-free intuitively easy nature of the brand. And the stores reinforce the design aesthetic of the brand.

Apple is an innovative company and is not afraid of creating something new that makes a previous product obsolete. Witness iPods. They are not afraid of anticipating customer needs and desires and are happy to deliver benefits that customers had not even imagined. The creation of iPhone apps is an example of this.

The cross-compatibility and communication between all of Apple's devices is another positive aspect of the brand.

Brand marketing emphasizes the "cool" factor of the brand.

Steve Jobs was a visible entrepreneur associated with the brand.

There is a certain social cache associated with using the brand. All of the above, plus its higher price points, reinforce this.

Empowered and engaged employees would indicate careful hiring practices. In fact, it has been said that Apple managers ask three questions of potential job candidates: (1) Do they display grit? (2) Can they deliver a Ritz-Carlton level of customer service? and (3) Could they have gone toe-to-toe with Steve Jobs?

Related to this, Apple's culture seems to be one dedicated to discovery and excellence.

Considering all of these positive traits together, it is no wonder that Apple is a top global brand.

For my take on why is also a top brand, click here.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Brand Positioning Components

Brand positioning components will likely vary depending on which brand consultant or marketing agency you use. These are the core elements that most consultants or agencies use:

  • Target customer definition (demographics, psychographics (lifestyles, attitudes, values, behaviors, job titles, etc.)
  • Brand essence (the heart and soul of the brand - it's timeless quality - in the form of 'adjective adjective noun')
  • Brand promise ('Only [brand] delivers [relevant differentiated benefit or shared value]')
  • Brand personality (seven to twelve adjectives that describe the brand as if it were a person)

Brand mission, vision and values are often added. Its mission is its reason for being, its purpose. Its vision is what it wants to be, its aspirations. Its values can best be communicated through "We believe..." statements.

Some people talk about a brand's DNA. This is roughly equivalent to its essence. 

Some people talk about a brand's unique value proposition. This focuses on the same thing the brand promise does - the brand's unique and compelling point of difference.

People often support the brand promise with proof points and "reasons to believe" the promise.

Sometimes, people will articulate the brand promise or unique value proposition within the context of a specific product or service category or competitive frame of reference. How this is defined can make a big difference in the overall brand positioning.  

Some people add brand archetype to the mix. The brand archetype speaks to the brand's underlying motivation and is roughly based on Jungian archetypes.

Some include core brand attributes in the brand positioning statement. 

Fewer people add brand pricing and distribution strategies to the brand positioning statement, though most people consider these to be more tactical and less strategic. However, for some very upscale brands, these can be a very strategic part of the brand's positioning. 

The brand positioning statement is a strategic internal document that guides almost all of the brand's marketing activities. It is always included in agency or creative briefs. 

To a large degree, the brand positioning statement is the roadmap for how a brand takes on human qualities and what human qualities it takes on. It is also a roadmap for how the brand will succeed in the marketplace.

Other blog posts on brand positioning:

And here is BrandForward's online step-by-step brand positioning workshop, everything you need to successfully position or reposition your brand:

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Emotionally Connecting with Your Customers

Most brands want to connect emotionally with their customers but few actually do. What does it take to create that emotional connection?

Brands that create emotional connection are deliberate about achieving it. First, those brands and their brand owners often have a strong set of values, values that they ultimately share with their customers. For example, Patagonia's almost reverent love of the outdoors and a pristine environment. Or Tesla's and Elon Musk's dream of a post-fossil fuel world. Or FOX New's focus on a very specific view of the world.

Next, those brands need to really understand their customers. They need to possess deep customer insight. This usually happens through qualitative research, often using guided imagery and projective techniques.  They need to understand customer self-perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, values, hopes, fears and anxieties. We helped Footjoy do this to refocus its brand from superior functional attributes (keeps your feet dry on a wet course) to a self-expressive benefit - The Mark of a Player.

Next, one must carefully design the customer experience. This may include customer journey mapping and customer touch point design. Often these brands create customer experience or engagement manager positions to maintain focus on the customer experience.

Next comes building the customer experience into the culture. Disney does this well, as does Zappos, Nordstrom and Starbucks. One of my favorite examples of this is Ritz-Carlton's "Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen." If you are interested in creating a better customer experience,  I would encourage you to read Be Our Guest (Disney), The Zappos Experience, The Nordstrom Way - Customer Service Excellence, Leading the Starbucks Way and especially The New Gold Standard (Ritz-Carlton).

At Hallmark, we pursued a Legendary Service initiative, in which we encouraged customer facing employees to deliver service that is so unexpected and extraordinary that those service moments became the basis of widely told legendary stories.

This notion of emotional connection needs to work its way into the brand's essence, mission, vision, values, promise, unique value proposition, archetype and personality. That is, it needs to become part of the brand's DNA.

One way we work with our clients to do this is to create "We believe..." statements, statements which reflect their values and that will connect emotionally with their customers.

There are many tools and techniques to create deep emotional connection with customers. If your brand is not connecting emotionally with its customers, contact us. We can help you make that happen.

Other related blog posts:

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Online Brand Positioning Workshop

Now BrandForward's highly successful, often emulated, brand positioning workshop is available online. It will provide you with everything you need to position your brand to win. And, even better, we are offering a May 2019 only substantial price discount. 

CLICK HERE to sign up for the workshop.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Insights from 20 Years as a Brand Consultant

Over the past 20 years, I have been retained by more than 200 organizations to help them with their brand problems. I thought it would be interesting to share with you what I believe to be the root causes of some of these problems. Here are the types of problems that I have encountered (that I can remember).

  • The brand has been resting on its laurels and the rest of the industry has not only caught up but surpassed the brand in product and service innovation.
  • The organization has grown through many mergers and acquisitions. Its brand architecture is overly complicated and redundant. To reduce costs and create greater customer clarity, it needs to significantly rationalize its brands and its product offerings. 
  • Recent business acquisitions have made it impossible to use the previous brand positioning. The positioning needs to change to reflect the new breadth of offerings. 
  • The acquiring company makes a big mistake with the acquired brand because it does not understand the target market's needs or the acquired brand's essence. 
  • The product and service are excellent and the price is right but there is little to no awareness of the brand.
  • The start-up has not thought through who its most advantageous customers are or how to best reach them.
  • The organization's leader has an authoritarian style that does not allow for distributed leadership or decision-making. This is stifling the organization and the brand.
  • The brand had a recent customer crisis from which it is still recovering. 
  • The organization is significantly underinvesting in its brand. 
  • A smaller local brand is now competing directly with a huge regional, national or global brand.
  • The organization is clueless about its brand messaging. The messaging is disjointed and ineffective.
  • The organization's distribution strategy is wrong for the brand's positioning. It is working against the brand.
  • The organization's pricing strategy is a mess. It is causing channel conflict problems and customer perception problems.
  • Customer interfacing systems have glitches resulting in sub-par or even horrific customer experiences. 
  • VC has taken the brand over and is making short term decisions to the detriment of the long-term viability of the brand.
  • The brand's logo makes the brand look very dated. 
  • New marketers have been hired and they know little to nothing about brand strategy or research. They are smart enough to know that they need to hire this expertise. 
  • The brand has historically been positioned based on functional features and benefits. The brand's leadership team wants to change the brand positioning to include emotional benefits and shared values. 
  • The brand's business model no longer works. The organization cannot not make its revenue and profit targets if it continues to use the same old model. 
  • The company wants to grow its business through brand extensions. But they need help in understanding the best avenues for extending the brand.
  • A new CEO or CMO has arrived and wants to make his or her mark on the company and the brand.
  • A new leader has arrived and is significantly changing the organization's strategy. Because of this, the brand's positioning needs to change. 
  • The brand manager is seeking the limelight and a promotion. He or she hires a consultant to initiate a project to take the brand to the next level. 
  • Management wants to refresh the brand before a new capital campaign (not-for-profit organizations) or the launch of new products under the brand's umbrella. 
  • An academic institution or one of its divisions is up for review and reaccreditation and needs to revisit its brand's mission, vision, values and messaging as a part of that process. 
  • The organization wants to set up a brand scorecard or dashboard and wants to determine the best measures to include. 
  • The organization wants to better segment its market. It is looking to outside help to conduct a comprehensive segmentation study.
  • The organization wants to measure its brand's equity on a regular basis to better manage its brand.
  • A brand needs to be fortified before the organization pulls the trigger on a new distribution strategy.
  • The marketer wants to take the brand out to new markets but doesn't want to make a mistake in doing so. 
  • The organization wants to take the brand upmarket or downmarket and again wants to minimize the risk of doing so. 
  • The brand's package design is too complicated and it is not helping the brand at point of sale. They need the package to be redesigned. 
  • Retailers such as Walmart and Amazon have backed the product brand into a corner out of which they seem not to be able to escape because of the retailer's extreme leverage. The product brand needs a strategy for dealing with this more effectively.
  • Believe it or not, sometimes I am hired because a marketer has always wanted to work with me. This has happened more than once but I make sure there is a real problem to be solved before I say yes.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Establishing Brand Metrics

Often, organizations will use awareness, preference, rank in consideration set, share of wallet, Net Promoter Score and other brand loyalty measures, customer satisfaction, distribution and market share as the primary brand measures. Awareness is important because without awareness, the brand does not exist in the customer's mind. Preference, rank in consideration set and share of wallet are also indications of brand strength, as are distribution and market share. Net Promoter Score is a very popular measure of attitudinal loyalty. Its strength lies in its ability to be compared across a huge number of brands across a wide variety of product and service categories. There are other measures of attitudinal and behavioral loyalty. Customer satisfaction is a particularly useful measure for categories in which satisfaction is low. Service organizations will want to measure multiple dimensions of perceived customer service. Organizations also sometimes measure brand perceptions related to the intended brand promise or unique value proposition and key brand messages. This can include perceptions of shared values, brand attributes, brand benefits (functional, emotional, experiential and self-expressive), brand personality attributes and other brand associations. And finally, various measures of emotional connection can be very insightful.

The trick in all of this is to choose metrics that correlate with intended customer business outcomes such as sales, profits, share of wallet, purchase frequency, loyalty and willingness to pay a price premium. The link between brand metrics and these outcomes can be arrived at through statistical correlation techniques. In the end, you want to measure things that actually matter and about which you can do something. It also helps if the measures are diagnostic so that you can identify what needs to be changed.

Marketing is often dismissed as too "touchy feely" with no direct links to ROI. The more a marketer can chose metrics that help him or her truly manage the brand, the more successful he or she will be. As Peter Drucker famously said, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."