Thursday, January 25, 2018

Marketing & Common Sense

Marketing seems to have gotten so complicated. People speak of CRM and SEO. Successfully navigating social media seems difficult for many people. There are an increasing number of new communication platforms. How does one plan media across so many different channels? Marketing research now includes online focus groups, eye tracking and brain scanning among several other high-tech approaches. And then there is big data analytics. Where will it all end?

And yet, I would encourage marketers to revisit good old fashioned common sense. 

Who is our customer? What are her needs? How does she perceive us? Where does she shop? How does she make her purchase decisions? Who or what informs her buying choices? What stands in the way of her buying our products? How can we make our products more appealing to her? What messages will resonate with her? How can we get her to buy more of our stuff? How can we better connect with her on an emotional level?

These are the simple common sense questions that every marketer should ask. The funny thing is that so many marketers get caught up in the tools and tactics that they forget to ask the fundamental questions. 

Don't forget to use common sense when you are developing marketing programs and campaigns. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Customer Service Comes of Age at Insurance Companies

In 1999, BrandForward conducted a comprehensive study of brand equity and brand perceptions in the insurance industry. The study gathered metrics on more than 200 insurance brands. The results were not flattering. All insurance companies but one (State Farm) disappointed their customers when it came to claims. This contributed to a lack of loyalty, focus on price and insurance company switching.

Fast forward to today - 19  years later. If Allstate is an example of how insurance companies have evolved over time when it comes to claims processing, they have been careful students of creating the total brand experience and customer touch point design.

I hit a deer last week. Upon calling Allstate, I was instructed to download the Allstate app to my smartphone so that I could file a QuickFoto Claim(R). The app instructed me to take the appropriate photos of the damaged area, each corner of the car, the VIN and the odometer. That took 5 minutes at most. Based on their conversation with me over the phone and these photos, they processed my claim in less than 2 hours and then downloaded the difference between the claim amount and my deductible in my checking account through my bank's debit card. The money was available instantaneously.

Meanwhile, they helped me locate a local collision shop and had already sent them my claim information. The collision center sent a tow truck and has kept me informed about the process and schedule.

Allstate also called the nearest Enterprise car rental location and had procured a loaner car for me while mine was in the shop. This cost is covered by my insurance policy. Enterprise stayed open a few minutes late (past their 6 pm closing time) to accommodate me and then upgraded my car. They followed up with me a day later to make sure my rental was satisfactory.

To me, this is an example of a carefully designed customer claims processing experience and an integrated system of interaction with their strategic partners, including the smart use of mobile technology. This has significantly improved my perception of Allstate and has cemented my loyalty to them. And this should be equally beneficial to them as I have six personal and business policies through them.

As I do not have claims very often (perhaps once every ten to twenty years or so), I cannot attest to how other insurance companies handle these situations. However, I can attest to how Allstate has handled their claims processing and my hat is off to them for an excellent job.

Monday, January 15, 2018

50 Growth Strategies

Most every organization intends to grow. In fact, if an organization doesn’t continue to grow it generally must do the opposite because costs continue to increase whether the organization grows or not and it is difficult to continually pass the cost increases on customers without eventually experiencing decreases in unit sales.    

The ways in which an organization can grow are almost unlimited. Here are just some of the ways in which an organization may be able to increase its revenues and grow:
  1. Sell existing products or services through new channels of distribution, for instance online or specialty stores
  2. Increase brand awareness through wider distribution, increased marketing and more focused, more efficient marketing
  3. Sell existing products or services using new sales methods, for instance direct marketing or retail focused teams
  4. Increase brand accessibility through extended hours or flexible payment options
  5. Sell existing products or services in new geographies
  6. Sell existing products or services to new customer groups or markets
  7. Explore opportunities within different ethnic markets
  8. Sell your products or services as an ingredient brand within another organization’s products or services
  9. Go upstream or downstream in the product or service production process (and profit generation)
  10. Acquire and perhaps brand your own channel of distribution
  11. Identify and pursue economies of scale
  12. Pursue network effects
  13. Create additional product skus (or service offerings) targeted at different customers or customer need states
  14. Go upscale – create more upscale versions of your products or services
  15. Offer a less expensive version of your product or service (but be careful to do this is a way that does not alienate your current customers)
  16. Offer a wider selection of related products or services
  17. Offer a wider selection of product or service quantities, that is package your products or services in different quantities at different prices points
  18. Create a more expensive sku to increase the reference price for your other products within the same category – this will encourage customers to “trade up”
  19. Cross-promote your products with other related or unrelated brands that may appeal to the same customers
  20. Develop and sell a wide variety of accessories for your products
  21. Bundle and sell two or more products together
  22. Generate licensing royalties by licensing your brand to other organizations’ products or services that deliver against your brand’s promise
  23. Invest in R&D to create entirely new products and services
  24. Invest in a proprietary technology that will lead to competitive advantages for your products
  25. If appropriate, find ways to make your products collectable
  26. Offer your products in a series
  27. Use each product to sell another product
  28. Create a system of integrated products so that the purchase of one product from your organization leads to the purchase of additional products from your organization
  29. Transform your brand into an aspirational brand or a self-expression vehicle for its customers
  30. Create new demand for your product by creating new uses for the product
  31. Through research, become the expert in meeting a particular market segment’s needs, offering additional products and services to become increasingly indispensible to people in that market segment
  32. Through market research, identify and develop products or services for new market segments
  33. Increase the individual average transaction by suggesting add-on sales
  34. Offer discounts for larger or increased orders
  35. Offer paid services associated with your products, such as installation, consulting and technical support
  36. Offer financing and extended warranties
  37. Offer extended service contracts
  38. Offer customization opportunities
  39. Merge with or acquire complementary businesses
  40. Discover the compromises your industry is making with its customers and reconfigure your offering to overcome those compromises
  41. Increase overall revenues through price segmentation
  42. Identify where there is price elasticity and raise prices accordingly
  43. Create a more compelling design for your products
  44. Create more compelling packaging for your products
  45. Apply the “timeshare” idea to your business to generate alternative markets for its products and services
  46. Create versions of your products that play off of current societal trends
  47. Identify new product or service categories to which your internal capabilities are well suited
  48. Create a new product development function
  49. Establish an internal venture fund
  50. Select for intrapreneurship skills and motivations when hiring employees

I hope this list has helped you to think more broadly about the ways in which you can grow your organization and its products and services. And I hope it has created some optimism about its prospects for growth Finally, I hope it has generated some specific ideas for growing your business.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Objectives and Strategies First, Please

At a recent marketing committee meeting for a local not-for-profit organization, we immediately dove into what to do regarding a number of marketing tactics from website, newsletter and Facebook page to brochures, videos and member database. The intent was to prioritize the tactics as a part of the organization's marketing plan. The problem was not the act of prioritizing. The problem was that we were looking at the tactics as a group independent of specific target audiences or marketing objectives. We immediately jumped to the tactics without discussing or linking them to the objectives, strategies or target audiences. 

One should organize marketing plans starting with marketing objectives and target audiences. The strategies and tactics are then selected in support of those specific marketing objectives and target audiences. 

For instance, for this organization, the marketing objectives might include:

  • Build general community awareness of the organization, its mission and its programs
  • Build awareness among specific target groups
  • Recruit more members
  • Retain existing members
  • Create an emotional connection with members
  • Recruit volunteers
  • Recruit board members
  • Recruit board committee members
  • Identify high potential donors
  • Develop members as donors
  • Seek more grants
  • Seek more sponsorships
  • Promote specific programs
  • Promote specific events

Target audiences might include:

  • Conservation/ecology oriented citizens
  • Conservation organizations
  • Kayakers
  • Canoeists
  • Bicyclists
  • Hikers
  • Bird watchers
  • Boaters
  • Fishermen
  • Organizations focused on the above mentioned activities
  • Yacht club members
  • Community philanthropists
  • Local university biology departments
  • High school science departments
  • The City of Rochester
  • The Rochester City School District
  • Businesses and residents along the Genesee River
  • Farmers with farms adjacent to the river
  • Local municipalities
  • Soil & water conservation entities
  • National, state and local funding sources

One must prioritize the audiences and objectives before one can prioritize the tactics. Prioritizing the tactics independent of the audiences and objectives just doesn't make sense.

I hope any time someone asks you what should be done about a specific marketing tactic or tool, your immediate response is to ask about the marketing objective and target audience so that you can offer a meaningful response.  

A marketing plan should have the following hierarchy: organization objective -> marketing objective -> marketing strategy -> marketing tactic. Target audiences are often articulated as part of an objective, but they could also be articulated as a part of a strategy or tactic. The important point is to prioritize marketing tools or tactics in support of specific target audiences in your marketing plan.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Importance of Colors In Marketing

Color is one of the most important considerations in your brand identity system as colors have a significant impact on people’s emotional state. They also have been shown to impact people’s ability to concentrate and learn, as well as a host of other psychological associations. For instance:
  • Non-primary colors are more calming than primary colors.
  • Blue is the most calming of the primary colors, followed closely by a lighter red.
  • Blue text increases reading retention.
  • Yellow evokes cheerfulness.
  • Reds and oranges encourage diners to eat quickly and leave. Red also makes food more appealing and influences people to eat more. (It is no coincidence that fast-food restaurants often use these colors – McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Sonic, KFC, Friendly’s, Pizza Hut, In-N-Out Burger, etc.)
  • Pink enhances appetites and has been shown to calm prison inmates.
  • Blue and black suppress appetites.
  • Children prefer primary colors. (Consider the brand colors for Toys “R” Us, the Lego store and Build-A-Bear Workshop. And notice that children’s toys and books often use these colors.)
  • Luxury brands almost always use use gold (and often with brown and other rich warm tones) and sometimes in combination with black in their identity systems. For example, consider the Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Rolex, Burberry, Prada and Christian Dior brands. This also happens to be the list of the most valuable luxury fashion brands.
  • Forest green and burgundy appeal to the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans, and often raise the perceived price of an item. Whole Foods, Starbucks, Jaguar, Lacoste and Fidelity Investments feature forest green as their primary brand color. Rolex not only uses the gold crown and black as mentioned above, but also forest green. Gucci not only uses gold letters and brown background as mentioned above but also with a band of burgundy and forest green stripes. Cartier uses gold, black and burgundy.
  • Green is associated with health and compassion.
  • Green is also used to indicate environmentally friendly brands. Green also works for Whole Foods in this regard. BP, Sierra Club, Animal Planet, hundreds of other brands that want to be perceived as environmentally friendly use green as their primary brand color.
  • White is typically associated with being cool, clean, and fresh. It is also associated with goodness and perfection.
  • Violet is associated with spirituality and wisdom.
  • Purple is associated with royalty, wealth, dignity and quality.
  • Orange and yellow are used to make an expensive item seem less expensive.
  • Red clothing can convey power.
  • Red trim is used in bars and casinos because it can cause people to lose track of time.
  • Most people (76 percent) associate “speed” with the color red. Notice that most sports car brands offer red as a color option.
  • Red is a strong color. It is associated with courage, aggression and even rage.
  • Red and black are often associated with being sexy and seductive and are favored by porn sites. Red and black also have a high association with fear and terror.
  • Black is associated with elegance, sophistication, and mystery.
  • “Fun” is most associated with orange, yellow, purple, and red.
  • “Trust” is most associated with blue and white. Goldman Sachs and American Express are blue and white as are GE and Oral-B.
  • “High quality,” “high technology,” and “reliability/dependability” are most associated with black and blue. IBM, Samsung, Intel, Philips, Motorola, HP, Dell, AT&T, Siemens and Nokia are blue, as are GM, Ford, Mazda, VW, Hyundai, PayPal, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Skype.

According to House Beautiful’s Color Report, America’s favorite color is blue (29 percent), followed by green (21 percent). Red and purple are tied in third place at 8 percent.

Worldwide, men’s favorite color is blue (42 percent) followed by green (25 percent) and purple (12 percent) while women’s favorite color is blue (29 percent) followed by purple (27 percent) and green (19 percent).

Even Crayola can attest to the popularity of blue. In its 2000 Crayola Color Census, blue rated #1, but six other shades of blue also rated among the top ten – cerulean, midnight blue, aquamarine, periwinkle, denim and blizzard blue.

America’s favorite colors, based on percent of d├ęcor purchased nationally (according to are as follows:
  1. Blue (7.41%)
  2. Black (6.22%)
  3. Grey (6.08%)
  4. Pink (5.15%)
  5. White (5.15%)
  6. Green (4.42%)
  7. Red (3.31%)
  8. Yellow (2.64%)
  9. Orange (3.57%)
  10. Turquois (1.82%)
  11. Purple (1.75%)
  12. Brown (1.57%)
  13. Beige (.47%)
  14. Violet (.35%)
  15. Lime (.30%)
According to the LA Times, America’s favorite car colors are as follows:
  1. White
  2. Black
  3. Silver
  4. Blue
  5. Grey
  6. Red
  7. Beige/brown
  8. Green
  9. Yellow/gold
  10. Other
Colors also have a functional impact on readability, eyestrain, the ability to attract attention, and the ability to be seen at night. These factors are important in choosing colors for signing, website pages, prints ads, and other marketing media.
  • The most visible color is yellow.
  • The most legible of all color combinations are black on yellow and green on white, followed by red on white. (It is no surprise that most traffic signs use these color combinations.)
  • Black on white is easiest to read, on paper and computer screens. “Hard” colors (red, orange, and yellow) are more visible and tend to make objects look larger and closer. They are easier to focus on. They create excitement and cause people to overestimate available time.
  • “Soft” colors (violet, blue, and green) are less visible and tend to make objects look smaller and further away. They aren’t as easy to focus on. They have a calming effect, increase concentration, and cause people to underestimate remaining time.

Color preferences vary by use/application and industry. Preferences change over time as well, often influenced by fashion designers and each year's "hot colors." According to many sources, metallics are the new neutral colors for 2018. Other hot colors in 2018 are beige, black, brown, orange, yellow and lavender. Further, there are significant regional differences in color preferences. Finally, subtle variations in hues can have widely different preferences. 

Some brands are known by their distinctive colors, for instance Tiffany's robin's egg blue boxes and bags, John Deere's green and yellow, Coca-Cola's red and white, UPS's brown, Starbuck's green and Apple's white. And French brands L'Occitane En Provence, Veuve Clicquot and Hermes all are identified by hues of French yellow orange.

Some product categories are dominated by a certain set of colors and sometimes a brand changes its color palette to stand out or make a statement. Sprint decided to change its colors from red, white and black to yellow, white and black to stand out in the crowded telecommunications category, especialy vis-a-vis Verizon. Yellow is bright and cheery and can remind one of the sun, flowers and lemons. 

Obviously, colors are an important part of any brand identity system. Testing the affect of a new brand identity system’s colors is well advised. It is important to consider that color associations will vary by individual and especially by cultural context and a person’s previous experiences with the colors. For instance, in Hinduism, white is a color used in mourning and is not appropriate for weddings.

I hope this article has made you a little bit more thoughtful when choosing colors for your brand. 

© 1999-2018 Brad VanAuken - Much of this is reprinted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here.

Monday, January 8, 2018

What Do People Need Most?

People with plenty of money often do not have a lot of time, while people with a lot of time frequently do not have a lot of money. And many people do not have enough of either. It is the lucky few who have plenty of time and money. 

Time and money are the scarce resources built into our BrandInsistence brand equity measurement system. They are built into two of the five drivers of customer brand insistence, value and accessibility. Value has a numerator and a denominator. The numerator is comprised of the bundle of benefits that the customer receives, while the denominator represents how much time and money it takes to receive those benefits. Accessibility also relates to time and money as both of these make anything more accessible. 

But there is a third dimension that I don't often talk about and that is health/energy. You might have ample time and money, but if you do not have good health or adequate energy, the time and money are a moot point. 

In many surveys, when asked what they value most, people will indicate good health. 

So, if one is able to reduce the money, time or energy required to purchase and use the brand, the brand becomes more valuable. Conversely, if that brand itself can give people more time, money or health, it is adding significant value. 

So, when thinking about how you can increase your brand's value, consider how it can increase people's time, money or health/energy or how it can be acquired or used with less time, money or health/energy.  

And, as an interesting note, research suggests that people who value time over money are much happier.