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?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bayer Acquires & Abandons Monsanto Brand

On June 7, Bayer officially acquired the Monsanto brand for $66 billion. Bayer remains the company name and Monsanto has disappeared as a brand. The acquired products are retaining their brand names and have become part of the Bayer portfolio. 

The Monsanto brand had become significantly tarnished in the minds of the general public for its use of harmful chemicals and their negative impact on the environment and human health. At the same time, the brand had a much more positive perception by most farmers as its products result in increased food production and profitability. Farmers are familiar with the individual product names. This is a smart move from a branding perspective. 

Bayer has been a trusted name for a long time, especially due to its close link with aspirin, a miracle drug for aches, pains and heart health with virtually no negative side effects. Bayer has operated in the agriculture space for some time independent of its recent Monsanto purchase. 

Bayer indicated that it will "strengthen its commitment in the area of sustainability." Bayer chairman Werner Baumann said, "We aim to deepen our dialogue with society. We will listen to our critics and work together where we find common ground. Agriculture is too important to allow ideological differences to bring progress to a standstill."

Meanwhile, the USDA recently shared its GMO labeling proposal, including these label images which have many environmentalists upset. 

It will remain to be seen how acquisition of the Monsanto brand might affect perceptions of the Bayer brand and whether Bayer is more receptive to addressing environmental concerns. Honest, open dialog with the general public to find common ground would be a step in the right direction for the Bayer brand.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Branding Municipalities

I am a keen observer of place branding and I have been privileged to help several places brand themselves. Here are some of my observations regarding municipality branding: 

  • Most places do a terrible job of branding themselves. There are many contributing factors. Many places do not have ample budgets to include rigorous research in their branding efforts. Some places hire branding companies that use the same positioning and tag lines for multiple municipal clients. Municipalities have diverse constituencies that must be included in the process. It is difficult for larger municipalities to focus on one or two differentiating benefits when they have so many assets that appeal to different groups of people. Sometimes there is a conflict between the more limited geographic boundaries of the hiring municipality and how the general public views the metropolitan area boundaries. Many municipalities do not have a designated person whose role it is to brand and promote the place. Some marketing agencies jump right to a tagline and ad campaign without doing the important brand research and positioning work.
  • Many municipalities choose catchy but totally meaningless tag lines
  • First, municipalities need to understand to which people they are most likely to appeal. This includes looking at demographics and psychographics. Lifestage and family formation are important components in this mix.
  • Competitive analysis is a key part of branding places
  • Municipalities should not spend too much time thinking about their weaknesses. They should focus on their assets when determining what their brand should stand for.
  • We help places understand their different clusters of assets and how important each cluster is to different target audiences. Through asset clustering, we can help places determine the most powerful umbrella brand positioning and messaging. 
  • It is important to involve all key stakeholders in the branding process. The process requires lots of informal influencing with multiple constituencies over time. It also requires outstanding consensus building skills/facilitation. 
  • Every potential brand position must be evaluated against three criteria: (1) how emotionally compelling it is, (2) how unique it is among competing places and (3) how believable it is for the place in question. 
  • While a place's brand must be compelling to all audiences including residents, visitors, businesses and event planners, first and foremost, it must be compelling to current and potential residents. If it appeals to them, there will be a much higher likelihood that it can be made compelling to the other audiences. 
Here are links to some of my other place branding blog posts:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Tesla Brand

Tesla is a wildly popular brand. Today, it's stock is up 1.98%, trading at $351.60 per share despite continuing to return an earnings per share loss. 

So what is behind such a successful brand? First, there is Elon Musk, a highly successful serial entrepreneur. He cofounded Zip2, which was acquired by Compaq for $340 million and Xcom, an online payment company that merged with Confinity to become PayPal. PayPal was purchased by eBay for $1.5 billion. Then there is Tesla and SpaceX and Neuralink and SolarCity and OpenAI and the Boring Company. Behind SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity is Elon Musk's vision to reduce global warming, create a more sustainable energy future and reduce the risk of human extinction. 

I admire Elon Musk for the following reasons. He has a positive vision for humanity. He is willing to take big risks. He is a successful entrepreneur. He is a great salesperson and marketer. He is also smart and creative about financing. He is an American success story. And what he is doing is good for the world. He demonstrates what I believe America should be all about. He so inspires me that I want to be a part of his continued success. 

I started following Tesla from the very beginning. While I admired its roadster and its Model S, I really couldn't afford either. I vowed to buy the more affordable Model 3 when it came out and I was one of the very first to order it online at 12:01 am on the date it was first available in 2016. I received it two weeks ago. I love it. 

If I am honest with myself and put my consumer behavior hat on, here are the reasons I bought a Tesla:

  • I wanted to support Elon Musk and his vision.
  • I wanted to do my part to reduce carbon emissions and global warming.
  • I really liked the notion of driving a car with an electric engine that goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.7 seconds.
  • The car definitely has the "cool" factor. The salesperson at the Tesla delivery station warned me that I would be a celebrity for awhile. (Definitely a marketing pitch aimed at status and the ego.) While I have not found that I have achieved celebrity status, I have given 20 friends rides in the car and more are waiting for the opportunity to do so. And lots of people have asked very specific questions about the car. I like being an expert. I also like being perceived to be an early adopter, even if I am only that on occasion.
  • I believe the car says these things about me (whether it does or not): I am progressive. I am environmentally conscious. I have good taste. I am successful. I can afford nice things. So, I believe the car signals a lot about me. And it is an extension of my self image. Frankly, it really feels like "me" to me. While I really enjoyed test driving the Model S, the Model 3 feels even more like "me" because of its elements of pragmatism, value and understatement (relative to the Model S).
  • And here is what makes me love the car (some of which I did not discover until after I took possession of the car, having purchased it sight unseen).  It is really, really fun to drive. It is aesthetically understated and beautiful. I love its lines, inside and out. It is very well conceived and designed. It is functional. There is a larger than average amount of storage space in the front and back trunks. Its user interface is intuitive. With a home garage charger, it is easy to keep its battery mostly charged most of the time. I will never have to fill up at a gas station in the winter again. The sound system is amazing and I love its Pandora-like radio stations. With an all-glass roof and big glass windows it feels expansive and spacious. It has every modern amenity. It has a fully autonomous driving mode. I just absolutely love to drive it.

So, regarding brand benefits, Tesla is delivering at multiple levels - beauty/aesthetics/self-actualization, shared environmental and social values, social status, excitement/fun, comfort and even basic transportation. At least for me, this brand has a winning combination of brand benefits. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Marketing to Satiated Consumers

I have a birthday coming up. My wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I said,"nothing" and I meant it. Why? I just bought a new Tesla for myself and we are in the middle of a master bathroom remodel. We have spent enough money for the year as far as I am concerned. Plus, there is absolutely nothing I need. I am at an age at which most people are focused on downsizing and simplification (though we are not quite there yet). However, there is truly nothing I want or need that I don't already have. 

I am aware of how blessed I am. Many people are in a different place. They still have many unmet wants and needs. Certainly, if you have a smaller income or fewer assets or many more mouths to feed and certainly if you are in an earlier life stage in which you are still forming or growing your household, you still may need many physical things. Or, on the other end of the continuum, if you are unable to stop comparing yourself to people who have more than you do, you might want that second home, a more expensive car or a bigger boat. Heaven knows, some billionaires are trading in their 200+ foot yachts for 300+ foot yachts. And they are buying an increasing number of yacht toys - water slides, tenders, helicopters, personal submersibles (submarines),  etc. - for their super yachts.

But for most of the rest of us, at some point in our lives we move from wanting more "things" to spending more of our money (and often more of our time) on services and experiences.  Services can make your life easier, give you more time, remove unwanted tasks, make your life more comfortable and even indulge your senses. Services include lawn care, spa services, baby sitting, pet sitting, pest control, house cleaning, pool cleaning, personal trainers, etc. Experiences include fine dining, travel, concerts, theater, dance performances, comedy improv, wine tastings, massage, flotation therapy, spectator sports, water parks, theme parks, haunted houses, adventure sports, hobbies, etc.

One way for product brands to deal with satiated consumers is to bundle services or experiences with their products. Another is to offer product novelty or more sophisticated products with better aesthetics or otherwise enhanced sensory experiences. Some hotel brands have significantly improved their customer services. Others have added rooftop lounges, swimming pools, hot tubs and bars. Yet others have added unique soothing aromatherapy scents to their hotels. Some products include extended service support. Yet others deliver their products in unique experiential ways. Build-A-Bear is an example of this. While novelty and gimmicks can have a limited life, many restaurants have created unique dining experiences to lure more customers. Consider Opaque, the restaurant in which you dine in the dark or the Ice Restaurant in Dubai or the underwater restaurant at the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa in the Maldives.  

So, if you have maxed out with your brand's product sales, consider enhancing your brand's offering with services, experiences, enhanced aesthetics or additional sensory elements. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Brand Identity Elements

When most people speak about brand identity, they are speaking about the brand's visual identity. I will cover all of the components of a visual identity system later in this blog post. But first let's define brand identity. A brand's identity system is comprised of all the visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory elements that are designed to identify the brand. 

Here is an example of each:

  • Visual: McDonald's arches
  • Auditory: Harley-Davidson's engine sound
  • Kinesthetic: The unique feel of Apple's products
  • Olfactory: Cinnabon's cinnamon scent
  • Gustatory: Grey Poupon mustard's unique flavor

Within a visual identity system, these are the most important elements:
  • Shapes, symbols and icons
  • Fonts and typography
  • Primary and secondary colors
  • Signature/logo lockup
  • Name
  • Tagline

Other elements of identity systems include visual blocking, brand voice and visual style, characters and spokespeople. More ephemeral elements of a brand's identity system include the brand's archetype and personality. 

Together, all of these elements help identify a brand and help it stand out from its competitors. 

Mastering the Art of Brand Engagement

Brands that engage their audiences grow and thrive. Brands that don't survive or gradually wither away. So, what are the key elements of engaging brands?

  1. Establish compelling mission, vision and values.
  2. Build internal consensus and alignment around the mission, vision and values.
  3. Embrace 360 degree engagement of all employees, strategic partners, vendors, customers, volunteers, members, board members, etc. around achievement of the organization's mission, vision and values.
  4. Have a people-first philosophy. Use the servant leadership model. Surprise and delight people with exceptional service
  5. Build a collaborative environment. Think "win-win," not "win-lose."
  6. Know that education and entertainment are important parts of any brand experience. 
  7. Widen the circle of engagement. Reach out to new groups. Create products, services and programs for diverse groups. Be inclusive.
  8. Become essential. Create meaning for customers. Share values with customers. Become a platform through which a broad group of people can share the same values. 
  9. Co-create your products, services and programs with your customers and other stakeholder groups. Engage people and listen to what they have to say.
  10. Become a high performance organization. Become a continuous learning organization. Constantly innovate, improve and evolve. Never stand still. Never rest on your laurels. Recognize and reward excellence. Be your own toughest competition. 
  11. Know that in the end, everything you do is all about people and serving those people.