Friday, July 19, 2019

Focusing on the Why


Another common error in marketing communication is focusing on the product or service description including its functions and features rather than focusing on the end customer benefit, the why. People will read further once you have gotten their attention. And you get their attention by speaking to one of their desires, fears or problems. Only after you have captured their attention in that way can you begin to talk about your solution to their problem.

Always begin by speaking to the customer's desires, fears or needs:

  • Saving you time
  • Saving you money
  • Making life easier
  • Simplifying your life
  • Reducing your stress
  • Keeping you safe
  • Increasing your comfort
  • Entertaining you
  • Strengthening your reputation
  • Getting you out of a bind
  • Solving a difficult problem

When writing marketing copy, always think from the customer's perspective, not your own. Further, organize the information from the customer's perspective, not your own. Often, internal departments, divisions, categories, programs or even product groupings do not make sense to the customer. Organize what you are saying into the categories that the customer understands. 

The bottom line is that you need to emphasize emotional, experiential and self-expressive customer benefits rather than product functions, features or attributes. Only address the latter (product attributes) when they can be used as proof points for how you will deliver the former (customer benefits). 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Less is More



A common mistake inexperienced marketers make is to cram too much information into marketing copy. I have seen this manifested in several ways:

  • Too much copy on PowerPoint slides - often full screen visuals with no copy are the most effective
  • Too much copy on product packaging, especially for products that are displayed at point of purchase
  • Too much copy in brochures and other collateral materials
  • Too much copy on outdoor advertising - consider how much a driver can read in one second or less
  • Websites cluttered with copy, visuals and click through buttons

Research has shown that the more information that is shared, the less people remember any of it. Always ask these two questions: (1) What are the one or two messages that we are trying to convey with this communication vehicle? (2) How can we communicate each of these in five words or less?

And if you are trying to make memorable points, think of doing it in lists of three things, each with its own bullet. It would be best if each thing was communicated with three words or less. And it is very powerful if each thing is communicated with one very simple and precise word.  It is an added bonus if all three words start with the same letter, creating an alliteration. But don't force the alliteration by choosing words that don't exactly convey each of the three concepts. 

Related to this, I find simple infographics are powerful communication sources. I like using triangles with three messages, five pointed stars with five messages or the intersection of three circles (a Venn diagram) symbolizing the combined power of three intersecting things. 

We are now living at a time in which people think in sound bites and communicate in Tweets. You may be offering a complex product or solution, but it is still up to you to break the message down into simple consumable parts. Think about what simple message needs to be conveyed at each step in the marketing process and then convey that and no more.

And remember, marketing copy is not about sounding smart. It is about communicating clearly. 

To paraphrase French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, "If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter." Take the time to write shorter marketing copy.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Brand Visual Style



Part of a brand's identity system is its visual style. So what are the components of its visual style? Here is my list:

  • Color palette
  • Typefaces and graphic styles
  • Types of images used (size, shape, subject matter, feeling, illustrations vs. photography, medium, special effects) 
  • Graphic symbols
  • Shapes
  • Texture
  • Distinctive patterns
  • Form
  • Layout and horizontal vs. vertical blocking 
  • Use of lines or borders
  • Sharp vs. soft edges
  • Value and contrast
  • Shading
  • Use of white space
  • Spacial relationship between elements

I recommend the following books for brand identity development: 

Brand Voice


Your brand's voice is comprised of its tone and its word choice among other components. Together with your brand's archetype, personality and visual style, your brand's voice helps you to personify your brand. 

Any or all of these might be components of your brand's voice:
  • Tone
  • Accent (socio-economic, regional or foreign)
  • Young or mature
  • Vocabulary (frequently used words and phrases and never used words and phrases, grade level of vocabulary)
  • Syntax - the structure of the words and other linguistic elements
  • Verbose versus concise (length of sentences, use of parenthetical phrases)
  • Use of slang, jargon or buzz phrases
  • Use of analogies, metaphors and other figures of speech
  • Coining a new phrase unique to the brand
  • Sense of humor
  • Sonic qualities (including volume, pitch, male versus female)
  • Tempo and cadence (lilting?)

When thinking about different brand voices, consider Faulkner versus Steinbeck. Or Alister Cooke (Masterpiece Theatre) versus Tom Bodett (Motel 6: "We'll leave the light on for you."). Consider GEICO's gecko or Ernie the pistachio-loving elephant. Or even consider Columbo the unassuming but shrewd homicide detective with seemingly incoherent circumstantial speech in the television series of the same name.

The following are different tones of voice that you might consider:
  • Friendly
  • Sincere
  • Accessible
  • Authoritative
  • Sophisticated
  • Professional
  • Erudite
  • Informative
  • Wise
  • Lively
  • Energetic
  • Laid back
  • Folksy or "down home"
  • "Every man" or "every woman"
  • Cute
  • Quirky
  • Soothing
  • Soft spoken
  • Nurturing
  • Aspirational
  • Upbeat or optimistic
  • Uplifting
  • Passionate
  • Self-depreciating
  • Terse
  • Poetic

And following are different tones of voice that you probably want to avoid:
  • Arrogant
  • Pompous
  • Sophomoric
  • Pedantic
  • Ignorant
  • Clueless
  • Distracted
  • Self-absorbed
  • Mean-spirited
  • Uncouth
  • Impatient
  • Ditzy

Sometimes, it is easiest to point to a well-known personality who embodies what you want your brand's voice to be. Perhaps you would use that person as a brand spokesperson or at least as a shorthand for what you want your brand's voice to be.

If you do not have one marketing agency presenting your brand across all media, you should consider  including a detailed description of brand voice as a part of your brand positioning statement. This may include a brand voice dictionary of frequently used words and phrases.

The more you are able to personify your brand in a unique and highly compelling way by defining its archetype, personality, voice and visual style, the more your brand will come to life as if it were a person. If you need more help in this endeavor, contact us about our brand voice (and visual style) worksheet(s). Good luck.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Brands and Habits



Habit:

  1. A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition
  2. An established disposition of the mind or character
  3. Customary manner or practice
  4. An addiction, especially to a narcotic drug
We all have habits. For instance, we order the same menu item every time we go to a specific restaurant. Or we purchase the same brand of soda pop. Or we start our day with a cup of coffee and the morning paper. Or we go to the gym and work out every morning. 

Some of our brands are habits for people. For instance, someone may smoke a pack of Marlboro Reds every day. Or maybe someone stops at Dunkin' Donuts every morning on the way to work. Or perhaps someone only goes to Hallmark stores to purchase her greeting cards. Someone may have a favorite peanut butter brand or a favorite brand of toilet paper, which she faithfully and habitually buys. Or maybe someone pours himself a shot glass of Tito's vodka after arriving home from work every evening.

Some brands have tried to increase sales by suggesting that their brands could be incorporated into daily rituals. A food brand might try to incorporate its use into the morning breakfast ritual. Other brands might try to incorporate their use into family picnics, happy hours, Thanksgiving celebrations or graduations. 

I recently interacted with an organization whose 9 month reconstruction project would create a brand interaction hiatus for that long. The organization is a cultural institution and the audience is composed of cinephiles. I suggested an ideation session to identify ways to engage the audience in similar brand-related habits until the theatre reopened with teasers to create anticipation of the reopening. 

For a while, Starbucks was encouraging its morning customers to purchase a second drink in the afternoon via a price discount offered on their register receipts.

If your brand interaction is habitual, congratulations. Focus on reinforcing that habit and be careful not to do anything that could break the habit. If your brand interaction is not habitual, consider how you can make it so. Habitual behaviors tied to brands create regular guaranteed frequent repurchases of the brands. 

As a side note, I would strongly encourage the establishment of healthy brand habits, such as working out at an LA Fitness club every morning, using a Waterpik water flosser every night or hiking with Merrell hiking boots every Saturday over more health damaging brand habits. 

To learn more about the ten habits of Starbucks drinkers featured in the image above, click here.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Most Important Qualities for Brands


I have posted one or two articles on the brand personality attributes that organizations most often choose for their brands. In this article, I will share the qualities that I believe are most important for brands to possess. I am basing this on the qualities that people seek most in others. I think this is highly relevant because brands are the personifications of organizations and their products and services. By definition, brands take on and express human qualities. So why shouldn't brands take on the qualities that people admire the most in themselves and other people? 

Let's get started. Here are the qualities people most often mention that they look for in friends:
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Dependable
  • Empathetic
  • Non-judgmental
  • Forgiving
  • A good listener
  • Generous
  • Sense of humor
  • Fun to be around
And here are the qualities that they seek out in life partners:
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Sense of humor
  • Reliable
  • Fun to be around
  • Shared values
  • Compatibility
  • Mutual respect
  • Forgiving
  • Intelligent
  • Hard working
Here are the qualities people seek out in leaders:
  • Honest
  • Possessing integrity
  • Confidence
  • Positive attitude
  • Inspirational
  • Accountable/takes responsibility
  • Creative/innovative
  • Empathetic
  • Sense of humor
  • A good listener
  • Decisive
Here are why people love dogs and sometimes prefer them to other people (ok, I know dogs are not people):
  • Affectionate
  • Loyal
  • Uncritical/don't judge
  • Unconditional love
  • Exercise partner
  • Reliable
  • No hidden motives
And here are the qualities that people seek for themselves:
  • Being a good person
  • Competent
  • Respected
  • Wise
  • Smart
  • Trustworthy
  • Kind
  • Loyal
  • Helpful
  • Compassionate
Do you notice similarities between these lists? Here are the qualities that they have in common:
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Dependable
  • Sense of humor
  • Fun to be around
  • A good listener
  • Empathetic
  • Kind/generous
  • Non-judgmental 
  • Forgiving
As you are thinking about a persona for your brand, consider these qualities. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Ten Ways to Successfully Position Your Brand in Overcrowded Markets



Today, brand managers are increasingly at a loss about how to differentiate their brands. In most product and service categories, every unique and purchase motivating position has been claimed by one or more brands. Product and service categories have matured, brand research has gotten sophisticated and competitors have successfully filled all of the brand positioning niches. So what is a brand manager to do to discover a new unique and compelling brand position?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Identify, create and own a new "category of one." The Strong National Museum of Play did this by repositioning its brand from a children's museum to the only museum of play. 
  2. Through qualitative research, discover one or more compromises all of the brands in the category are making with their consumers and then design a business model and brand to overcome these compromises. CarMax did this vis-a-vis traditional used car dealerships and Uber did this vis-a-vis traditional taxicab companies. 
  3. Choose a valued benefit that has never been a part of the category. Apple did this with the introduction of smartphone apps. Southwest Airlines did this by owning "fun."
  4. Add an element to the brand that no other competitor in the category has added. Opaque did this. It introduced the concept of dining in the dark. 
  5. Make an outrageous version of a traditional product. Check out Loudmouth Golf for wild clothes. 
  6. Combine two or more products into one or two or more functions into one product. Victorinox Swiss Army was one of the first to do this with its knives. 
  7. Focus on a niche market or on one market segment. Orvis and lululemon do this, as does Lane Bryant. 
  8. Create a character that gives the brand a distinctive personality. Kellogg's Tony the Tiger was one of the first, but GEICO's gecko,  Progressive Insurance's Flo and Jamie and Pistachio's elephant, Ernie are also examples of this. 
  9. Go left when everyone else is going right. Naomi Klein did this with her No Logo book when everyone else was writing about the power of brands.
  10. Use a new material or technology that no one else is using. SmartSolve has created environmentally friendly dissolving paper, pouches, labels, thread, tape and adhesive. 
What do all of these approaches have in common? Out-of-the-box thinking.  None of these brands would have become what they became if their managers had applied linear or incremental thinking. 

If you are interested in this topic, here are some other blog posts that might be of interest to you:

By the way, the Interceptor vehicle pictured above is a car, boat, plane and helicopter all in one, applying idea #6 above.




Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Identifying Target Customers



Identifying and describing the target customer should always the first step in any brand positioning process. If you don't know who your customer is, how can you successfully position the brand? In our brand positioning workshops, we usually get people to identify the primary, secondary and tertiary customer targets. Sometimes, they describe the current customer and then describe who they want the future customer to be. We encourage them to be as specific as possible when defining the target customer. We want them to describe the target's "bulls-eye," that is, the customer who is the most advantageous to the brand. We have found that if you successfully define the "bulls-eye," people on the outer rings will also be interested in your brand. Often we phrase the target customer definition this way - "[Description], but especially [more detailed description]."

As real-life examples of the level of specificity that we are seeking, consider these definitions of primary customers for two different wealth management firms that we have helped brand.

  • Successful entrepreneurs with at least $1,000,000 to invest who feel as though they have not been adequately recognized for their accomplishments
  • Retired people with fixed incomes and at least $250,000 to invest who have experienced major market losses or are afraid of major market losses and and not sure their savings will last their lifetimes

Sometimes we are asked if one should focus on the direct customer or the end consumer. Our answer is almost always, the end consumer. Because, if the end consumer is not interested in your brand, your direct customer will likely also lose interest in the brand.

People sometimes ask about the difference between target customers and target audiences. There is a significant overlap between these two groups but customers almost always purchase something from your brand, while audiences may be customers or they may be influencers, regulators, vendors, strategic partners or other stakeholders. 

To indicate how complicated target customer descriptions can be, I will choose two examples, a research university and a municipality. 

Research University Brand Targets 
  • Potential students
  • Parents of potential students
  • High School guidance counselors
  • College guides
  • Alumni
  • Friends
  • Employers (firms recruiting students for jobs)
  • Current students
  • Faculty
  • Administrators
  • Staff
  • Potential faculty, administrators and staff
  • Federal, state and local governments
  • Private and public sources of research funds
  • Accreditation bodies
  • Peer institutions
  • If the university includes a medical school - physicians, nurses, other hospital staff, patients, potential patients
  • The community in which the university is located

Municipality Brand Targets

  • Current and potential residents
  • Current and potential businesses
  • Specific industries
  • Business leaders
  • Cultural institution leaders
  • Travel writers
  • Meeting and event planners
  • Event producers, including sports event producers
  • Tour companies
  • Professional associations
  • People living within a certain radius of the municipality 

And none of this addresses market segmentation, another important part of customer targeting. For more information on market segmentation, consider these blog posts:

And for another post on defining target markets, click here.

Not very often, but every once in a while, I will hear someone say "Our target audience is everyone," or "Our target audience is all adult women." Both of these are much too broad to be meaningful or to offer any direction.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Creating Compelling Places



I have on occasion written about creating place brands and have provided links at the bottom of this blog post to those previous posts. However, today I am writing about how to create compelling places upon which the brands would be built.

Aesthetics always matter. The natural and built environment (architecture, landscaping, etc.) contribute to that as does public art. Fountains and other water features also add to a place's appeal. Some places have unique or distinctive edifaces, landmarks or other design features that can become those places' distinctive icons. Walkability is becoming increasingly important, especially to younger generations. Intermodal public transportation also needs to be addressed. Street activation comes from having the right amenities at street level as well as the programming of interesting concerts, performances, activities and events. Buildings should not appear to be large walls at street level. Rather, they should have interesting window displays and inviting entrances. Easy access to amenities is crucial. Creating density and having a tipping point of residents is essential.

Colleges and universities usually enhance the environment, as do public spaces, restaurants, museums and art galleries. Town squares are particularly appealing.

Citizen input in the form of focus groups and design charrettes ensure that the place meets the needs and desires of its residents. Community organizing also helps keep a place on track for success. Citizens should invited and given opportunities to participate in the community.

Ideally, a vibrant place should have all of the elements of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). That is, it is strong in both technology and the arts. And ideally, entrepreneurship is encouraged and enabled. Innovation zones that create close proximity between different entrepreneurial ventures and creatives will spur innovation and growth.

Regarding the more mundane, parking is adequate and clean public restrooms are strategically located. Parking should be at the perimeter or hidden below ground or behind buildings so that street level activity is based foot and bicycle traffic. The place should not be dissected or otherwise divided into separate pieces by large highways. Strategically placed maps and wayfinding are also important. All of these together should lead to a self-sustaining ecosystem. Doing all of this right makes place branding much easier.

These are my other posts related to place making and place branding:




Monday, June 3, 2019

Mayo Clinic Advertising



I am impressed with the latest Mayo Clinic advertising campaign. The ads feature people leaving their homes with loved ones making their way to a destination - Mayo Clinic. The ads are very emotional with stunning visuals, a reflective mood, poignant moments and few or no spoken lines. The music is emotional the way our Hallmark Hall of Fame ads were emotional with simple acoustical guitar, piano or minimalist orchestral music.

The message at the end of each ad is very simple and powerful: "When it's time to find answers,"    "You Know Where to Go." The second line eventually appears below the Mayo Clinic Logo.

Here is a link to the ads. I believe they are examples of well-crafted, well-executed and emotionally powerful ads. I encourage you to watch them.

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: https://www.ispot.tv/brands/oGQ/sling.

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 Amazon.com 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."

Monday, April 15, 2019

Ethical Issues in Marketing



What are some of the ethical issues in marketing? First and foremost, we should not be using marketing to make a product that is clearly harmful more appealing to people—for instance, selling cigarettes by appealing to people at a deep emotional level. This can be achieved by linking the cigarette brand to independence, rebellion, good times, or coming into one’s own power.

Next is getting people to buy stuff that they just don’t need. How many toys does one child actually need? How many pairs of shoes are enough? Or, how many homes are enough? But is it the marketer's role to address this?

Then there is using fear to sell something. As we all know, fear works really well as a motivator; however, constantly using fear to market products and services only serves to create a more fearful society, where people are more motivated to avoid potential problems than to embrace that which is beneficial or uplifting.

How about using sex to sell products? This has been a strategy used successfully across a myriad of product categories for decades. Is there anything wrong with linking sex to an unrelated product or using women as objects of sexual desire? 

Making false claims is both unethical and illegal. I am personally not as concerned about what is generally considered to be puffery; for instance, stating that one’s brand is “the best in the world,” because few people are going to take that statement at face value. However, deliberating misleading the consumer or creating false expectations is wrong. 

Related to this, aren't marketers asked to focus on a brand's advantages and downplay or ignore its flaws. And, in some cases, aren't they asked to recast data to make something bad look good or a disadvantage look like an advantage? Is this selective recasting of data wrong? 

How about when a brand uses actors to create buzz about a brand? For instance, a brand might pay actors to extol the taste of a new alcoholic beverage in bars. And the actors never divulge that they are actors. Is this wrong?

How about assigning negative labels to a competitor's brand to reposition it as something highly undesirable? Is this ethical?

Certainly, an ethical dilemma that most marketing agencies face is whether to do (a) what is in the client’s best interest or (b) what the client wants (if you know that what the client wants is not in its own best interest). In this situation, are you forthright with the client but then ultimately collect your fees for executing what the client desires, or do you walk away from the project or business if what you are being asked to do is not in the client’s best
interest? Is the client always right or is the client sometimes wrong? And are you sure you know better than the client what is in his or her best interests?

How about getting someone to pay a huge price premium for a product because your brand bestows status on that product? Is this just helping people climb Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, or is it getting them stuck on one step in that ladder (at a hefty profit to the brand)? And isn't it the role of brands to decrease price sensitivity and allow for price premiums?

Knowing that brands can sometimes make people feel more appealing, loved, smart, accomplished, or valued, I want to scream to them, “You are already appealing, loved, smart, accomplished, and valued. You don’t need a product or brand to be that.” How can a product really make people feel more of anything, especially in the long-run?

There is also this question: Does the relentless pursuit of more and better products, services, and experiences lead to improved lives with more leisure time and a higher quality of life, or does it just constantly raise the bar for what will satisfy while depleting natural resources and placing more demands on peoples’ lives?

How about those huge purchases that marketers can get people to make— for instance, luxury cars, luxury boats, fine art, and expensive wines? Some people can easily afford these things and very much appreciate even minutely incremental improvements in quality. Others, however, may be stretching their budgets to “keep up with the Joneses.” This second group may experience immediate post-purchase remorse after such a large purchase. Is it ethical to market to these people based on aspiration?

And, related to that, if people experience buyer’s remorse immediately after a purchase, is it a good thing or a bad thing to create a post-purchase touch point that relieves their anxiety and makes them feel better about the purchase?

And what about selling functional substance, a real solution to a problem, vs. good feelings? Many brands (and salespeople for that matter) are masterful at selling good feelings without really delivering much else. I often feel this way about motivational speakers. Is something tangible really more valuable than something completely intangible? Is it better to market to and deliver on a need or a desire? Is one better than another? What if people desire something that is not good for them? Is that the marketer’s problem? Is it another person’s right to judge what is good or bad for you?

Once, a client indicated that he wanted to hire me because he understood that I was a "master of the dark arts." Is this how you want to be perceived? I raise these questions and issues to get you, as a marketer, to think about not only what works but what is ethical. If you are a highly skilled marketer, you have a lot of power to persuade people to make choices in certain ways, to believe certain things, to purchase certain products and to behave in certain ways. Are you using this power responsibly?

So how do I see that marketing can be truly helpful to organizations, brands, and their customers? First and foremost, brands can help organizations focus on how they can best add value in the market, especially in unique ways. A brand’s unique value proposition can become the organization’s internal rallying cry, energizing employees and mobilizing them to deliver on the brand’s promise. Marketing can also highlight a particular brand’s unique advantage over competing brands, helping consumers to make more informed decisions. If businesses include marketing research as a part of marketing (as well they should), there is a huge advantage to understanding what customers actually need and want so that the organization can deliver it to them. Identifying and determining the best ways to meet human needs is a noble endeavor.

Reprinted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here