Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category
A new Starbucks opened up in my neighborhood this week. This one in a supermarket. The one before that? Just a block away with skimpy parking but a killer drive thru that I find hard to pass by. I cherish my morning “get into gear” coffee and my afternoon “pick me ups”. No matter the location or time of day, I know I can count on Starbucks to deliver a great product with smart service in a highly reliable, familiar way. That’s what great branding is all about. Creating an experience and filling a need in a remarkable, consistent way.
Here’s a quick test. Look at this logo and quickly think of 3 words or feelings it conjures for you:
For me? Reliable, relaxing, pampering. All positive around an experience I like to repeat over and over. I like coffee and I like the coffee Starbucks makes. If, on the other hand, you despise coffee or tea, there’s probably nothing Starbucks can do to change your world view. They’re simply not selling anything you need or want. So in your own marketing for your company, product, or service, focus on being remarkable and memorable to your core target audience. Understand, through research (surveys, focus groups, comment cards) what it is they genuinely want from you and be honest and thoughtful about what commitment you can make to deliver. And to excel. Anyone can do mediocre, but to stand out in the crowd you need to be extraordinary.
I would invite you to look at your own brand and the story you tell your core customers. Is it authentic, reliable, consistent? And is the experience they have with you spectacular? If not, what can you do to make it so.
If you deliver the need in a consistently extraordinary way, the end result is unwavering loyalty. And you’ll have developed brand evangelists who will happily, and without monetary reward, help you spread the word.
Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.
Chip Bell, Founder Chip Bell Group
Is there a company you love telling friends about? We’d love to hear your stories.
How do you get customers to become loyalists when they’re barraged with marketing messages from companies vying for their attention? We could list the many “how to’s” but here’s the bottom line — you have to Be Remarkable. Recently I was on the receiving end of “remarkable” from the most unlikely of sources.
Heard any stories lately about phone companies and their amazing customer service that goes the extra mile? More than likely, your answer is a big NO! Phone companies aren’t known for exceeding expectations; they’re more often the source of frustration and gripes for lousy service.
Imagine then my surprise and delight when I received a handwritten note card from a Sprint employee thanking me for my business and offering a 25% discount on my next in-store purchase. Seems Sprint has decided my loyalty is appreciated. And I appreciate them taking the time to tell me so. It seemed so, well, personal.
What happens when you feel appreciated? For starters, you feel good. And you feel good about your decision to use this company, their product or service. You feel more emotionally connected to them and their brand and you become more passionate and engaged. And chances are, you will tell your friends, family, and colleagues. So by exceeding your expectations and showing appreciating, this company has turned you the customer into a fan who will tell others this remarkable story.
Here’s a story about another type company you’re unlikely to get excited about – an auto body shop. I became a fan recently of Caliber Collision Centers when they surprised me with their excellent customer service. I dropped my car off some for repairs recently. The staff was so attentive and caring I was taken aback. They asked about the accident (not our fault), empathized over the inconvenience and offered me copious amounts of coffee and water. The service agent followed through on his promise to call every Tuesday and Thursday with an update. And the repairs took 3 days less than anticipated. In short, they exceeded my expectations and generated a level of loyalty in me I didn’t know possible.
When I complimented the office manager on their great service, she told me she tries to treat customers the way she’d like to be treated.
I hope I don’t get in another accident soon but if I do, I know where I’m headed.
How are you working to be remarkable and remembered? We’d love to hear your story.
I’ve been saddened by the recent passing of Apple Founder Steve Jobs. The guy was the greatest inventor of my lifetime, a college dropout who has revolutionized computers, phones, movies, music. So much so that Apple’s market capitalization was the planet’s most valuable in 2011.
Jobs invented products that made our lives simpler, more entertaining, more connected than ever before. TIME magazine concludes his expertise was less in computers than in it was in the humans who used them. Apple owners aren’t just customers, they are fanatics. Lining up around the corner at Apples stores the world over for the newest version of anything Apple. Visit an Apple store on any Saturday and, if you can get in the door, you’ll be struck by the demographic melting pot of young and old.
Jobs used marketing to create an emotional connection. To make us feel smart, cool, and hip. To stroke our ego and build our self-esteem. To remind us we ARE sophisticated and bold and cutting edge. In exchange, Apple got our heart and soul and lifelong loyalty.
After Jobs’ death I watched an interview with co-founder and long-time friend Steve Wozniak. While he and their band of byte brothers focused on the nuts and bolts of building computers that would sell, Jobs focused on how people would actually use their computers. What people would do with them. And how they would make our lives better. He focused on us and made us not only crave the iPod, iPhone, iPad, he made us wonder how we ever lived without them. Truly he was the King of Cool.
I’ve spent far too much of my time and limited mind space thinking about this rather inane question:
What on earth is Allstate thinking?
For the last couple of years, they’ve had the Strong Soothing Black Man as their spokesperson in their TV spots. Don’t know his name, but it doesn’t matter. The SSBM exudes what we all need right now: quiet strength, unwavering confidence, the feeling that no matter what may go wrong in your life, the SSBM will make it all go away.
Are you in good hands? We sure are, Strong Soothing Black Man.
Then inexplicably, it all changed.
Like a child wrenched from Daddy’s arms, my safety and security were suddenly blasted from me. Because, without warning, the Allstate commercials began featuring the uber-creepy Mayhem.
Mayhem’s your basic Psychotic White Guy, posing as every threat you’ve never thought of. Your everyday life, your most basic and innocent acts – such as cruising to Vons to pick up bananas – are made sinister. Because Mayhem is lurking everywhere.
He’s the tree smashing your windshield, the teenage girl texting her way into the back of your head, the ghoulish fool howling through the sun roof in a parking lot – as he careens into your back bumper.
I watched in horror. I waited for the Strong Soothing Black Man to appear and make it all go away.
But he never came. And I was afraid.
Because this sudden, crazy shift in Allstate’s marketing freaked me out. I wondered, who IS this company? And why do they suddenly want to scare the living crap out of me with this Psychotic White Guy? Allstate’s bipolar positioning shift left me confused – and wary.
Which leads us to Promobabe’s Inconvenient Truth #2: Know Thyself
Does your company project a consistent brand identity? Do your customers have a clear idea of who you are and what you stand for? Here are Promobabe’s basic guidelines for making sure you know thyself:
- Resist the urge to be all things to all people
- Understand your company’s “core personality.” Use research, customer feedback, etc to help determine how your target market sees you. Are you the smart guys? The friendly helping hand? The cool, sexy alternative?
- Be consistent in your marketing. Remember you can change and freshen your creative, just like we all change our clothes. But your basic persona still remains the same.
- Customer confusion = frustration = marketing death!
Clearly, Allstate was having a crazy, whirlwind of an identity crisis. Played out in expensive TV spots to confused viewers.
While I don’t have the inside skinny on whether or not the Mayhem campaign worked for them, I’m betting it didn’t. Because a few weeks later, the Strong Soothing Black Man appeared in new spots again.
Is your marketing message in good hands?
*ignore at your own marketing peril
As midterm elections draw closer and closer, here’s a quick question for you: What’s the brand of the United States of America?
The answer is a powerful example of the truth about any brand, including yours: It depends on who you ask and sometimes it will be the “wrong” answer.
That’s because brands are not tangible or carved in stone. They are not the product (or the policy in the case of a country) or the service being offered and delivered. Your brand is the story being told about what you have to offer. It’s the reaction you get and sometimes the one you hope for.
And it’s never really the “wrong” answer. If the brand story you hear back from your target audience isn’t what you expected, find out where their experience differs from your promise – where you might be going “wrong.” The listening is what keeps your brand strong and growing.
Also, have the discipline to hear what’s being said by those who are not your audience without reacting. They may not like your story even though it’s perfectly authentic and exactly what you offer. That’s why they’re not your customers!
But the most important lesson about the American Brand may be this: the more confusion there is about your brand internally, the weaker your story will be to those on the outside.
So quick: what’s the Exceptional Promise that now defines the U.S.A. brand for you? What’s is it for your brand?
If you’re interested in more discussion of the intersection of politics and branding, join the debate.
What is the single most important aspect of any brand strategy?
If you answered quality, customer service or even consistency you were a little off the mark. There are hugely successful brands that don’t promise high quality or great customer service but do offer inexpensive, no-frills and “do it yourself” as their compelling story. Consistency is closer to the core of what’s essential for effective positioning but that still must go beyond simply repeating your message or creating a reliable experience.
So what’s the single most significant thing in your Brand strategy? Be authentic.
If you’re thinking, I talked about this last month then you’re paying attention which is good. The reason I’m repeating myself is simple. Too many brand managers still take their authentic foundation for granted and go on to concentrate on dressing up the brand story with clever copy, cool graphics and a great pitch to sell the staff. But then no magic happens. And branding becomes a daily battle.
That’s because an authentic brand takes on a life of its own. It is who you really are so it’s easy for staff to remember how to create the essential experience for customers. It’s what your company lives so there is no confusion about the brand being just the latest slogan the marketing department came up with. It’s so much a part of your essence that it’s almost effortless to get your target audience engaged.
Someone once said “Tell the truth. It’s the easiest thing to remember.” The same notion applies to your brand strategy and brand experience. Be authentic and your customers will learn to trust you and that makes longterm relationships possible. Your staff will trust as well. After all, they’re the first know if the brand is real or just a sometime thing.
So are you telling the truth about your brand? Sometimes?
The power of less. Nothing teaches it to you like the merciless world of TV promotion, where I spent many years writing and producing the daily “tonight at 11pm” teases for local news stations.
It’s a world where you gotta get your message out fast. Where 30-second spots are a luxury. Most of the time, you’re cranking out your copy in ten seconds and even the infamous “four second ID’s.”
But you know, those tough constraints can benefit anyone who writes promo copy for any business.
At first, it’s agonizing to brutally cut your melodious marketing thoughts to the bare bones. I mean, you have so much to say – and such clever ways to say it!! You just know everyone is breathlessly awaiting every fascinating detail about your product or service.
But when you’re forced to crank it out down and dirty every day, you quickly learn to go lean and mean. And a funny thing happens. You begin to take pride in your ability to cut to the chase, to get right down to it. You realize it forces you to drill down to the most important thing about what you’re promoting – and just spit it out there. Quick. Clean. To the point.
Before you know it, you’re a better marketer for it. Because let’s face it, no one loves your copy like you do. And even if they did, they don’t have the time to read it all. The world just wants to know what’s cool about what you have to offer – and how it makes their lives better in some way. That’s it. The rest is just so much blah, blah, blah.
So the next time you’re writing some copy for your company, think to yourself – what would I really say about this product or service if I only had ten seconds to get my point across? You’ll find it’s a powerful starting point for targeted, compelling messages people really care about.
Brevity can be beautiful.
Why was I thinking about branding at a graduation ceremony I attended recently? Glad you asked.
I was there because a young woman I’d mentored for years was getting her diploma. I’d watched since she was 8 as she overcame tremendous family obstacles to get to that day – the first in her family to graduate from high school. As I listened to her talk afterwards, her conversation was a rollercoaster of hopes and concerns, confidence and uncertainty, realism and dreams. Anyone listening was inclined to come closer and engage her because she was in such an authentic place. No image. Real. And you couldn’t help but love her in that moment, especially if you knew her story.
So what does that have to do with branding, you ask again?
As I talk to people about their brands, the conversation too often begins with Image, sometimes even logos and taglines. It takes awhile to move to what really makes a brand live long and prosper. It’s authentic. It’s engaging. You can’t help but love it. And that means it’s very, very personal because building a brand is about developing an authentic personal relationship with your customers.
So ask yourself: Do I have a personal connection to my brand? Do I LOVE my brand or am I just trying to leverage the name? If you want to read about why the answer is important, pick up A New Brand World by Scott Bedbury. I’m off to give a recent high school graduate another driving lesson.