July 2019 - c3centricity | c3centricity

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What you need to know about Brand Image, Personality & Archetypes

Your brand is not what you think it is! It is what your customers think it is; its brand image, personality and its value to them.

I was lecturing at Miami University a while back on brand image and personality. These are two vital elements of branding. They need to be clear and consistently represented in all your communications.

If you’re having issues with your own brand in either of these areas, then you’ll find the following article both interesting and valuable.

 

Why we Buy Brands

According to Wikipedia, a brand is:

“a set of marketing and communications methods that help to distinguish a company from competition and create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.” 

Although this definition in my opinion, is a little sterile for something as exciting as branding, I do like that it mentions customers. However, for me, a brand is created in both the minds and hearts of its customers.

There has been so much said about the importance of emotions and resonating with the customer, that we should no longer forget them. And this is where image and personality play vital roles. They are both more or less created in the heart, rather than in the mind of the customer.

We often buy brands without even knowing ourselves why we buy them. We can, of course, provide a clear, reasoned answer if asked, but explanations come from the mind. The heart is what makes us buy.

We often buy brands without even knowing ourselves why we buy them. We can, of course, provide a clear, reasoned answer if asked, but explanations come from the mind. The heart is what makes us buy. #brand #Marketing #BrandImage… Click To Tweet

Branding Elements

A brand is made up of a number of components, with which people learn to identify and recognise it. These include its logo, colour, pack, shape, taste, aroma, sounds and feel. There may also be other things which are directly associated with the brand, such as a celebrity, an event or a cause it supports.

A brand needs to have a clear image, personality and equity in the minds of its customers. These come as the result of these branding elements as well as the customer’s own personal experience with it.

All these factors must be respected in order to build a strong brand with which customers can identify themselves. If they’re not, then the brand is at risk of not developing correctly, or even worse, of becoming just a commodity.

It is vital for marketers to know and understand what their brand means to customers. Not just what it means for their organisation. And then, of course, to follow it over time through regular measurement.

It is vital for marketers to know and understand what their brand means to customers. Not just what it means for their organisation. #brand #Marketing #BrandImage #BrandEquity Click To Tweet

 

Brand Image

A brand is associated with many statements or attributes. These are what current and potential customers think or feel about it. They may have resulted from exposure to its communications, as well as from their own personal experiences.

These elements are usually grouped into three types: the rational / functional benefits, the subjective / emotional elements and the cultural / relational factors.

The third group was added by David Armano of Edelman Digital almost ten years ago. I like his additional idea because the relationships a brand builds with its customers have become vitally important in today’s world of social media. I have noticed that he recently started referring to these as societal rather than relational, in line with today’s more usual vocabulary.

  • Rational / Functional benefits include things on which most people would agree and recognise. For example being crunchy, colourful, available everywhere or delivered in a glass bottle.
  • Emotional / Subjective elements are those which vary between customers and their own, personal appreciation of the brand. These might include good value for money, better quality, or gives the best service.
  • Cultural / Relational (Societal) factors are those associated with a brand’s trust and responsibility. Customers today are increasingly interested in how a brand or corporation addresses its use of resources and whether or not they are sustainable and ecological. Brands also depend on recommendations from others, so word of mouth, especially online, has become a vital additional source of reputation. The attributes measured could include trustworthy, a brand I’d recommend or cares about its customers.

 

The Power of a Three-legged Brand

David Armano showed that incorporating all three elements into a brand’s image results in a stronger brand. It is much more likely to have a better performance than those brands which don’t include the societal elements.

He reported that it is in recommendations and sharing brand content that the most positive impact can be found today.

Customers are also more likely to share their personal information with the brand and to buy it more often. Both of these actions demonstrate an increase in trust, a precursor to both loyalty and advocacy.

One further impact of trust is that it results in customers defending the brand. This is a wonderful support to have in a world where everything is known at the click of a button. A brand which has the trust of its customers will be more often forgiven for the occasional mishap.

You can read more about Edelman’s Brandshare Study in the slideshow “How brands and people create a value exchange.”

 

Measuring Brand Image

I am often surprised by the lack of understanding about how to measure brand image when I work on branding issues with clients. Even large companies don’t do a good job of it in general. And some have never even measured it, preferring financial to customer metrics to manage their businesses.

Even large companies don't do a good job of measuring brand image. And some have never even measured it, preferring financial to customer metrics to manage their businesses. Click To Tweet

Others measure too frequently, in the hope that their latest advertising campaign has had the desired impact. This is rarely the case, as images take time to change.

Another problem I find with many clients when I first start working with them, is that the choice of attributes is often sub-optimal, to be polite. The factors included should be selected to cover all the main elements of your desired image as well as that of the competition.

I have often seen clients happy that they are scoring better than their competitors. However, when I examine their metrics I find that they are missing those which would better represent their competitors’ brands. No wonder they are doing well!

A further mistake I encounter is trying to measure advertising slogans. While it is important to understand whether your message is heard and understood, this should not be done in a brand image survey. Advertising slogans should be evaluated through a communications test.

 

Brand Personality & Values

theory of basic human values
Source: Wikipedia, click to enlarge

Brands have personalities, just like people. It was Schwartz who first identified the ten human values which make up our personalities. They are important to understand, especially for regional and global brands, because they cut across cultures.

Our values also determine our behaviour. Plato identified the typical patterns of human behaviour, which he called archetypes. The Swiss psychologist Jung then used this concept in his theory of the human psyche. But it wasn’t until Margaret Mark that they were first correlated with brands in her excellent book “The Hero and the Outlaw.”

Brand Archetypes
Source: Visual.ly

The twelve archetypes are illustrated above, together with some sample adjectives to describe them. It is important to understand how customers see your brand. Do you know? 

The image on the right shows examples of brands with each of the twelve personalities. Where would you place your own brand?

The personality of your brand should resonate with your customers, either because they are similar, or because they provide the dream lifestyle your customers desire.

Either way, it is essential to understand what role your brand is playing. 

It is essential to understand the personality of your brand and what role it is playing. #brand #marketing #BrandImage #BrandEquity #Personality Click To Tweet

 

Brand Archetypes

The personality of your brand should resonate with your customers, either because they are similar, or because they provide the image your customers desire. Either way, it is essential to understand what role your brand is playing.

Brands can represent any of the twelve archetypes, which are usually divided into four subgroups, as follows:

  1. Stability, control: Caregiver, Ruler, Creator
  2. Risk, achievement: Hero, Rebel, Magician
  3. Belonging: Lover, Jester, Everyman
  4. Learning, freedom: Innocent, Sage, Explorer

As the diagram above shows, there is no ideal archetype and brands can successfully grow by representing any of them. What is vital is that the archetype is portrayed consistently across all communications and visualisations.

Need help with your own brand building? 

 

Examples of Strong Brand Images & Personalities

During my lecture at the University of Miami, I shared many examples of brand images and personalities. These included showing how some brands have successfully managed to change theirs.

Two of the brands we discussed were Axe and Old Spice because they have gone through some interesting evolutions over the years. Most recently it even appears that they are overtly challenging each other through their advertising. 

Take a look at the ads below and see if you can identify the archetypes before continuing to read the post. 

AXE: This Unilever brand has been portrayed as the Lover, the Hero and most recently as the Everyman. Here are a couple of their ads to show the transition from Hero (Fireman) to Everyman (Find your magic).

In particular, note the shower sequence at the end of the second Axe commercial (a slight - or is it a sly - dig at  Old Spice?) and the heroic fire demonstration in the Old Spice ad!

 

 

 

OLD SPICE: This P&G brand has been portrayed as the Explorer, Everyman (The Man Your Man Could Smell Like) and most recently as the Rebel (Rocket Car) - or is it, Hero? Let me know which you think in the comments below.

As I did for Axe, I've selected an older and a more modern example of their campaigns, so you can compare the change of approach.

 

 

 

I am looking forward to seeing how these two ad campaigns continue to develop. It is clear that Unilever and P&G are closely following and perhaps even being inspired by each other. Those are two of the actions of great marketers.

Finally, I couldn't leave the topic of personalities without mentioning Apple. Often seen as the Creator archetype, Apple went as far as to visualise their persona and personality in their "Get a Mac" campaign. (see example from AdAge below)

The ads featured two men, called Mac and PC, comparing their functionalities. The campaign ran from 2006 to 2009 and was a hilarious success, positively impacting the Mac's image. In the ads, they describe themselves as:

Mac: Cool, trendy, young, friendly, casual, reliable, fast and looking for fun.

PC: Boring, formal, cold, old, unreliable, slow, not inspiring.

Which two archetypes do they suggest? Answers in the comments below, please.

 

Brand Equity

A brand's equity is the value of the brand in the eyes of its customers  It is the power it has derived from the goodwill and recognition that it has earned over time.

A strong brand equity comes from the development of a robust image and personality. Both of these need to be reinforced by every advertisement, message and promotion that the brand produces. Consistency is vital to growing a strong equity.

Consistency is vital to growing a strong brand equity. How consistent are you? #Brand #BrandImage #BrandEquity #BrandBuilding #Marketing Click To Tweet. The

The results of this consistency will be both higher sales and profits, due to being valued more than your competitors.

Steadiness is vital to growing a strong equity. The results of being consistent will be both higher sales and profits, due to being valued more than its competitors.

 

Brand Equity Studies

The importance of a brand's equity is clearly indicated by the many different sources of regional and global brand equity rankings published each year.

The two most well known, Interbrand and Millward Brown's BrandZ, have slightly different algorithms and therefore results, but both include financial as well as consumer metrics.

 

Interbrand

Interbrand's model has three key components:

  • analysis of its financial performance
  • analysis of the role the brand plays in purchase decisions
  • analysis of the brand’s competitive strength.

Together with extensive desk research and an expert panel assessment, Interbrand  also includes data from Reuters, Datamonitor and media platform Twitter.

 

Millward Brown's BrandZ

BrandZ, on the other hand, uses a mixture of financial information and customer surveys. Their proprietary research covers 3mio consumers and 100,000 brands in more than 50 markets. They too measure three things:

  • How “meaningful” the brand is, its appeal & ability to generate “love” and meet the consumer’s expectations and needs.
  • How “different” it is, what unique features it may have and its ability to “set the trends” for consumers.
  • How “salient” the brand is, whether it springs to mind as the consumer’s brand of choice.

BrandZ's 2016 results showed Google overtaking Apple as the most valuable brand in the world. However, in 2019 Amazon has leapfrogged the competition to be crowned the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand for 2019, breaking Apple and Google’s 12 year hold on the top spot.

So there you have it. All the major points a marketer should know about brand image, equity, personalities and archetypes.

A marketer's role is primarily to defend and grow its brand's image and equity through a strong personality and consistent communications. If you are not succeeding in all areas then you are almost certainly challenged by weakening sales.

Brand image usually declines before sales do, so it is an invaluable measure of your brand's health. If you would like to learn more about measuring and analysing brand image, there are several chapters dedicated to the topic in my book "Winning Customer Centricity"

Don't forget to add your answers to the couple of questions I asked in the article in the comments below. Let me know what you think about defending brand image and growing equity. And I'd love to hear about your own brand's archetype and whether you had trouble in defining it.

This post uses images from Denyse's book "Winning Customer Centricity". You can download the first three chapters for free HERE.

What Customer First Strategies Really Are (And what they’re not!)

Everyone is talking about customer first strategies and why they are important. However walking the talk is a different matter!

An interesting article on NewMR by Ray Poynter prompted this post. He spoke about the differences between customer focus and customer centricity and the often times confusion between the two terms. That is why I tend to speak about customer first rather than customer centricity these days.

In its simplest form a customer first strategy is about thinking customer first in everything you do. Yes I know it sounds easy but it really isn’t. And it doesn’t come naturally, at least to start with. I believe that’s because it involves a culture change to move the organisation in this direction. But I can assure you it’s worth it; its value is now well proven.

If you would like to see some exciting statistics about the value of making your customers the heart of your business, then CMO.com has a great article. It’s called “15 Mind-Blowing Stats About Customer Centricity” and many of the research results reported are still valid today, so it’s definitely worth a read.

 

 

What Are Not Customer First Strategies

I have seen a customer first strategy defined as

“a strategy by which businesses create their products, content, and marketing campaigns so that they serve their customers first, and their organization second.”

I don’t agree! If you don’t think about your organisation then it will likely fail! That said, I am also a little sensitive to the comments of Sir Richard Branson, who says

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

This may be true for an airline, where the client is primarily basing their opinion on the service on board and the “niceness” of the crew. After all, every airline will get you from A to B.

However for many industries, customers are enjoying (or not!) your product or service without your employees being present. They will remain loyal (or not!) to your brand, based upon their own personal experiences, at least in most cases.

A customer first strategy is therefore not about only thinking about the customer. It is about understanding how best to serve them in such a way as to delight them, while keeping your employees and shareholders happy. This is relatively easy to do because when the business is going well, all stakeholders are happy.

 

What Customer First Strategies Are

Econsultancy asked what effective leadership in the digital age is. Several key leadership qualities were found, including being ruthlessly customer-centric, data-driven, innovative, collaborative and agile. I am thrilled to see customer centricity coming first by a long margin.

 

Customer-centric organizational culture characteristics

So the leaders have got the message, but what are they doing about it? Not a lot in many cases. And why? From my experience it is because they just don’t know where to start or what to do. (If that’s your situation, try our Customer Centricity Mini C3C Evaluator™ – for free! It will immediately show you your biggest opportunities.)

 

Evaluate my Business

 

 

Executing a customer first strategy doesn’t happen without a clear understanding of what needs to change. This is why I decided to take the four other qualities mentioned and see how they influence the adoption of such a culture within an organisation.

 

 

Being Data Driven

We are all aware that when we visit a website, buy something online, or post on social media, we are being tracked. Information is being gathered about us and our actions which can then be used to follow our behaviours, show relevant advertisements or even communicate directly with us.

But automated data gathering doesn't only happen online. Many organisations store our information when we contact their customer service center, enter a promotion, sign up for a club or gift card, or apply for free samples.

While the GDPR in Europe has increased the security of this data and our permission for companies to use it, data driven marketing is not all bad news.

OK, so I'm not talking about the 2002 Minority Report. I'm not speaking about how the hero is bombarded with advertising messages in the street and in the shopping mall, as the clip below shows.

No. While it is unlikely that we would appreciate such invasive messaging, people rarely complain about the suggestions proposed of further articles to purchase when they visit Amazon and similar online stores. This is because they provide a real service and we therefore happily give our details to these websites.

Data driven marketing and communications will need to carefully balance the support they provide to customers, with respect for their desire for privacy at certain times. The companies that succeed will be those that understand this and connect at the right times. Those that don't, risk being banned from all future contact.

We are now one year on from the introduction of GDPR and we have seen little change other than being asked to approve the privacy terms of the sites we visit that use cookies. There have been a few companies who are being fined for not sufficiently protecting their customer data from hackers. This is serious stuff. Fines can go up to €20,000,000 or 4% of the total worldwide annual turnover of an organisation. This would mean that Facebook could end up paying $1.6 billion and British Airways £183 million. But in reality I don't think the fines, at least to start with, will be this high.

An article by Toby McKenna on AdAge spoke of the "Three resolutions for data-driven marketers in 2018." He said they are:

  1. Demand fresher data
  2. Revise your definition of "in-market" consumers
  3. Shift your approach from myopic to broad-based (and forward thinking)

I applaud the emphasis on the importance of data freshness. We are all irritated by ads presented to us that are no longer relevant once we have made a purchase, aren't we?

I also encourage a forward-thinking, longer-term perspective. Change is happening so fast today that we need to prepare for things before they even happen! Difficult maybe, but essential for businesses to survive. For further ideas on how you can do this, read "How to Prepare Business for Anything. Five Actions You Can Take Now."

Change is happening so fast today that we need to prepare for things before they even happen! #marketing #brand #CEO Click To Tweet

But good as the above list is, it needs a fourth resolution in my opinion; that of using the collected data for the benefit of the customer. As the data comes from them I believe all organisations have a duty to use it to return our customers' trust in us when they shared it. Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below.

Use the customer data you collect for the good of the customer. Return their trust in us when they shared it. #Data #Customer #CEX #CEO Click To Tweet

 

 

Being Innovative

We all get bored with novelty more quickly these days. What excites us one day, is normal the next and "passé" after that! Innovation is the life-blood of every successful business. Not renovation, innovation. If you don't know the difference, then you should read "How to Innovate Successfully (What You’re Still Getting Wrong!)."

The post includes the ten reasons your innovations are failing:

  1. The process
  2. Meeting company quotas
  3. Lack of customer understanding
  4. Lack of category understanding
  5. Not living up to your promises
  6. Not being sufficiently differentiated
  7. Being too different
  8. Pricing yourself out of the market
  9. Inappropriate distribution
  10. Being too far ahead of the customer:

If you think that any of these reasons applies to your own organisation, then you must read this post. It contains answers to solve each of the issues. Invaluable!

 

 

Being collaborative

Despite moves to flat organisational structures, open-offices and social areas in work today, silos seem to be as strong as ever! And yet silos cost businesses a fortune in wasted effort and investments. Suppliers are unlikely to tell you when you have already bought a report. I found this was the case for one of my clients, that had bought the same report an amazing 26 times! They wasted millions just because their organisation was siloed.

Departments hold onto information they have gathered like treasure and consider it to be for their personal advantage only. This results in multiple projects being run on the same topic, sometimes even in parallel! I found three similar projects being run by an FMCG client, that the department that hired me was unaware of. By working collaboratively, they were able to have more resources, both in terms of budget and personnel! You can imagine what that did to the completion of all the projects. They were finished in record time and well under budget! One more happy customer!

If you're not sure your information resources are being used effectively and efficiently, then we should talk. 

Collaboration is the only way to decrease this waste and hopefully marketing automation and open data storage will help resolve at least a large part of it. However I have found in working with clients that it is the culture change that makes the biggest impact. After all, what is an employee's benefit in working with and helping other departments? The executive board must encourage collaboration and be seen to walk their talk, for the whole company to follow.

Have you ever heard the phrase "it's not in my objectives" when asking for support? If so, then why not suggest that collaboration be included in everyone's objectives? Change will happen - fast!

 

 

Being agile

Following on from the need for innovation, today's businesses must be agile and flexible. With technology changing the way we live our lives, companies must be both ready for change and prepared to benefit when there is something relevant happening.

 

Some of the best examples of agile marketing:

Being agile can take many forms. The examples below show that it can be online, offline, or outdoor. Brands that are agile are where their customers are; that's what matters.

 

Tweets when the lights went out at the SuperBowl in 2013:

 

customer first agile marketing tideThinking customer first with Oreo

 

 

Unofficial ads during the 2012 London Olympics:

Customer first ads London 2012Customer first ad London 2012

 

The ongoing struggles between major brands:

Audi vs BMW

customer first ads audi bmwcustomer first audi vs bmw

 

 

 

Coke vs Pepsi

(Thanks to CAVE House for this great video collection)

Of course these examples could only be developed because the brand owners were ready to take advantage of what was happening in their customers' lives. They therefore had to know them deeply in order for their communications to be relevant and resonate with them.

 

Reasons most companies fail their customer first strategy adoption

In conclusion, I would like to give some of the many reasons why companies fail to adopt a customer first strategy. Last year I wrote a highly popular post explaining why many companies don't succeed, called "7 Reasons Most Companies Fail to Adopt a Customer-First Strategy." The post also appeared on CustomerThink and received many comments that are definitely worth reviewing too.

That is why I am not going to go into detail here, but just summarise the 7 reasons I gave:

1. The CEO has stated it as a company objective but has not detailed what and how the organisation will change

The CEO needs to ask the awkward questions to ensure everyone is embracing a customer-first strategy #CEX #CEO Click To Tweet

2. The organisation has not fully embraced the strategy

Whenever you take a decision, ask yourself: What would our customers think? #CEX #Customer #CEO Click To Tweet

3. The project is treated just like any other

Customer-centricity is a journey, not a destination. #CEX #Customer #CEO Click To Tweet

4. The initiative does not have a visible leader

5. No-one understands how to move the initiative forward.

Successful businesses work with a business catalyst to help them take the important first few steps of a customer-first strategy #CEX #CustomerFirst #CEO Click To Tweet

6. Everyone in the organisation is not clear about their role in satisfying and delighting the customer.

7. They think it costs too much

Which of these is (are) the main reason(s) for your slow move to a customer-first strategy adoption? Is it something different? Let me know in the comments; I'm sure every reader would love to exchange their own experiences with you.

If you would like to know which area of a customer first strategy offers you the most opportunities for improvement, why not complete our mini C3C Evaluator™ tool? It's FREE! And in just 12 questions you will get a clear indication of what to prioritise. Then let's talk.

 

How Good is your Customer First Strategy?Answer just 12 questions to find out!

 

Is Packaging Part of Product or Promotion? Should it be Both?

Which did you answer subconsciously when you read the title? Do you consider your packaging to be a part of the product, protecting its contents and framing its on-shelf life? Or do you consider it to be an integral part of your connection with your customers at an important moment of truth, that of purchase and usage?

If you answered both, then I believe that you are making maximum use of your packaging or at least you recognise its potential for communication.

If you answered only one of the choices, then you may be missing an important opportunity. Let me explain, with a few examples.

 

People don’t read instructions

We all expect most things that we use or consume to be intuitive these days. In other words, we assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions.

We all expect most things that we use to be intuitive these days. We assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions. How intuitive is your brand? Click To Tweet

If you are like most people – myself included – this has nothing to do with the complexity of the product concerned . I myself will only turn to the instructions when something doesn’t work: I end up with left-over screws when mounting a flat-pack piece of furniture, or I can’t achieve multi-recordings on my smart TV or DVD recorder.

In the article How Likely Are You to Read the Instructions they  they link behaviour to personality types. It makes an interesting read and offers at least some explanations why many (most?) of us still don’t read instructions.

As internet results in us having access to more and more information, we seem to be reading less and less. Therefore we need to ensure that any vital information is called out in some way on the packaging – and perhaps visually as well.

 

People do look at packs

Whether it is the cream we put on our faces, the cereal we eat for breakfast, or the dip that we offer to friends on match night, there are moments when we are faced with packaging for more than a split second. It is at these times that we are likely to read at least some of what is written on a pack.

It therefore makes sense to provide more than just a list of ingredients. After all you have your customer’s attention.

 

Order our Pack AuditCheck your packs are connecting effectively with your customers

 

 

Here are a few examples I have come across recently:

Nestle compass on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionNestlé does a great job of providing useful information on their packs with their nutritional compass, which includes four different pieces of information.

What I particularly like about what Nestle has done, is to combine mandatory information on nutritional values, with useful information for the consumer. While they may not be the most consumer centric company around, at least they did think consumer first in the development of their compass.

 

 

Juvena message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionJuvena of Switzerland: The short message to "Enjoy the smoothness" on the back of the Juvena hand cream sample tube I recently received makes the usage experience both more enjoyable and longer-lasting.

Users will almost certainly check out the promised smoothness after their application, bringing to their attention a benefit that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Clever.

 

 

Yucatan message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionYucatan Guacamole: I love Mexican food and especially guacamole. The message I discovered on the inside of a tub I bought in the US, made me smile.

The manufacturer has turned what could have been perceived as a negative, into a healthy positive. I just love that.

While you may have to click on the image on the right to be able to read all of the message, their website is very clear. Now that's what I call impact!

 

 

Pringles message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionPringles have done something similar with their “Bursting with flavour” message. Again it explains what some might have perceived as a negative – the bulging top – into a positive.

They used to put this only on the inside seal, but they have obviously understood the power of this message since they have now added it to the pack as well, as the photo on the left shows.

 

Heinz message on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionHeinz Tomato Ketchup: A final example, also from my trips to the US is a ketchup bottle that had a very important message on front of pack, as you can see from the photo on the right.

Heinz ketchup packaging message is both product and promotionHeinz now uses their front label to announce many of their initiatives and promotions. It has become something that consumers are used to seeing - and reading.

A fun campaign they started running in 2019 with Ed Sheeran includes a pack label change - of course! The accompanying TVC ad shows Sheeran adding ketchup to a dish in an exclusive restaurant. While it is funny, I am not sure the anguish many will feel watching it is positive. What do you think?

 

 

These are just five examples of companies using their packaging more creatively. There are many others. If you have a favourite example then please share it in the comments below.

If you're not confident that your packs are optimised to connect with your customers, why not get us to run a pack audit? We will review all your packs and discuss how you can make them more customer centric. Why not communicate with your customers when they are ready to listen, as they use your product?

Order our Pack AuditCheck your packs are connecting effectively with your customers

 

 

People are willing to help you

Geneva airport customer feedbackCreative messaging needn’t be limited to packaging of course. I came across this incredibly simple solution for gathering customer feedback in a Geneva airport toilet (restroom). That was five years ago, but they seem to be everywhere these days. This shows how instant customer feedback has become a necessity in so many industries.

What I liked about it, is its simplicity, it's fun look, and its lack of invasion of customer’s time in providing their feedback.

Our customers’ time is valuable and we should respect it. The information we provide must be relevant and useful for the customer; something they would like to know, not (just) something we want to tell them.

Our customers’ time is valuable and we should respect it. The information we provide must be relevant and useful for the customer; something they would like to know, not (just) something we want to tell them. Click To Tweet

We also need to be careful to connect only when invited, or find other ways to provide information that a customer can access when they need it. This is why social media has become such an important element of the communications plan. However, packaging has not, as yet, met with the same level of consideration.

Our customers’ attention is pulled in all directions today, with thousands of messages pushed at them, from so many channels, products and services. Capturing their attention is more likely to be successful when they are open to learning about your product, that is to say, when they are actually using it. It therefore makes good business sense to use packaging more creatively; wouldn't you agree?

For more information on the support we can provide in product innovation and branding, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/training

This post is regularly updated and expanded from the original published on C3Centricity.

Five Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Success

One of the best ways to a deeper understanding of your customers is to watch and listen to them whenever you can. Customer observation is a powerful, but unfortunately too often an under-utilised tool of marketers.

It is, therefore, understandable that so many companies run to conduct market research, usually a qualitative study, as a first step to improved customer understanding. They then (hopefully) invite relevant employees from marketing, sales, packaging, communications or R&D to watch the interviews or group discussions. However, this intense but short observation is likely to do more harm than good. Let me explain.

Have you ever gone to watch a focus group only to discover that the research confirms your hypotheses? You are then irritated that you “wasted” money on the project aren’t you? Well, this may actually be as a result of your very own selective listening and interpretation. You watched and listened only to the topics that interested you. You were looking for confirmation of your hypothesis. There was so much more you could have understood if only you knew how to listen.

True understanding comes from regular interaction with your customers, not just from an infrequent observation or two. Here are some ideas on how to do this more effectively.

 

Make customer observation everyone’s job

There are many, many opportunities for every employee in a company to come into contact with the customer. In a customer-centric organisation, everyone has annual objectives which include connecting with customers on a regular basis. This could be by listening to calls at the care centre, reading blogs and message boards, or participating in / watching promotions, demonstrations, sampling or market research.

Some organisations also make a habit of getting their employees to watch and listen to their customers in direct observation or connection sessions. However, this needs to be managed carefully in order to avoid people jumping too quickly to incorrect conclusions, as explained below.

If you’d like to run more successful connection sessions in your own organisation, I can help.  Please contact me for more on our 1-Day training sessions.

 

Customer observation is not as easy as it looks!

There is a very well-known example of the challenge of observation, in a video showing two teams of young people passing a couple of balls around. If you haven’t seen it you can check out the  Awareness Test  and try it for yourself.

In the exercise, people are asked to count the number of passes made by the team in white, so that is what the observer will concentrate on. In the background a man dressed as a bear, moon-walks his way across the screen, but most people are oblivious to the fact. They are so busy looking for the answer to the question, that they miss this significant event in the short video.

Exactly the same can happen when people watch customers. They are so concentrated on finding the answer to their question, or worse the substantiation of their own beliefs, that they miss a lot of what is actually going on.

Marketers observing customers all too often miss a lot of what is happening because they are concentrated on finding the answer to their question, or worse the substantiation of their own beliefs. #Marketing #Observation Click To Tweet

If they were to actually listen objectively, they might hear something new. And this might lead them to a significant breakthrough in customer understanding.

For this reason, it is essential to run a careful briefing session before every observation exercise. This way people go into it with their eyes and brains fully open. Your Insight team can manage this in most cases, but to summarise what needs to be covered, I have listed below the five rules of observation.

 

The five rules of customer observation

1. ORDINARY: Look for the ordinary not the extraordinary, but do note the things that surprise. These can challenge our preconceptions and help us to keep an open mind. Identify also the details of the ordinary event, things that were never noticed or thought about before.

You may see people finding ways to get around a problem or pain point they have. These may offer opportunities to increase satisfaction, either by resolving them or by developing a new product or service.

When observing your customers, you may see people finding ways to get around a problem or pain point they have. These may offer new opportunities to increase satisfaction. #marketing #brand #Observation Click To Tweet

2. ATTENTIVE: Be careful to record only what you see and hear. Don’t start analysing what you think is going on or you will certainly miss something.

If you are running observation sessions yourself, it is important to define roles for every company participant.

If you are running observation sessions yourself, it is important to define roles for every colleague who is participating. #brand #Marketing #observation Click To Tweet

One person should lead the session, one could take notes and one can actively observe and perhaps take pictures. With these different roles covered, the discussion after the event will be much richer and more complete.

3. ACCURATE & OBJECTIVE: This is the reason why you need to remain attentive, so you get an accurate record of what is happening. Keep notes of what your see, when, where, and how people behave.

If you have direct contact with customers, leave your own preconceptions outside and never judge what is going on.

If you have direct contact with customers, leave your own preconceptions outside and never judge what is going on. #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

It is also important not to react openly to what you see or hear. Pay particular attention to your body language. Keep asking yourself (at least at first) why? Even if something appears obvious, the reason may not be what you think it is. So keep asking this vital question.

This form of iterative investigating is often referred to as the Five Whys“. The technique involves asking the question a minimum of five times to ensure you cover every angle.

4. TIMING: Observe and understand what is going on before and after the event, as well as during the event you are observing itself. The event needs to be put into the context of time and place within a person’s lifestyle and habits. This is the only way to understand its relevance.

Also, be patient as people often change behaviour when being watched, at least to start with. Give them a chance to relax and feel comfortable with being observed. Insight colleagues will certainly have mentioned at some point that in qualitative projects, the best comments come out at the end. Participants think the recording is finished and so relax and completely open up!

In qualitative projects, the best comments come out at the end. Participants think the recording is finished and so relax and completely open up! A gold mine! #CEX #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

5. DEBRIEF & ANALYSIS: Observation is most valuable if it is completed by an immediate debriefing session. Observers can together share, ask questions and start to analyse what they have seen and heard.

This is important if several groups have been following similar events such as shopping, leisure-time activities or food preparation, but with different respondents.

Of course, the immediate debrief does not preclude a more in-depth exchange and analysis the next day. It is amazing what additional understanding comes from “sleeping on it.”

These five points should ensure that everyone enjoys participating in these customer connection sessions. Both you and your customers will benefit from the experience and a maximum number of ideas and learnings will be gathered.

One last point for International organisations; be aware of cultural differences. Explore and understand the culture (>>Tweet this<<) where the observations are being made, especially if you are not a local. What is appropriate in one culture may be offensive or irrelevant in another.

In international work, be aware of cultural differences. Explore and understand the culture where the observations are being made, especially if you are not a local. #CEX #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

Checking things out with the locals before going into the field can save a lot of embarrassment – or worse! It is also useful to have local members help in the analysis of what was seen and heard, so that the correct interpretation is made.

If you have run observation or connection sessions and have learned something additional, please share your experiences. I answer all notes and questions personally, usually within a few hours. 

For more ideas on getting closer to your customer, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/. If you would like support in setting up connection sessions with your own customers I would love to help you get the most out of them. Just contact me contact me here.

This post uses images from Denyse’s book “ Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Business – One Day at a Time.

This post has been regularly updated and expanded since it was first published on C3Centricity. It remains one of our most popular posts years later.

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