Your Brand has an Image, but Does it Have a Great Personality too?

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

I was lecturing at Miami University a few years ago 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 appreciate 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 shouldn’t forget it. But be honest we often do! 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 usually buy brands without even knowing 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.

 

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 that 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 not only from these branding elements, but also from the customer’s own personal experience with it.

All these factors must be both respected and complementary 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.

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

 

Brand Image Essentials

A brand is associated with many thoughts and ideas, that we translate into statements or attributes for measurement purposes. These are what current and potential customers think or feel about it. They may have developed 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 fifteen years ago.  Continue Reading

Five Brilliant Ideas to Boost your Insight Development

Insights are the pot of gold that many businesses dream of but rarely find. Why is that? Are you one of them? If so then I have some practical ideas on how you can get much, much better at insight development.

 

#1. Insights rarely come from a single market research study

Management often thinks that insight is “just another word for market research”. I remember one of my previous CEOs saying exactly that to me just before he addressed the whole market research and insight global team at our annual conference. I’m sure you can imagine what a panic I was in as he walked up to the mike!

Insights are demanding to develop and are rarely, if ever, developed from a single piece of market research. Each market research project is designed to gather information in order to answer one or more questions. Whilst it may enable a business to make a more informed decision based upon the objectives, insight development is quite a different process.

Insight development involves integrating, analysing and synthesising all the data and information you have about a category or segment user. Then summarising it into knowledge and turning that knowledge into understanding. Only then are you ready to develop an insight.

All brands should have (at least) one insight on which its image, personality and Big Idea (for communications) are built. For example

  • AXE (Lynx in UK): (young) men want to attract as many beautiful and sexy women as possible. This is one of their newer ads, where the seduction is a little less in your face and more subtle – but still there.

 

  • Haribo Starmix: There’s a child inside every adult. This “Kid’s Voices” campaign has been running for years and manages to surprise and delight with each new episode. Which is your favourite? Please add a comment below.

 

  • Dulux sample paint pots: I love to decorate my home, but I don’t want to look stupid by choosing the wrong colour. Although these are now a standard offer for many paint brands, Dulux were the first to understand the problem facing potential home decorators.

 

Dulux sample pot example of insight development

 

Insight development will provide the basis on which you will define the actions that are needed to change the attitudes and / or behaviour of your target audience. It also provides a solid framework on which to build your Big Idea for your communications’ strategy.

 

#2. Insight development is based upon a desired attitude and/or behavioural change

When your sales, marketing or management look to improve their business results, their real objective is to change the attitude and/or behaviour of your current or potential customers. For example:

  • From buying a competitive brand to purchasing yours.
  • From using your services once a month, to once a week.
  • Moving customers’ beliefs about your brand from a traditional or classic brand, to a more modern image.
  • Changing customers’ perceptions about the price of your brand from expensive to good value for money.

Because insights are based on a desired change in your customers, they usually contain an emotional element that is communicated through advertising and promotions. Continue Reading

How to Sell More to Less People: Essentials of Segmentation

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Businesses often make the mistake of trying to sell to everyone. Are you guilty of this?

Why is this a mistake? Well, if you try to please everyone you end up delighting no-one. This is why best-in-class marketers work with best-practice segmentations. And targeting the biggest group is not often the best strategy. In fact it rarely is. Read on to find out why.

Your brand needs to appeal to a group of customers who are looking for the solution you are offering. This means that you need to make a choice of who to target amongst all category users. Making a choice implies that you will have to ignore some category users who you could perhaps attract. This seems counter-intuitive and makes many marketers scared. Does it scare you not to try and go after everyone?

It certainly worries many marketers and yet it’s the only way to sell more. Although this may not sound like common sense at first, segmentation actually ensures that you have the best possible chance to satisfy the needs of your targeted customers. Once you are satisfied with your results, you can always go after secondary target groups.

But let’s start at the beginning with the essentials of segmentation.

 

Where to start

When deciding who to target, most companies conduct some sort of analysis. This can be as simple as identifying your users by what you observe, such as young men, older housewives, or mothers of large families. And although these are easy to articulate, you are working with demographics, something every other brand can do as well. It also has the weakness of not truly understanding why your customers are choosing your brand  – or not – over competition.

It therefore makes much more sense, to move on to a more sophisticated segmentation, just as soon as you can. Why? Because it is far more powerful. For example, rather than appealing to “young men”, targeting “those who value freedom and are looking for brands that can provide or suggest this dream” will immediately provide a clearer image of the group. Even if the majority of the segment are young men, the description is far more actionable. Do you see why?

Providing a detailed description of your target customers will always have the advantage of making engaging them that mush easier, because you will be speaking “their language.”

 

Types of segmentation

I mentioned above that you can simply use demographics to segment all category users. But I also alluded to the fact that it is not very distinctive, nor competitive. The sooner you can run a more complex segmentation the better.

The first thing to know about the essentials of segmentation is that there are five main types: 

Segmentation for success

Firmagraphics: This is the most basic and is usually how the industry separates the different types of products and services. Continue Reading

The 5 Essential Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Business Success

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One of the best ways I know to understand your customers is to watch and listen to them whenever you can. Customer observation is a powerful, but unfortunately an under-utilised tool these days. So when was the last time you got intimate with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week or two, you’re not getting out enough!

Before going on, I should explain that I use the word “customer” to describe the person who buys and / or uses your product or service. For the B2B business, the recommendations in this article are still valid, but would be of particular value when you work with your supplier or retailer, to help them to better know their own customers.

It is, therefore, not surprising that most companies run to conduct market research when they want to know something about their customers. 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? I bet you felt disappointed and even a little irritated that you “wasted” money on the project weren’t you? Well, this may actually be the 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. But there was so much more you could have understood if only you had bothered 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 an organisation to come into contact with their customers. 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 posts on social media and message boards
  • participating in / watching promotions, demonstrations, sampling in retail outlets
  • joining market research fieldwork

Some organisations also make a habit of getting their employees to watch and listen to their customers in direct observation or connection sessions. However, these need to be managed carefully in order to avoid people jumping too quickly to incorrect conclusions, as I’ll explain in more detail below.

If you’d like to know more about running successful connection sessions in your own organisation, I can help.  Please contact me for more information about 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. Continue Reading

Are Smart Things Really Smart or is it Just Smart Marketing?

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Earlier this year I wrote about the impact of AI and ML on digital marketing. The article is called “AI and ML are Taking Digital Marketing to the Next Level.” In it, I compared the positive and negative implications of technology for customers and companies alike.  So this week I wanted to write about the impact of smart choices for business in general.

We seem to be surrounded by smart things: smartwatches, smart clothing, smart cars, smart houses and smart appliances. But are they really that smart? 

The reason for my question is that an article entitled “Taking ‘Smart’ Out Of Smart Things” by Chuck Martin made me think about whether “smart things” really are that smart, or whether it’s something else that’s making them appear smart?

So here are my views on it. Feel free to add your own opinions in the comments below, I would love to start a discussion on “smartness”.

 

The Age of the Customer and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

In one of their older Customer Experience reports Forrester claimed that we are now in the Age of the Customer. This was music to my ears when I first read it, because as you know I’m a customer champion. However, The World Economic Forum reported a few years ago that we are now on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolutionwhich is blurring the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres.

In their article, they explain that

“The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

Does this mean that people are becoming less and less important as technology takes over more and more areas of our daily lives – and value? Luckily no. The author, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum concludes the article by saying

In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.”

Continue Reading

You’re Not Competing In The Category You Think You Are! (How to Find Out)

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Many of you know my 7-step CatSight™ Process for Insight Development. The first step is to identify the category in which you are competing. I get so many questions about this step that I decided to dedicate a whole post to this important topic.

But before I start, I suggest you first read the post (“Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor, Insights its Foundation”) as background. You will also find the description of the seven steps of the CATSIGHT™ process included. In the article, I summarise the very first step of Insight development, that of category definition, like this:

C = Category

Whenever you want to develop insight, the first task is to decide on the category you want to study. This may seem obvious to you, but in many cases, it isn’t as clear as you might think.

Identify the category by zooming inFor instance, suppose you are planning on launching a new fruit-flavoured soft drink. You may think that you are competing with other juices or perhaps other soft drinks. But rather than just assuming the category in which you are competing, I highly recommend that you check; you may be very surprised.

In working with one client in just such a situation, we actually found that their main competitor was an energy drink!

The reason was that this category is seen as being for lively, energetic, fun-loving people who need a boost. Whether this comes from the caffeine of an energy drink, or from the added vitamins and minerals which was my client’s offer, it didn’t seem to matter.
If we’d only looked at other fruit-flavoured soft drinks, we would have missed a whole – and much larger – segment of category consumers. By starting our analysis by looking at all beverages and then slowly zooming in as we learnt more, we were quickly able to discover this perhaps surprising positioning for the new drink.
This shows the power of taking the consumers’ perspective, especially when segmenting a market. But more about that in a moment. 
The above example is a great start. But so many clients ask me to help them with their own category definitions, I decided to share the five most important steps so you can do it for yourself:

 

Step 1. What is the category definition you are currently using? 

In any process, we should always start by identifying where we are today. In the case of your category definition, it should be the one you think you are competing in at the moment. Depending upon whether you are offering a product or service, you might define it as:

All hot beverage consumers …….. or …….. users of a particular insurance service.

All consumers of coffee …….. or …….. people who have bought insurance for natural disasters.

All consumers of instant coffee powder …….. or …….. house owners in Florida who have bought insurance for natural disasters. Continue Reading

The 7 Keys to Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Ever wonder how to get more people talking about your business? It’s simple.

Offer them incredible products and services that solve their problems and fulfil their needs and desires. Then when you have converted them into customers, continue to keep them satisfied and give them something to talk about by surprising them too.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But as you know it’s not. I realise that only too well in my own service offerings. Which is why I decided to write this article about the 7 key elements that will get people talking about us!

Every strategy comes with its own set of rules, and the same is true for word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM). Yes, this means that you can actually create a strategy to generate positive word-of-mouth for your business. In fact, this has become an essential part of marketing as people have started to lose trust in the reviews they read online – more on that later. Friends, family and trusted advisors are those they turn to for a valued opinion these days.

But first: why does Word-of-Mouth matter?

To start with, it is important to understand what cognitive dissonance is. According to Wikipedia’s definition, it occurs when

“a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values; or participates in an action that goes against one of these three, and experiences psychological stress because of that. Coping with the nuances of contradictory ideas or experiences is mentally stressful. It requires energy and effort to sit with those seemingly opposite things that all seem true.”

In other words, people are always searching for ways to reduce their stress that is caused by cognitive dissonance when shopping and selecting brands. One of the ways they do this is by searching for confirmation that they have made the right choices. Receiving positive word-of-mouth opinions of products and services from friends or family members will reduce the dissonance, as it confirms people’s beliefs in what they have purchased.

Given that consumers need input to reduce the risks they take, especially when purchasing a brand for the first time, it is marketing’s job to provide a maximum amount of information to build trust. Whether this is through advertising or online customer reviews, it is important to show both transparency and popularity to enhance confidence.

This has become a challenge in recent years as a result of the exposure of significant fake reviews on many websites, including Amazon. There are now even services to highlight these paid or fake reviews, such as fakespot.com and reviewmeta.com. If you are interested in this topic, then I suggest the article on “10 secrets to uncovering which online reviews are fake.” by Catey Hill.

So how can we improve customers’ trust in what we offer? Here are seven ideas I came up with to include in your word-of-mouth marketing:

 

#1 Make Customers Delighted!

If you value your customers, offer them more than they expect! It’s not only the great product or service that generates loyalty but the implicit message that “you matter to us!”  Continue Reading

Is the Future of Retail, Physical or Virtual? Is This Just a Reset or Do we Need a Full Reboot?

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Will the future of retail be without physical outlets?

I remember having a very interesting discussion with a new client a couple of years ago on exactly this topic. Like many CPG companies at the time, they were considering online retailing. They were already selling a little online but hadn’t seriously considered it until then.

However, with the move of most major supermarket chains to offer online stores too, plus a few successful online-only stores, such as Amazon in the US and Ocado in the U.K. they were reconsidering just how big they could or should grow their online business.

This discussion happened just a few years back in 2017. Today the question is no longer asked. The pandemic has forced most customers to buy online, at least during the various lockdowns. And many have found the experience both enjoyable and useful.

A recent article on CNBC showed that many major chains in the USA had recorded triple-digit growth in online sales in the first half of this year. But they rightly questioned whether the trend would continue into next year.

They concluded by saying that those retailers who had already invested in online sales would fare better than those forced into it by the pandemic. I agree, as the change in customer behaviour was so fast that it was difficult for those retailers who were not prepared, to catch up and move their sales effectively online.

Is the future of retail online sales growth

However, they argued that people would return to bricks and mortar stores once the lockdown eases and Adobe has found some data that may just confirm this. E-commerce growth appears to be slowing, as the below graph shows.

The future of retail shows slowing ecommerce trend

I remember participating in heated arguments in the past, between sales teams and retailers, about online stores. Retailers thought that it was unfair competition and threatened to delist a manufacturer’s products if they sold direct. No wonder my client at the time had been scared to develop this area, as in fact were most other CPG companies.

Just a few years ago, Amazon was said to be muddying the waters by testing their new Fresh delivery and Go bricks and mortar outlets. Walmart retaliated with a competitive online offer of fast service and free delivery. The battle had begun and today we see nothing more than an acceleration of the trend that started almost a decade ago. At least that’s my opinion; what do you think?

 

The case for bricks & mortar stores

An excellent article published mid-2017 in Forbes andentitled “Five Signs That Stores (Not E-Commerce) Are The Future Of Retail” concluded that physical stores are more valuable. Of course, that was three years ago, an eternity especially post-covid! However, it does highlight the importance of scenario planning for preparing an organisation for future opportunities and threats. For me, planning for the future is as simple as taking the consumers’ perspective and understanding what they (will) want. Continue Reading

How to Map Your Customer Journey & Overlay their Emotions

With the travel and leisure industries in turmoil at the moment, now is a good time for them to review how they treat their customers. And mapping their customers’ journey is an important step in understanding and satisfying them better.

Through the example of an experience I had with the Hilton Group, I share some important lessons about getting customer service right! These will be invaluable as countries start to open up in the coming weeks and months.

 

Background

Each year around Christmas time, my family get together for a weekend of fun somewhere in Britain. This year we met up in Bristol. As a Hilton Honors member for more than twenty years I offered to book rooms for all of us in the local Doubletree. I expected to get a better rate with my membership, and especially cheaper than those offered by the booking sites. After all, why pay a booking site when I know the hotel I want to stay in, right? Well, I booked five rooms for the weekend, as well as a table for ten in their restaurant for dinner on the Saturday evening.

I booked directly by calling the hotel, as I always prefer to do. I expect to be recognised for my loyalty – and if possible rewarded too! On this occasion I was proven seriously wrong!

A couple of weeks after booking and pre-paying for all the rooms, I received Hilton’s weekly email offering me a significant discount for the exact same hotel and dates. Clearly their online pixels had identified me as being interested in this hotel, but they hadn’t connected this interest with my having booked directly. Already there, you can see that they have an incomplete customer journey mapping process.

As Hilton offer a “guaranteed lowest rate” I reached out to their call centre and was told that yes I was entitled not only to the lower rate, but to an additional 25% discount for having made the claim. I was told how to complete the claim form and I hung up ecstatic that I could save my family even more money – which we would no doubt anyway spend in the bar before and after our dinner!

Imagine my surprise when the next day I was told that my claim had been refused! I was informed that the guaranteed lowest rate only applied to third-party sites and not to Hilton’s own website!

I immediately responded and was again told that their guarantee didn’t apply to their own rates. In addition, as I had pre-paid I could not get the lower rate even if it was now being offered!

Not being one to take “no” for a final answer, I contacted their corporate customer service group again, as I felt my loyalty was not being recognized. I was once more given the same response, but this time was informed that my request would be forwarded directly to the hotel concerned – no doubt to get me off their (corporate) backs! Continue Reading

7 Ways to Deliver Awesome Customer Service

Continue Reading

Are You Still Using The Marketing 5Ps? Move To The Improved 7Qs.

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Marketing is a great profession and the marketing 5Ps is the code by which we live. I’ve worked in or with marketing teams for almost my whole career and I am passionate about brand building.

From the outside, others see marketers as those who come to work late and seem to party all night. They always seem to be watching TV or jetting off to exotic places to talk about advertising!

For people working in operations or finance, marketers just don’t seem to be doing a very serious job; they’re always having too much fun! I’m sure you’ve already heard such comments.

Well, as you yourself know, marketing IS fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work, often close to 24/7 on some occasions.

So does all that hard work pay off? Not often enough in my opinion. And why? Because marketers simply don’t always ask the right questions!

 

The 5 Questions Marketers Should Ask

If you work in marketing, you already know the 5Ps – people, place, product, price and promotion. However, the problem with those is that when you find an issue with one of them, you know the “what” but not the “how”.

So I suggest you work with my 7Qs instead. Each of my seven questions explain not only what to check, but also the how and why you need to examine the area.

And if you can’t immediately answer more than just a couple of them, then perhaps you need to do a little more work and a little less partying!

 

Q1. Who are your customers?

People is the first of the marketing 5PsThe first “P” stands for people and often this is taken to be “Do you know to whom you are selling?” The answer is always yes and that’s accepted as sufficient.

Instead, ask yourself who your customers really are. I don’t mean just their demographics, but what, where and how they use or consume your brand and the category in which you are competing. And especially the why of their attitudes and behaviours. If you can’t give all these details about your customers, then you’re in serious trouble.

For more on this topic, see  “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for details on better defining your customer persona. You will also find a link in the article to download a useful template you can use to store all your information as you gather it. 

 

Q2. How are your customers changing?

Hopefully, you answered Q1 without any hesitation – you did, didn’t you? Did you also download our template and complete it? Many of my clients find it a useful way to store and rapidly access the information whenever they need it.

It’s great that you know a lot about your customers, but people change. Are you following how your customers are changing? Continue Reading

Brand Portfolio Secrets to Success (5 Things You Need to Know)

How do you know when you have too many variants in your brand portfolio? In my opinion, the answer is that it’s when you can’t answer that question! Can you?

One of the most popular evergreen posts on C3Centricity is “The Beginners Guide to Brand Portfolio Management.” It seems that we all suffer from a deep-rooted fear in managing and reducing our brand portfolio, especially when it includes many historic or regional variants.

That is why I decided to write about these best-kept secrets in portfolio management, which even large corporations are not always aware of!

 

MORE IS RARELY BETTER!

We live in an over-abundant world of consumer choice, but more is rarely better. The paradox of choice is a powerful concept  popularised by Barry Schwartz.

It states that people actually feel freer when they are given fewer choices. Have you never ended up walking out of a store without the purchase you had planned, because you had been faced with too many choices? I know I have – often!

It is said that the limited choice offered in hard discounters in one of the reasons for their success; it’s not only about lower prices.

They usually present just one or two brands for each item they stock and the branded products they do stock are almost always at the same price if not even higher than in normal supermarkets.

More than ten years after the first research on which Schwartz based his theory, new studies have given some alternative perspectives on choice, claiming that large assortments are not always a bad thing. In the study by Gao & Simonson, they propose that there are many factors which were forgotten in Schwartz’s original study.

You can read the full article on this latest work in Neuromarketing. What I found of particular interest, being the customer champion that I am, is that they conclude by saying that it all depends on understanding your customer – doesn’t everything?! Their summary findings state that:

“In certain situations (when the ‘whether to buy’ decision comes before the ‘which option is best’ decision) a large assortment CAN increase purchase likelihood. Especially in eCommerce, it is possible to reap the benefits of a large product assortment, while helping customers make choices?”

In other words, the online searches that we all now perform before purchasing many things, will benefit from a wide selection of offers. Once we have decided to buy, then a large choice can become a barrier to final purchase.

THE SECRETS

In conclusion, to summarise the best strategies for brand portfolio management, which seem to be a well-guarded secret since many corporations still ignore them, are:

  • Remember, that if you offer a vast choice of variants for each brand, consumers could get analysis paralysis and end up walking out of the store without buying anything.
  • You need to manage the corporate brand just like your other brands, especially if it appears prominently on packaging and your other communications’ materials.
  • Make an annual review of all your brands and variants and ruthlessly cut the bottom 20%.
Continue Reading

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