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The Future of Brand Building is Customer Centricity

Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. But with the advent of digital in the early 80’s, companies began taking a serious look at their marketing strategies.

Many organisations realised that it was time for a major overhaul of their primarily outbound strategies. Consumers no longer appreciated being interrupted in their daily lives, if they ever did!

However, even today, with the creation of inbound marketing strategies, they are still irritating their customers with spammy emails, intrusive popups and over-complicated cookies, that gather far more information than most organisations will ever need or use.

Despite these changes CMOs remain one of the leading c-suite members who struggle to keep their jobs for more than four or five years. The reasons are many, but the post “Head of Marketing, How Can You Keep Your Job When Most CMOs Are Losing Theirs?” explains what you can do to ensure you only leave your position when you want to.

 

Brand Building

Many large CPG companies, such as P&G, Coca-Cola and Nestle, have changed the name of their Marketing departments in the past twenty years, to Brand Building. They hoped that it would revive sales and give new vitality to their communications to better engage their customers in the new social world. But most failed miserably, because they remained very much in a state of business as usual. They continued with the same processes and mind-sets. And with few exceptions, they prioritised thoughts about themselves and their brands, and rarely took their customers’ perspective.

Luckily a few other consumer goods companies realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to customer centricity. Or to be exact they started on their journey towards putting the customer at the heart of their business. Customer centricity is not a destination, because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. It is a journey with the aim to satisfy and delight.

Customer centricity is not a destination, because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. It is a journey with the aim to satisfy and delight. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

I think we have taught our customers far too well! They understand a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. They understand that companies have marketing plans and regular promotions, so they wait for the next price offs whenever they can.

They also realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume may differ, but there are strong similarities in their performance.

That’s why consumers now often have a portfolio of brands from which they choose in many categories. They are far less likely to be loyal to only one brand than they used to be.

 

Switching economy harming loyalty and brand building
Source: Accenture

They have also come to expect constant innovation as they quickly adapt to the once novel idea and start searching for the next big improvement. According to Accenture’s “ Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past?” almost a half of consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago!

Customer Centricity

Brand building needs new skills for marketers
Source: Korn Ferry

In response to these ever more savvy customers, marketing has to change. In the  2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, it confirmed that marketers need new skills and can no longer rely on creativity alone.

 

 

If you’re interested in ups killing your team, then we can provide fun training on many areas of customer centricity. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.

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Are You Customer Centric?

Companies that place their customers at the heart of their business, are easy to recognise. Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and engaging games. Their contact pages provide many alternative ways for customers to reach out to them, rather than the less appealing reason menu and message box that disappears into hyperspace!  Their advertising is emotional, with the customer and not the brand as the hero. They involve their customers in many aspects of their business.

If you would like to start involving your customers more in your business then the post "The exceptionally easy and profitable uses of co-creation" is a popular and highly recommended read.

And if you're not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website and then complete our free quiz C3C Evaluator.

 

Moving Beyond Brand Building

Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are some ideas that you can use to help you quickly move forward on your journey to greater customer centricity:

1. Place pictures of consumers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, in the lifts or anywhere many employees spend time.

2. Whenever you take a decision, ask yourself "What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken?" If they would disagree, then you should reconsider your options.

This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the consumer. Or asking credit card details for the use of a "free" trial, in the hope that the customer will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want.

What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken? If they wouldn't like it, reconsider your options. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

3. Review the content of your website in detail. If there are more "we's" than "you's" then you know what to do. And while you're online, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.

Review the content of your website. If there are more we's than you's then you know what to do. Customer centric companies talk about their customers more than themselves. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

4. Take a look at your target consumer description or persona / avatar. When was it last updated? If you don't even have a written document clearly describing them, then use C3Centricity's 4W™ Template until you develop your own. (you can download it for free HERE)

5. Examine your advertising. Who is the hero? Consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers.

Review your current advertising campaign. Who is the hero? If it's not your customer, consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers. Click To Tweet

6. If you are lucky enough to have retail outlets, spend time with your front-line staff and your customers. Make use of call centers, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. They will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know. Then add the information to your persona description and review your future promotions for any improvements you could make.

7. Share your latest knowledge about your customers with everyone in the company. Help every employee to understand the role they play in satisfying the customer. Make them fans of your customers and you will never have to worry about such questionable practices as those mentioned in #2 above.

These are your starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building to a more customer centric approach. They all have your customer at the heart of them. Any others you'd like to add? I know you can come up with many more ideas than I can alone, so why not share them below and let your knowledge shine?

If you'd like more suggestions about moving to a new-age marketing approach, check out my book "Winning Customer Centricity". You'll see it's like no other business book you have ever seen! Then you will understand why numerous major CPG / FMCG companies follow it annually. It's fun, inspiring and a useful roadmap for your customer centric journey. 

How the Best Marketers are getting More Actionable Insights

Are you as busy as I am, as we plan on how we’re going to deliver on all our objectives before year-end? The last quarter of any year is a stressful time indeed, but this post on actionable insights is a must-read if you want to start 2020 ahead of the competition!

I’ve just returned from running a two-day workshop in Japan. The topic was “Insight into Action with Impact”. One of the things that I loved about the workshop was that marketing was invited too. Even though market research and insight (MRI) groups generally report into marketing in most companies, it seems to me that they are often working on different planets! In many organisations, the collaboration between these two departments goes no further than project briefings and results delivery.

This is not the case with my client in Tokyo; this MRI group has a wonderful working relationship, not only with marketing but also with Channel, Sales, R&D, Finance and even Legal. They have understood that insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone and have worked hard to build strong relationships with all the other departments in their organisation.

Insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone. #MRX #Marketing #Insight Click To Tweet

I am sure that many of you reading this, are asking why this is so important. It is NOT important, it is VITAL! Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for. Successful companies depend upon deep customer insights to grow their business. They understand the power of engagement built on insight, to connect with and inspire their customers. And yet many companies continue to leave this to the insight team to develop and deliver on their own. It’s as if they believe that this group have some natural-born skill or magic that enables them to do it while others cannot. Don’t worry, we can all do it with the right training and a few tools.

Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for. #MRX #Marketing #Insights Click To Tweet

Great companies understand the importance of insight generation and the challenges faced by everyone in developing them. This is why the best marketers search for greater collaboration. I always encourage the market researchers in my client companies to socialise with other departments, rather than sitting behind their computers all day. The best marketers already do this, do you?

I was encouraged to see that marketing have finally understood the importance of insights. In some recent research by Gartner CMOs selected market research and insights as just as important as marketing analytics and digital commerce (see graph below). Better late than never I suppose, but it always amazes me that marketing could put anything ahead of insights. After all, every action they decide to take should be based upon deep knowledge and understanding of the customers targeted.

actionable insights supporting marketing strategy

If you are struggling to develop insights that will truly resonate with your consumers or customers, then I suggest you follow these eight tips that I shared with my client’s marketing and insight teams last month.

Despite being some of the best marketers I know, they are still keen to progress their thinking and processes to embrace customer-centricity in every area of their organisation. This seems to be a trait of all successful companies, that they have a desire to improve and learn more. They never consider that they “know it all,” which is a reason I have often heard from businesses when I ask why they are not doing more to understand their customers!

1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. If you are defining your objectives in terms of the business, such as increasing sales, beating the competition or increasing awareness, you are not thinking customer first.

Instead, identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitude, and you are likely to correctly identify the actions to be taken. When you think customer’ objectives rather than (just) your own, you are far more likely to meet with success.

2. Insight generation should start with customer connection. When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week, you’re not getting out enough! Make a habit of regularly watching and listening to your customers.

They are changing faster than you may realise, so it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of market changes. These days you don’t even have to leave your office. Market research interviews can be videos live and care centres are always answering calls from customers, so make a habit of listening in. For hints on how to observe your customers better, check out “Five Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Success.”

Insight generation should start with customer connection. #MRX #Insight #Marketing. Click To Tweet

3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really understand the business if your contacts with other groups are limited to meetings and presentations of analyses you have conducted or plans you have written. It must become a daily habit, so you are seen as the true voice of the customer / consumer internally.

Meet for a coffee, or go to lunch with someone other than your usual group of colleagues. These impromptu meetings will deliver big on understanding and will provide invaluable information from the perspective of other departments.

4. Get MRI to share their nuggets of information at every occasion. While they may present findings in formal meetings and presentations, I know that market research and insight teams learn a host of new things about the business every day. So why not share them?

Every project and analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Somehow these learnings get lost, as they are not seen as relevant to the question in hand. However, make them a regular part of newsletters, Lunch & Learn sessions, or internal “Tweets” and they will surely inspire new thinking across the organisation.

Every MR project & analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Make sure to share it. #MRX #Insight #Marketing #Brands Click To Tweet

5. Get into the habit of speaking with consumers at every chance you can. As already suggested, join in when research projects are being run, listen in to call centre conversations, speak to demonstrators and merchandisers, or even talk to shoppers at retail.

These connections can quickly become addictive, as they are for the best marketers in the most consumer-centric organisations. As an added bonus, the insight development process will become both quicker and less challenging for everyone.

6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can manage multiple data sets from all available sources. There is so much information flowing into organisations today that there is more data than even the best marketers can manage.

According to IBM, more than two-thirds of CMOs feel totally unprepared for the current data explosion, especially as it relates to social media. And in research conducted by Domo, a similar number of marketers claimed to be unable to handle the volume of data available to them. Ask MRI to help and you will both be better informed and also feel less overwhelmed.

7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. Although my client’s teams got close to the perfect expression of an insight in just two short working sessions, it usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight. However, the right training and some simple tools can speed their development for even less than the best marketers.

If you’re interested in learning more, then we can provide fun training on many areas of insight development. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.

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8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to always be building their relationships with other departments. The alternative perspectives brought by the other groups will enhance the overall understanding of both the customer and the market situation you are looking to address.

So these are the eight tips I shared with my Japanese client during our workshop. Are you doing all of them, or have they given you some ideas on how to improve your own process? I do hope so.

If you work in marketing or even another department outside of market research and insight,  I would love to hear what you do to develop your relationships with MRI. Do they involve you in insight development or do they only deliver the results of their process to you? What could you and they do better to make insight development and customer understanding easier in your organisation? Add a comment with your suggestions below.

For more information on the training courses in insight development and brand building, please check out our website or contact us here. Let's have an informal chat about how we could support your brand building efforts and provide fun training days. We already do this for businesses in many industries all over the world. We love customers, consumers and clients and can help your teams know and understand them better.

Winning Customer Centricity

 

 

This post includes concepts and images from Denyse's book Winning Customer Centricity. It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy it, usually at a discount, on our website HERE. Of course, the book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores.

Today’s Toughest Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction!

We all know how extremely demanding consumers have become in recent years. The offers of constant innovation and novelty have made us all more impatient and critical.

Today we want things better, faster and sometimes cheaper as well. And customer satisfaction is becoming insufficient to drive growth alone. Companies need to deliver more, a lot more!

I was recently in the US and as seems to be the norm these days, the hotel in which I stayed asked me to rate their performance afterwards. I completed their form, giving only four and five-star ratings, as I had been very satisfied with my stay, the hotel rooms, the staff and their services. Imagine my surprise therefore when I got the following email a day or so after submitting my review:

“Thank you for taking the time to complete our online survey regarding your recent stay at our hotel.

On behalf of our entire team, I would like to apologize for failing to exceed your expectations. Your satisfaction is important to us and we will be using the feedback you provided to make improvements to ensure we offer an exceptional experience for our guests in the future.

I hope that you will consider staying with us again so that we can have another chance to provide you with a superior experience.”

Shocking mail isn’t it? To think that a Hotel apologises for not exceeding my expectations! But I believe that is exactly why they get a 4 1/2 star rating on TripAdvisor. For them customer satisfaction is not enough; they want their guests to be enchanted, enthralled, excited, so that a return visit is a “no brainer”; no other hotel choice would make sense!

Shocking to think that a Hotel would apologise for not exceeding my expectations! #hotel #travel #leisure #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

How do you treat your own customers, consumers and clients? Do you do just enough to satisfy them, or do you consistently look to exceed their expectations?

If you are a regular reader here – and I’d love to know why if you’re not, so I can do better in the future – you will know that I often talk about “surprising” and “delighting” our customers. These are not hollow words; there’s a very real reason why I use them. The reason is that our customers may be satisfied, but they will never stay satisfied for long.

Our customers may be satisfied, but they will never stay satisfied for long. #CRM #CEX #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

The above personal example I give is one way that the hotel staff ensure they have enough time to correct whatever is not a “superior experience” as they term their own desired service level, and to continue to offer total customer satisfaction.

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Here are a few examples of other companies who go above and beyond in terms of their own customer service. I hope they inspire you to do the same and to aspire to exceed customer satisfaction whenever and wherever you can.

Amazon

Amazon's amazing customer satisfaction logo
Image source: Amazon.com

I have to start with Amazon because they clearly mention in their mission statement that they want

"to be the Earth's most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online."

Although they don't specifically mention exceeding their customers' expectations, they are known for regularly giving extra in their customer service. This might be by surprising their customers by sending the ordered goods by priority mail when only standard was paid for, or refunding the total cost of an article that failed to totally meet if not exceed expectations.

They are also known for being extremely helpful in proposing other articles you might be interested in buying, based upon your current or past orders. Yes it might also make good business sense to do this, but as a result of this practice, who doesn't trust Amazon and start their search online on their website? Customer service to Amazon means going beyond customer satisfaction alone.

One recent challenge for Amazon is the claimed increase in fake reviews. I myself was once asked to give a five-star rating in return for a total reimbursement of the cost of the product. Needless to say, I immediately returned the item and informed Amazon.

This practice seems to be particularly common for articles coming from China, although I am sure it is becoming a widespread behaviour as companies realise the importance of high customer ratings. In fact, there are now even platforms for checking the validity of reviews, so hopefully things will improve in the near term. If you would like to learn more on the topic, then I suggest you read this great article on cnet.

Zappos

Zappos powered customer satisfaction through service
Image source: Zappos.com

Just like Amazon, Zappos too has made customer centricity the heart of their business. Their mission statement, also referred to by Zappos employees as their "WOW Philosophy," is "To provide the best customer service possible."

CEO Tony Hsieh is often quoted as saying that

"We believe that customer service shouldn't be just a department; it should be the entire company."

That makes it crystal clear how customer centric they are.

Another of his quotes is

“To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means do something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver.” 

This mentions another of the reasons it is important to go beyond what customer's expect today - the emotional connection. That is what touches our customers and makes them feel differently about our brand, company or service. Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. 

Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

Apple

Apple targets customer satisfaction
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Steve Jobs is famously quoted as saying that "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

It was therefore his philosophy to do limited market research and never to ask the advice of consumers on his innovations. What he did ask questions about however, was their pain points.

In a video way back in 2014 Tim Cook talked about being "better." While Cook mentions the environment, the bigger picture in what he was saying was that he wanted Apple to produce world-changing products that leave the planet better off. This can be in a literal sense like pollution, but also in a more figurative sense, like the iPhone, which has made millions of lives better.

Over the past four years, we have seen clear evidence of Cook's vision coming true. In an interview for Fast Company earlier this year, he was asked what makes a good year for Apple. His reply?

"For me, it’s about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of those things–and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other—then you have a good year."

How many organisations would look different if we used these same criteria!

Did you make the best product, and did you enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of these, then you are having a good year. #quote @TimCook #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

 

Brompton Bikes

Brompton bikes offer exception customer satifaction
Image source: Brompton Bikes

The final example I want to share is from the UK and shows how even retail can become an essential part of delighting the customer. The brand is Brompton Bikes, a folding, city bike.

They understand that it is no longer sufficient to provide an excellent product and an easy way to buy them or to order online. Brompton have realised that their retail outlet needs to be an integral part of the brand experience, if they want to not only satisfy, but delight their customers.

Now while that may not in itself be that new, Nike and other trainer brands have been doing this for a while, it is the first time I have seen it done for durable goods.

What Brompton have done particularly well, is to understand their urban buyers' lifestyle. They have been able to become an integral part of it, by not only providing transport, but also an easy way to buy accessories, get repairs done and even to park safely while their customers visit the adjacent shopping mall. In other words they have made their brand a solution for city dwellers.

 

In conclusion, these examples provide a clear roadmap for anyone wanting to move their customer service and engagement to the next level, by offering more than mere customer satisfaction:

  • Surprise your customers with something unexpected. Whilst I know it is becoming ever more difficult to do this these days, it is definitely worth the effort in order to build their loyalty.
  • Touch the customer emotionally so your product or service resonates with them. Brompton have achieved this by deeply understanding the lifestyle of their customers. As Maya Angelou is famed for saying

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

  • Strive for better in everything you do, Never be satisfied with just repeating previous successes. This is perhaps the greatest lesson from all these great companies. As the Hotel mentioned, they want to exceed the expectations of their guests.
  • Make it a part of every employee's objectives to ensure your products and services not only obtain customer satisfaction, but go even beyond that in any way they can. As Tony Hseih says, customer service is not the responsibility of any one department.

Coming back to the title of this post, I hope you now agree that satisfaction is no longer sufficient to attract and keep your customers. It is time to step up your game, to aim for surprise and delight. This should be an ongoing objective too, since customers can quickly increase their demands as what once excited them becomes the norm. 

I am sure you have many examples of companies that were not satisfied until they had gone above and beyond what you as their customer expected of them. In a previous post I mentioned Dyson; what others would you add to the list?

Which companies excel at not only satisfying their customers, but surprising and delighting them too? #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction #CustomerDelight #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

Please share your suggestions below. Of course, you can also share your horror stories, as they provide useful information - and often amusing anecdotes too! Thanks. 

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How to Measure Customer Centricity the Right Way

As a customer first strategist (hopefully just like you), I spend a lot of my time searching how to better measure customer centricity for my clients. I also do a lot of analyses on what customers really want today. I’m always trying to understand exactly the solutions customers need, desire and dream of having.

My regular searches include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend! However, I recently came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post. I believe they show a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers today. Read the article and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.

 

CUSTOMER CENTRICITY

Wikipedia, another online friend of mine, doesn’t have a definition of customer centricity! If you look up the term, you get redirected to customer satisfaction!  Try it for yourself and see.

My other go-to source for definitions is  businessdictionary.com which defines customer centric as:

“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.”

It then goes on to say

“A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”

Now although I find the definition limited, since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer centricity:

  • a positive customer experience
  • adds value to a company
  • enables differentiation

 

This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric:

  1. A positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. (>>Tweet this<<) As we all know, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer, as it does to keep a current one. Therefore loyalty is an incredibly valuable benefit for a brand.
  2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing is challenged to prove today, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut. Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics about this in Forrester’s report “The Business Impact of Customer Experience.”
  3. The third benefit is just as important to the growth of a business. Enabling differentiation in this complex world is invaluable in standing out from the competition. (>>Tweet this<<) In so many industries product performance and services are almost identical, so how can you stand out? By your customer care, that’s how and knowing what your customers really want . It has been shown that customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service. You can read a summary of this and more in the summary report of the American Express research.

 

I would also add that what customers really want today is a seamless experience from pre- to post- purchase, as well as from on to offline. That’s how you deliver satisfaction and build loyalty.

Find out how good you are at customer centricity. Take the quiz now.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF CUSTOMER SATISFACTION AND UNDERSTANDING

There is no denying that customer centricity is important. However some companies are (too?) slow to adopt best practices in this area, which concerns me for a number of reasons:

  1. It is now proven that it is important for the business, so what is stopping companies from quickly adopting a more customer centric approach? The longer they wait, the more they risk being beaten by a more customer friendly competitor. It’s no longer (just) about product performance.
  2. Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they are? Acting promptly before the issue becomes a social media viral discussion is essential today.
  3. Customer service is confused with customer satisfaction. Companies are happy when their customers say they are satisfied, but they should be looking not just to satisfy them but to delight them too!

 

As mentioned before, the research that prompted this post was a google keyword investigation of terms related to customers. Having seen the strong positive trend for the word customer, I then wanted to understand what it was about customers that was of interest. I found that both customer service and customer care showed almost identical positive trends.

However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below with service in green, care in blue, satisfaction in red and understanding in yellow)

Google trends on measuring customer centricity
Click to see original

 

These trends suggest to me that companies search how to improve their customer service and care, but not about how to understand their customers or increase their satisfaction!

How can this be? Surely an interest in customer service should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Apparently not.

And this is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the process than the real benefit of customer centricity. That is a serious flaw in their thinking in my opinion. What do you think?

To confirm my hypothesis, I looked into customer satisfaction levels and their trends. After all, many more companies are interested in customer service these days. So you would think it should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

 

 wAAACwAAAAAAQABAEACAkQBADs According to the latest report from  The Institute of Customer Service on customer satisfaction across Europe, retail, insurance and banking are the three best performing industries.

This was a surprise to me because they used to be the most heavily criticised. However this suggests that they have taken action, albeit because they had little choice, but most other industries continue to ignore what their customers really want. You can see the Infographic overview above; click on it to see the full-sized original.

I then went back to Google to find ways which were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found more than  two million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results. Again, extremely worrying.

According to the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) August 2019 report, customer satisfaction is once again on the decline in the USA.

measure customer centricity
National ACSI Scores, 1994 to Q2 2019 (0-100 Scale) (PRNewsFoto/American Customer Satisfaction)

As mentioned in their press release accompanying the Q2 2019 results "With few exceptions, the rate of growth in consumer spending – which accounts for almost 70% of GDP – has declined since 2016. ACSI is still below its high watermark from 2017, yet GDP growth has, by and large, increased over the same time periods."

“This is untenable in the long run,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI Founder and Chairman. “It’s also untenable for customer satisfaction to weaken and for consumer spending to strengthen in the long run. But that’s what happened in the second quarter of 2019.”

The UK is showing a similar negative trend. The UKCSI is currently 77.1 (out of 100), 0.8 points lower than a year ago. This is the fourth consecutive, though small, drop in customer satisfaction since July 2017, when the index score was 78.2. This has no doubt also been negatively impacted by the Brexit vote and ongoing struggle to negotiate terms with the EU.

UK Customer Satisfaction Index 2019

 

THE KEY TAKEAWAYS

So what does a business need to do to deliver what their customers really want today and increase their level of satisfaction? There are seven facts that become apparent from this analysis:

  1. Businesses should always provide a positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to satisfy, but ideally delight.
  2. Companies need to go beyond the mere process of customer centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation.
  3. Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer.
  4. Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most industries, especially when customers are becoming increasingly demanding.
  5. Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction.
  6. A positive customer experience increases loyalty and advocacy.
  7. Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices.

 

In summary, people want businesses to listen and understand them. When a customer takes the time to contact a company because they are unhappy, they expect a satisfactory outcome as a minimum. Those organisations who go beyond, to deliver delight, will see their reputation improve, as well as an increase in their customers’ loyalty and advocacy. 

 

Customers also want companies to be open and transparent. They want answers to their questions and criticisms. They have a right to know the source of ingredients, the ingredients themselves, their country of origin, the charities the company supports, or the organisation’s policies on waste, water and sustainability. What customers really want today is to have their questions answered (almost) immediately, especially on social media. They expect things that go wrong to be put right – quickly, with an equally rapid explanation and apology.

 

So how are you doing? Are you living up to your customers’ expectations? Are you delivering what your customers really want? How have you made progress in this area in the past year or so? Please share your success stories below. 

 

You can no longer wait! You’re getting left behind by your competitors who are taking action today! If you need help in catalysing your organisation in customer centricity and aligning your business to what your customers really want, C3Centricity provides 1-Day training on many relevant topics. See more and download the summary brochures HERE.

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The 6 Best Ways to Show you Respect your Customers

More than one year after the introduction of GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in California, I wondered what has changed. And more importantly, I got to thinking about customer privacy and how to build a mutually beneficial relationship whilst also respecting it.

Customers don’t want to be automatically segmented and followed as they go about the web, viewing different sites. A recent article on Business2Community by Owen Ray said that

The tracking cookie is crumbling. Smart cookie-blocking technology led by Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) now block third-party cookies by default, and even Google’s Chrome will soon get controls that let consumers block cookies.”

If you want to understand more on the topic of cookies I highly recommend this two-part article.

Companies who are truly customer centric know that it is important to build a mutually beneficial relationship where there is something for both parties in exchanging information and services. Too many businesses ask too much of their customers, with little if anything in return. I believe this is one of the major reasons that customers today are becoming sensitive to what and to whom they give any information about their interests, habits, needs and wishes.

I, therefore, thought it was useful to review the major points to keep in mind, when a business wants to collect information about its customers in order to offer products and services that better meet their wants and desires.

 

1. Ask Permission to Gather Information

This should be a no-brainer and yet I still find myself on lists to which I didn’t subscribe! You too?

Whether you are connecting with your customers by mail, phone, email or the web, you need to first request permission to ask any questions and to gather the information you are looking for. Not only should you ask for consent; if you are not in direct personal contact, but connecting via email or the web, you should also double-check that permission. You have to ensure that the agreement has been given by your customer and that they are still ready to provide the information.

Being attentive to privacy when starting to build a relationship is vital and shows you respect your customers. It also means asking them to confirm their consent not once, but twice. Double opt-in as it is known, ensures that your customer is correctly identified and that they have indeed themselves agreed to provide or receive information, or to be put on your mailing list.

 

2. There Must be Mutual Benefit

When your customer has agreed to provide information you need to thank them in return immediately. This can be as simple as offering coupons for your products, some valuable information not easily available elsewhere, a free guide or e-book on a relevant topic, or special privileges such as club membership or express shipping. Something that shows them that they were right to agree and that you value their information.

Another thing to keep in mind is not to overwhelm them by asking everything in one go. Since your objective is to build a long-term relationship with them, you can complete the information you require through several contacts with the same customer.

This also has the added advantage of keeping the conversation more frequent than it might otherwise have been. Ask just enough to be able to identify your priority metrics and then refine your understanding of them as you gather more information.

Your objective should be to build a long-term relationship with your customers, so don't gather more information than you can immediately use. #CEX #CRM #CustomerService #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

 

3. Make them Feel Special

More and more CPG companies and brands now offer a loyalty program, especially to their higher-value consumers. These provide more targeted privileges and even give the opportunity to preview new communications or product concepts. In general customers love to give feedback and it has the benefit of building a closer tie to the brand as they feel ownership of those launched.

This is probably one of the more intimate and bigger win-win relationships that can be developed with your customer. But it does take a dedicated team within the company to manage such a club, as these customers are naturally the most demanding for services and constant information updates. So only set one up when you know you can satisfy their needs, as otherwise they can feel frustrated when they perceive they are not getting the attention they think they deserve.

Over the past couple of years, we have started to see new types of member offers. Sephora launched a members-only social platform, which encourages shoppers to share beauty tips and advice, and to comment about any new products bought, not just those from their stores.

Nike has taken things to the extreme by opening an entire members-only store concept, Nike Live, in Los Angeles.

Both of these provide exceptional recognition to their members, making them feel a part of an exclusive program, which is exactly what they are!

 

4. Keep the Relationship Fresh

Once you start building the relationship with your customers, you must continue to interest them by offering news, information, photos, videos or articles of interest. This can be quite a strain on internal resources, so you may want to (also) consider including user generated content (UGC) on your website.

Not only does this ensure continuously updated content, but also involves the customer in what is shown, so that it remains relevant and of interest to them. People love to post and comment, so include message boards, tip sharing platforms or photo albums, whatever is relevant to your targeted customers.

Beauty, fashion and petcare brands were amongst the first to make use of UGC, as they are in very visual industries. Who doesn’t want to share a photo of themselves when they are looking especially beautiful, or show how cute their cat or dog is?

One great example comes from L’Oreal. Their DermaBlendPro brand encouraged users to share photos or videos of how the brand had transformed their look, by hiding disfiguration or tattoos. They clearly understood that happy customers make the best brand ambassadors, and this was clearly proven by the thousands of entries and immense buzz the brand received on social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.

 

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5. Ask their Advice - Frequently

For your customers to appreciate how much you value them and their business, involve them in it, by asking for feedback on how you are doing. If you have new ideas or plans, share details with them or enable them to vote for new flavors, concepts or advertising ideas.

You can also enable them to preview the ads or products before everyone else, but do make sure you provide them with some great information about it too, so that they can share it with their friends and family members. This will make them feel like the special and valued customer they are, and also help you spread the word - for free!

 

6. Always Offer a Simple Way Out

Once you have made the connection with your customers, recognize that they might change their minds at any time and want to unsubscribe from your club or mailing list. Make this as quick, simple and pain free as possible. This shows respect for your customer and their time, and also enables them to leave with a positive opinion of you and the brand. You never know, they might change their minds and stay after all, or come back again in the near future.

From making the unsubscribe link in tiny font to pale and almost illegible, to using button colours to mislead, many brands think that this will stop people from unsubscribing. It may, but it is more likely just to irritate them and label your communications as spam.

Even large companies get this wrong. Apple may provide full details of all the different ways to connect on their contact page, but it is laid out in an overwhelming block of text that is so off putting I doubt anyone hunts to find the information they need.

Apple shows how not to respect your customers

Another example used by Swiss airlines and their parent company Lufthansa almost had me agreeing to give all my information, not just the necessary data to make my experience more comfortable. Their coloured button draws the eye and without reading you could end up making the same mistake I almost did.

No way to respect your customers

With so much choice available to customers today, it is our responsibility to build an engaging and respectful relationship with them. If there is no trust, there may soon be no sales!

What other ways do you show respect for your customers? Please share your best examples below. Of course, if you have come across a bad example that frustrated that, then please share it too. Let's name and shame!

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The Best Ways To Improve Innovation With Better Ideation & Insights

One of the most frequent questions I get asked by my clients is how they can improve their innovation. 

Whether they are large or small, global or local, they all want to their new products and services to be more successful. And the answer I give them to this question every single time is simple; start with the customer!

Many companies create great new products and services – from their perspective at least – but they fail miserably! They then ask me if I can help them to improve their innovations and identify why this happened. Of course, I do help them, but I also suggest that next time it would be better if they called me before they started innovating! In a failure situation, it is almost always due to an outdated innovation process in which the customer has not been involved.

I know it can be difficult to innovate in this new age of technology, but it remains vital for growth. And Switzerland remains one of the most innovative countries in the world. In both the GII (WIPO Global Innovation Index and Bloomberg Index Switzerland appears in the top five. I think this is why I regularly get invited to run workshops on the topic around the world.

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China is an innovation hot-house

China, excluding Hong Kong, joined the top 20 most innovative countries in the WIPO global innovation index for the first time in 2018. This is because they no longer rely on cost-effective manufacturing alone. They also applied for more patents than the next two countries, the United States and Japan, combined! This clearly shows that China is improving ideation as well as their innovation process. But they know they must do even more. To become a truly competitive nation, they have to better understand their target customers, especially their growing middle and higher-income residents, who continue to prefer primarily imported Western brands.

 

Let me share with you a few of the ideas that I spoke about during my recent visit there. They may also deliver more successful innovation for your organisation too.

 

Innovation is essential

Most companies innovate from an internal technical and skills-based foundation. It doesn’t usually work very well, if at all. In fact, according to NielsenIRIFortune and many others, it is estimated that between 85% and 95% of new consumer products in the US fail. In Europe, it’s just as bad, with only 25% of new consumer products being still available on shelf just twelve months after launch! And less than half that number by the end of the second year.

With such disastrous results, you might wonder why companies continue to innovate. Well there are three main reasons why they do:

  1. It keeps brands fresh. Brands which innovate have something new to share with current and potential clientsWe have come to expect it. What excites today, is normal tomorrow and then just boring after that. We have gotten accustomed to regular updates and constant new choices.
  2. It encourages switching. If brands and options remain the same, people would only switch if they became dissatisfied and the cost of switching was low. Since product performances are so similar in many categories today, new variants and offers suggest differentiation. The brand appears more vibrant and people like that.
  3. It revives brands through excitement and buzz. In today’s connected world, this is vital. People learn about brands as much from friends and family as through advertising. And they trust the former more than the latter, even if some of these “friends” are virtual ones they’ve never met. According to Nielsen’s report ” Global Trust in Advertising” more than eight-in-10 global respondents (83%) say they trust the recommendations of friends and family, and two-thirds (66%) others’ opinions posted online.

 

 

Renovate your innovation process

NPD Funnel copy

It still surprises me that companies continue to use the same innovation process as they've always done, when their failure rate remains so high. Today's digital environment needs a whole new approach.

The old process often looks something like the diagram on the right. Is that what yours looks like? In fact, is your process a funnel? If so, then you're facing at least two problems:

 

1. That it is a funnel. This process is linear, with a beginning and an end. It assumes that there is only one “winner” from all the ideation and brainstorming. And it also supposes that only one concept developed from that “winning” idea will succeed.

But what if all your ideas are great? You would be throwing away all but one of them! Or suppose that they are all “losers” and you launch the least “awful” amongst them? There must be a better way, no?

Even IDEO’s iterative process still assumes “winners”, because they quickly move from brainstorming to prototyping and testing with customers. At least they do suggest co-creating with customers, which is a positive element of their process and it is great fun to do – from my own experiences. But as I said, there is a better way.

 

2. That it doesn’t include the customer. How can you have any chance of innovating for your customers if you don’t include them? You are relying on your own perspective to make choices. Are you the typical consumer for whom you are innovating? Probably not. So why are you taking decisions based on your own opinions and those of your colleagues? They're pretty irrelevant if you think about it!

Virtuous circle of better innovationThe second diagram on the right is the type of NPD process that I encourage my clients to use. It is, of course, always adapted to their own specific needs and based upon their current process to speed adoption and change.

The major difference from most current innovation processes that my clients have shared with me, is that it is a virtuous circle. It starts and ends with opportunity identification, in other words with the customer and insight. This, of course, means that we must know and understand our customers deeply.

 

Know your target audience intimately

We all think we know our customers, don't we? But in most cases this is not strictly true. At least, we don't know them as deeply as we should or could. One of the quickest roads to improving ideation and innovation is to know for whom you are innovating. 

One of the quickest roads to improving ideation and innovation is to know for whom you are innovating. #Marketing #Brand #Innovation Click To Tweet

The first thing I ask my clients to complete, and regular readers will know it well, is the 4W™ Template of the “who”, “what”, where” and most importantly of all, the “why” of their target audience. Often times they struggle with the last “W”. If you want to try it for yourself, check out our detailed post on it “How well do you know your customers?”

Even with this template completed, you still have to go further. Optimal understanding comes from regular connection. Our customers are changing - fast - so we need to keep our fingers on the pulse of the market. Yesterday’s information is not much use to manage today’s brands or innovate for tomorrow.

Yesterday’s information is not much use to manage today’s brands or innovate for tomorrow. #CustomerUnderstanding #CustomerInformation #CustomerData Click To Tweet

During my talk at Shanghai’s ECUST University, someone asked me how we can be better prepared for the future. I love the question, as it enables me to speak about another of my passions, that of scenario planning.

Change happens, and especially rapidly in fast developing markets such as China. My recommendation to the student was to not rely on trends alone. They are uncompetitive. To gain an advantage over the competition, you need to develop trends into plausible future scenarios. If you are interested in learning more, then do check out our post “10 Steps & 5 Success Factors to Ensure your Business is Ready for Anything“.

Knowing why your customers do what they do, buy what they buy and consume what they consume, and then watching and listening to them to understand even better, will put you in the best possible position for improving ideation and innovation. But there’s still more you can do.

Increase your external partnerships

As mentioned above, many companies still rely on their own technology and skills to innovate. However, while technology can certainly help deliver improved benefits, it is usually not sufficient. In many areas, companies need to collaborate with others who are more specialised in certain areas.

Joint ventures and partnerships are also useful for developing new products and services more quickly. You don’t need to build the needed skills internally and you can rely on the immediate support of external experts. Whether you team up with another corporation or a university is up to you, as long as you recognise your need for additional support. If you rely totally on your internal knowledge for improving ideation and innovation, you are unlikely to find those breakthrough ideas most companies are searching for.

There are many examples of large consumer goods companies partnering with external experts. The Laboratoires Innéov was a joint venture in nutritional cosmetics between L’Oréal and Nestléalthough the relationship ended in 2015. Nestle also created  Cereal Partners Worldwide as a joint venture with General Mills and Beverage Partners Worldwide with Coca-Cola.

Procter & Gamble and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries announced the creation of a joint venture in consumer healthcare in 2011. The newly named PGT Healthcare partnership with president Tom Finn has since negotiated tens of JV’s, partnerships and strategic alliances.

 

Expand your business model

Another external lever from which more and more companies are benefiting today is a change in their business model. Take the food industry. It is moving from basic nutrition into health and wellness, and could become a direct competitor to the pharmaceutical industry as it develops more nutraceuticals.

Pharma, on the other hand, is moving from sickness to wellness, from treatments to prevention.

And what about telecoms? They now make almost as much money selling geo-localisation data as they do from providing communication services.

Or how about Google moving into cars, solar panels and most recently travel with its Trips App? Through the analysis of their customers’ searches, Google can identify those of us who are looking to travel, those interested in buying a new car or in using taxi services. Google knows more about us today than we know ourselves! And that is both exciting and frightening.

 

Harness emotional benefits 

Companies which succeed at innovation know that it is the emotional benefits of their product or service that matters, often more so than the functional ones.

Companies which succeed at innovation know that it is the emotional benefits of their product or service that matters, often more so than the functional ones. #Emotions #Benefits #Functional #Brand #Marketing Click To Tweet

Apple used to be a great innovator. In the past few years, I feel they have been relying too much on their technical expertise. The launches of their iPhone 7, 8 and X and the new Mac Book laptops were all less successful than their previous launches. While none are real flops, they failed to ignite excitement in their potential customers.

There have been numerous posts on why Apple is failing at innovating today. One article in the HBR by Steve Blank stated that both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

“… suggested execution executives as their successors. They confused world-class execution with the passion for product and customers, and market insight. Yet history has shown us that these two talents are not the same. For long-term survival in markets that change rapidly, one is far more important than the other.”

Another article in Business Insider by Julie Bort concludes by saying

Microsoft is now officially more innovative than Apple

based upon Tweets of the events. But Microsoft too failed when Bill Gates handed the company leadership over to Steve Ballmer. For 14 years Ballmer successfully ran the business from a financial perspective. He tripled sales and doubled profits. But he didn’t set the company up for long-term survival. In early 2014, Satya Nadella took over and made some radical changes which focused the company on mobile and the cloud (Azure). This freed Microsoft to become more innovative again and the result is already showing.

You can never go wrong if you start from your customers’ perspective and connect emotionally with them. #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity #Business Click To Tweet

 

Develop insights as a company

Some managers think that insight is just another word for market research. They’re wrong, but perhaps you too see it in this way?

Market research is a great source of information, but for insight, you have to integrate multiple sources of information. It is rare for a single project to provide a deep insight. This comes from truly understanding the customer and that takes time. It takes data and information, turned into knowledge and then understanding to develop real insight.

Knowing your customers is insufficient to develop insight unless you understand what it all means to them. #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity #Insight #MRX Click To Tweet
C3Centricity insight development process
C3Centricity CatSight™ Process for Insight Development

The full development process, such as the example given on the right, takes time and people, ideally with differing perspectives. It takes a detailed understanding of the target audience, their needs and desires so that you can resonate emotionally with them.

Many organisations work with human truths to help in identifying a concept that will resonate emotionally. These are usually based on basic human needs, which cut across cultures. This makes them particularly useful for regional and global brands.

During my different talks, I share many examples and case studies, but one which my audiences usually find particularly fascinating is the insight both Unilever’s Omo and Nestle’s Nido have used. The insight is based on the human truth that “All parents want their children to grow up happy and healthy”. The insight they then developed, which is as equally relevant for washing powder as it is for infant formula is “I want my child to experience everything life has to offer, even if it means getting dirty”. What is particularly interesting in this example is that both companies have been able to use the same human truth and insight but make it relevant for each of their categories.

My recommendation, therefore, if you are struggling to develop insight, is to analyse your competitors or the brands targeting a similar audience. If you can identify on what human truth and insight their message is based, you may be able to use it too.

 

Conclusions

These are just a few of the many ideas which I shared with enthusiastic audiences wherever I speak about innovation around the world. It is clear that both entrepreneurs and corporate executives in China are particularly keen to improve their innovation. They are also thirsty for support in further improving their ideation. For this reason, I believe they will continue to top the nations in patent applications for many years to come.

Therefore, it is vital that we supposed "developed" nations support our entrepreneurs and creative executives to stay in the race. Unless we do so, we could see China dominate new products and services in the future, as they have dominated manufacturing in the past.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts on the race for innovation. 

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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.

7 Secrets to Business Growth from Leading Global Brands

Consultants get contacted for all sorts of – admittedly sometimes strange – requests for support from their clients.

However, when I get several people asking for help in the same area, I know something important is happening in the marketplace.

This is exactly what happened to me last month. The topic? Business Growth.

Most marketers will soon be leaving on their vacation and are realising just how little time they will have left to meet their annual objectives when they return. Their brands have not performed as well as they had hoped this year and they are looking for a solution – fast!

No less than two of my current clients and four new companies have asked me for support in growing their businesses in just the past month! In particular, they have all said that one or more of their brands is stable – to be polite – and that they want to reverse the trend. Is this your situation too? If so, then I have a useful 7-step process that will bring rapid, if not instant change.

 

How to Stop a Declining Brand

OK, let’s get straight to the point with the most painful of situations first, that of a declining brand. A few years ago I wrote a popular post about using brand image metrics to understand what is happening with a brand and how to identify the best actions to take.

It is called “How to Stop Brand Decline: Following Brand Image is More than Meets the Eye.” I highly recommend reading it now, for a short but in-depth understanding of all the information that can be gleaned from a simple brand image study.

Almost all brands use their own brand image data in a very basic way, but there is so much more that can be done with the information, even without harnessing AI to do it for you!

In the above post I speak about the different kinds of attributes that should be measured and how to find them. They must cover the three aspects of customer benefits, namely:

  • Rational, functional benefits
  • Emotional, subjective benefits
  • Relational, cultural benefits

Business growth from brand image measurement

Brand image attributes must cover the three aspects of customer benefits, namely Rational, functional benefits; Emotional, subjective benefits; and Relational, cultural benefits. Do yours? #Insight #MRX #Marketing #Brand Click To Tweet

However, what is even more important is how you analyse the data once you have it. I suggest looking at, as a minimum:

  • Total and splits by demographics – gender, age, location etc
  • Segments as you have defined them – attitudes, values, motivations etc
  • Steps of the customer journey – aware, consider, try etc

There are many other analyses I use when working with my clients. Let me know if you need some help in getting more value from your own brand image metrics, I’d love to help.

 

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Changes in your Brand image are just one of the things that you should look at when you are trying to understand why your business is flat, or even worse, declining. It's one of the best kept secrets to brand growth!

Let's now look at some of the others.

 

The Typical MBA Five Steps to Brand Building

Most MBA students are taught a five-step process for brand building, at least in theory anyway. They are:

 

Brand Building

  1. Describe: This is done through a product's logo as well as its description on packs and other communications' material. A successful brand will describe what it is through a consistent look, feel, tone, colours, symbols and messaging. This then builds to its brand equity which forms in the minds of customers both current and potential.
  2. Position: A brand needs to differentiate itself from its competition with some unique value. This can be done through its packaging, colour, aroma, distribution or another element that can set it apart. Using them to position the brand will provide customers with a reason to believe and to buy.
  3. Promote: Promotion can take numerous forms and channels, such as video, social media, TVCs (Television & Cinema), print ads or online advertising. It can include straightforward advertising and promotions, but also customer reviews, retail offers, websites etc. All of these will increase the brand's awareness, hopefully spontaneous recall, as well as improved perception.
  4. Personalise: Several books have been written about people "loving" brands. While I think this is a bit of a stretch, building strong loyalty and a solid fan base is important. With so much choice available today, personalisation and individualisation have become essential characteristics in many categories. They make people feel closer to the brand through increased resonance and a perception of importance. These are two of the essential ingredients that build fans / followers.
  5. Evaluate: This is in fact both the last and first step to successful brand building. It is important that a company keeps on monitoring and reviewing the performance of its products, services and brands. Hence evaluation & review of a brand is an essential element of brand building.

While these five steps aren't wrong, I believe that we can all do a whole lot better. As I said above, this is the theory, but I imagine that you are an expert or at least a professional, who already understands just how much effort goes into brand building. There are far more than these five simple steps!

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When I realised that there is a lot missing from this standard list, I decided to expand it, but not too much so it remains manageable. However, my clients get a far more detailed process, as I am sure you can imagine. (Contact me to learn more)

 

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Did you notice that the MBA list is all about the product or service, and that there is nothing mentioned about the customer or consumer? Big mistake!

So here is my process for brand building, a shortened version of the one I use when working with my clients. It succeeds whether your brand is a product or service, new or established, local or global. Take a look and let me know what you think. Is there something important I have forgotten that you do? Let me know in the comments and I'll send you a free copy of my book "Secrets to Brand Building."

 

My 7 Secrets to Business Growth

1. Gather as much information as you can about the brand

You already have far more information than you realise! Start by gathering as much information as you can find and bring it all together.

In addition to brand image and equity measurements, you need trend information on shares, distribution, stock levels, customer penetration and profiles. Look for changes in the trends and identify where and when they happened. The why will come later.

This first analysis is the equivalent to an autopsy after death - but hopefully you are reacting long before your brand is on life-support!

 

2. Identify the category in which you are playing.

This is the category from the customers' perspective, not the industry definition your business association or retail audit supplier uses. Talk to customers if you can, or watch and listen to discussions on social media.

These exchanges will often mention comparable brands, suggestions for switching etc. All this will provide a better indication of the category than your industry knowledge sources ever will.

 

3. Understand your customers and talk to them - a lot!

I already mentioned speaking with your customers to understand the category you are in. But I want you to make a habit of speaking to your customers - both current and potential - on a weekly, and ideally daily basis.

For a simple start, set up Google alerts for your brand, category and customer groups, so you are following what is happening on the web. If you haven't already done this, stop reading and do that NOW! It's that important.

If you are a regular follower of this blog, then you will know that we promote - and our clients heavily use - C3Centricity's 4W™ Template to store everything we know about our customers. You can download a free workbook including the template HERE.

 

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4. Define your USP and desired image

Now you know the category in which you are competing and what customers want, verify whether your brand has a USP (Unique selling proposition) and an appropriate image and equity.

The description of your brand should include functional, emotional and societal benefits as mentioned above. To learn more about identifying these, and how to measure all aspects of your brand image, personality and equity, read "Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes: What Every Marketer Needs to Know."

 

5. Develop a Big Idea on which to communicate

Once you have your USP it's time to develop a big idea on which to communicate it. Big Ideas should be based on a relevant insight about your customers. (You do have one don't you?)

For an improved process that delivers truly actionable insights, please check out"Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor (Insights are its Foundation)." This post details the exact process my clients use to develop insights they can easily and quickly harness to develop their own Big Idea with their advertising agency.

Here are a few examples; the first two are interesting in that two brands in different categories have used the exact same insight to come up with their own Big Ideas :

  • Persil. Insight - "I want my children to experience everything in life, even if they get dirty.” Big Idea - Dirt is Good.

 

  • Nido. Insight - "I want my children to experience everything in life, even if they get dirty.” Big Idea - Let them grow, let them go.

 

  • Mastercard. Insight - “Life isn’t about what I buy, but about the relationships I have with the people I care about, and the special moments that I can share with them.” Big Idea - Mastercard helps you deliver priceless experiences.

 

  • Jillz. Insight - "I want to drink alcohol on a night out, but I don’t like beer, and wine is too variable in quality." Big Idea - A fresh drink from the tap for elegant women.

Jillz secret to brand growth

 

  • Philadelphia soft cheese. Insight - "Food is delicious, but I don’t want to get fat (Butter vs Cream Cheese) Big Idea: Indulge your desire with less calories.

Philadelphia secrets of business growth

Hopefully these examples have inspired you to review the insight and big idea for your own brand. If you think you have a great example why not share it below?

 

6. Promote the brand where and when your customers are

This is the step that seems to be difficult for so many brands. They think that by advertising on digital media they will get their message across. But there are (at least) two things wrong with this approach.

Firstly, are your target customers actually online and if so, where? Pinterest may be perfect for a fashion or cosmetic brand but not for many other industries. The graph below show the usage by demographics for the US market. Perhaps you should take a look at your own statistics to check that social media and particularly the current channels you are using, are optimal for your brand?

social media stats are a secret to business growth

 

7. Measure your success

Peter Drucker was so right when he said:

“What gets measured gets managed.”

So you clearly have to measure what you have been doing, so you understand what is working and what is not. But what metrics should you choose?

The data you should be following will help you to assess whether or not you are meeting the objectives for your brands. Therefore start by looking at what you were planning to improve and then choose the appropriate metrics to follow the changes you made.

I would also recommend this short read: "How to choose your KPIs."

 

Next Steps

So you've gone through all seven steps and your brand is showing signs of stabilising if not actually declining. Great! So what's next? Well you start by prioritising the actions you need to take to correct the weaknesses you have found. Define the tactics and strategies you will need and put your action plan into effect.

Then? Well, you start at step 1 and go through the process again! You see brand building is a never ending virtuous circle.

If you have specific questions relating to any of the seven steps, or if some other area of brand building is challenging you at the moment, then why not book a complementary advisory session? I love to help and that one call could solve your issue immediately, so why wait in torment? Be confident that we can quickly move your business forward together!

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Fundamentals of a Customer First Strategy For Every Industry

Every industry strives to improve their customers’ experience with their products and services. Adopting a customer first strategy is therefore in many company objectives. Unfortunately it rarely goes beyond the theory in many organisations, so I decided to help out with these six suggestions.

Hospitality is perhaps one of the most visible industries where customer satisfaction, or lack of, is quickly shared with the world.  It is true that without satisfaction, customers will not return to a hotel or restaurant. And they will almost certainly share their (bad) experiences with anyone who will listen.

Hospitality is also one of the industries that receives the most comments online, thanks to TripAdvisor and other booking sites. There is no hiding from their clients for hospitality! While I empathise, it’s not all bad news. This is because it also means that great service will also be more quickly seen online. Therefore you can make changes and see the results almost immediately, or at least far quicker than in most other businesses.

However, despite this, I believe that the hospitality industry has a lot it can learn from consumer packaged goods (CPG). In fact most other industries could benefit from taking a look at some of CPG’s best-in-class processes.

Both the hospitality and CPG industries have their customers at their heart. They are both founded on pleasing and hopefully delighting their clientele in the quality of the products and services they offer. However, as the world changes, customer demands do too and companies need to stay current if not ahead of these requirements in order to ensure continued growth.

#1. From ROI / ROR to ROE

There has been a lot of talk recently on moving from a return on investment to a return on relationships. Whilst I agree with the importance of relationships, I believe that what we should be talking about is engagement. Be honest, other than the popular book that started talking about brand love, who wants to have a relationship with a brand?!

Brands that have a high following and loyalty have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back. They become involved and interested in the brand, the product, their website, even their communications. Coca Cola and Red Bull are great examples of this. You should also check out another post entitles Increasing Impact & Engagement through Advertising Testing.”

Brands that have a high following and loyalty have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back. #CEX #CRM #Engagement @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#2. Build relationships with strangers

Whilst the hospitality industry has been based on serving and satisfying its guests, in today’s connected world it also needs to consider people who are currently strangers – but who could potentially become clients. These might be the friends of current guests, which for example the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Mexico tries to attract.

This wonderful hotel encourages its guests to photograph their experiences during their stay at the resort and then to share them with their friends on Facebook. This not only provides free publicity for the hotel, but also enables it to start engaging these potential clients, since they probably have similar lifestyles to their current guests.

User generated content (UGC) works well because customers trust each other a lot more than they do brands. Research from Forbes shows that 81% of consumers’ purchase decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts.

For some great examples of successful UGC campaigns, I highly recommend checking out this article on Wedevs. You may also want to readThe Exceptionally Easy & Profitable Uses of Customer Co-creation.”

User generated content (UGC) works well because customers trust each other a lot more than they do brands. #CEX #CRM #Trust @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#3. Value is more important than price

Having additional control in their lives today means that customers are re-evaluating what they are offered. They have higher expectations and are more discerning in their choices. They expect recognition at every touchpoint, even if in reality their peers influence their decisions more than does traditional marketing.

The internet enables them to compare offers, so they are less interested in bundled propositions, preferring to decide what is best value for them personally for each element. Several brands have understood this and now offer the customer the possibility to define their own, personal bundle of options. Liberty Mutual is one such example of this.

According to research by Walker, 86% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a better experience. So don’t get fixated on price; find ways to add value that consumers may appreciate far more than its actual cost to you.

To learn more about pricing and value check out “Sourcing & Services Matter: Why Price Alone Won’t get your Customers to Stay.”

Don't get fixated on price; find ways to add value that consumers may appreciate far more than its actual cost to you. #CEX #CRM #Trust @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#4. Renovation is more than for buildings

Most CPG companies have targets for Innovation & Renovation, sometimes 30% or more of annual revenue. They also have mid-term innovation pipelines which can include partnerships in joint ventures with what were previously only competitors. These help each partner by building on their individual talents and enable them to develop better products and services.

For hospitality, innovation can no longer be purely physical or rational; we need to consider more emotional and relational ways to satisfy. The Rosewood Mayakoba resort, already mentioned above, is one good example of this; the Art Series Hotels are another. Check out the latter’s recent ad to understand better how they excel at understanding their guests: Art Series Overstay Checkout, or why not review the picture posted on MayaKoba’s Facebook page?

If you want more ideas on innovating, then read “A Customer-First Approach to Successful Innovation.”

 

#5. Loyalty is never really won

One of the reasons that I believe we need to work on building engagement and in all industries, not just hospitality, is because customer demands are constantly evolving. What satisfied them yesterday can bore or even disappoint today.

To acquire and retain our customers, we need to be constantly upgrading our products and services, so that they will be surprised and delighted. This means that loyalty is much less long-term than in the past and lifetime value is now measured in months or a few years, rather than in decades.

To acquire and retain our customers, we need to be constantly upgrading our products and services, so that they will be surprised and delighted. #Customer #CEX #CRM #Satisfaction @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

#6. Dialogue, don’t just communicate

In today’s connected world, customers want a say in not only what they consume, but also where, when and how they are marketed to. They want a say in what they buy and expect a rapid resolution to any queries or complaints. According to a recent Edison Research, 20% expect a company to answer to their social media posts within 15 minutes, 42% within the hour! That means 24/7 monitoring for all organisations if we are not to disappoint our most engaged customers.

We must have 24/7 monitoring if we are not to disappoint our most engaged customers. #CEX #CRM #Customer #Engagement @C3Centricity Click To Tweet

 

These are just six of the many ideas I shared during a presentation I gave to the faculty of a world- renowned hospitality school. If you are interested in seeing the full talk, I am happy to share it. Just email me with your details and what your biggest business challenge is currently in adopting a customer first strategy.

Are you too struggling to improve your own customer centricity? Whatever people-facing industry you are in, we would welcome the chance to support and catalyse your efforts. Please check out our website for more information about our services and training courses, or contact us here.

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