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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. 

Improving Ideation, Insight & Innovation: How to Prevent Further Costly Failures.

If you prefer to listen to the PODCAST of this post, click HERE. Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes too!

As you know, I am a global customer centricity champion. My passion is helping organisations to grow faster by putting customers at the heart of their business. One of the most frequent requests I get is to help in improving ideation and innovation.

This is by far the most common area that my clients struggle with. Is it a challenge for you too?

Many companies create great new products and services – from their perspective – but they fail! They then ask if I can help them to identify to whom they should be selling. 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. This is why I was recently invited to run two workshops on improving ideation and innovation, as well as to speak about it at three different universities in Beijing and Shanghai.

China is an Innovation Hot-House

China joined the top 25 most innovative countries in the WIPO global innovation index for the first time this year. 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. But they know they must do even more. To become a truly competitive nation, they have to better understand their 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 visit. They may just save you too from more costly failures.

Innovation is Essential

Switzerland continues to lead the world in innovation according to the latest WIPO GII study. It was, therefore, a privilege for me to by invited to help China corporations and academics by proposing a new way to innovate.

Most companies innovate from a technical and skills-based foundation. It doesn’t usually work very well, if at all. In fact, according to Nielsen, IRI, Fortune 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 still on the 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 clients. We 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.

 

NPD Funnel copyRenovate your Innovation Process

It still surprises me that companies continue to use their same innovation process when their failure rate is so high. It 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 are 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.

 

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. In which case, why are you taking decisions based on your opinion? It’s pretty irrelevant!

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, adapted to their specific needs, based upon their current process. By doing this, it makes adoption of the new process much easier, by quickly getting everyone to support the needed changes.

The major difference from most current innovation processes 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, but this is often not totally true. Not deeply enough anyway. One of the quickest roads to improving ideation and innovation is to know for whom you are innovating. (>>Tweet this<<)

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

Even with the template filled, you still have to go further. Optimal understanding comes from regular connection. Our customers are changing – fast, so we need to keep our finger on the pulse of the market. Yesterday’s information is no use to manage today’s brands or innovate for tomorrow.

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

Change happens, and especially rapidly in 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 them 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, 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 unusual to be sufficient. In many areas, companies need to collaborate with others who are more specialised in certain areas.

Joint ventures and partnerships are 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 the support you need. 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 Nestlé, although 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 benefitting today is a change in their business model. Take the food industry. It is moving more 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.

Or 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.

Work with Emotional Benefits, not just 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. (>>Tweet this<<)

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 recent launch of the iPhone 7 and the new Mac Book Pro were both less successful than their previous launches. While neither are true 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. (>>Tweet this<<)

Develop Insight as a Company; Don’t Leave it to Market Research Alone

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.

Insight ProcessKnowing is also insufficient unless you understand what it all means to the customer.

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 gave many examples, but one which my audiences found particularly fascinating was the insight both Unilever’s Omo and Nestle’s Nido are using. 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 relevant for both washing powder and 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 went in China. It is clear that both entrepreneurs and corporate executives in the country are 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 as they have dominated manufacturing in the past.

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

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

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Marketing is a great profession and the marketing 5Ps the code by which we live. I’ve worked in or with marketing teams for almost my whole career. From the outside, others see marketers as those who come to work late and seem to party all night. They’re always watching TV or jetting off to exotic places to talk about advertising.

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

Well, as you yourself know, marketing IS fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work, often close to 24/7 on many occasions. So does all that hard work pay off? Not always in my opinion. And why? Because marketers don’t always ask the right questions!

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

So I suggest you work with my 7Qs instead. Each question explains not only what to check, but why. And if you can’t immediately answer any of them, then perhaps you need to do a little more work and a little less partying!

 

Q1. Who are your customers?

Your marketing 5Ps are your sourced from customer understandingThe first “P” stands for people and often that is taken to be “Do you know to whom you are selling?” The answer is always yes and that’s accepted as sufficient.

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

See  “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for more details on defining your customer persona.

 

Q2. How are your customers changing?

Hopefully, you answered Q1. without any hesitation – you did, didn’t you? And it’s great that you know a lot about your customers, but people change.

Are you following how your customers are changing? Are you keeping up with them and their new opinion, needs and desires? Do you know the impact of the latest trends and technologies on your customers’ behaviours? Do you know how these changes may alter your market in five, ten or even twenty years from now?

There are countless examples of brands that have disappeared because they didn’t keep up with the changing needs of their customers:

  • Kodak who didn’t understand the impact of digital photography.
  • Borders bookstores who didn’t get into eBooks.
  • Motorola, once the leader in smartphones, who didn’t embrace new communications technology.
  • Sony who resisted MP3 and lost the portable music player market that they had led for years.
  • Blockbuster who survived the transition from VHS to DVD, but failed to adapt to consumers’ dem and for home delivery.

The easiest way to be ready for any future changes is to prepare for them, by developing future scenarios. (Tweet this<<) How many possible future customer changes have you already prepared for?

 

Q3. What does your brand stand for?

Brand extensions need to be complementary to the parent brand's 5P structureI don’t mean it’s marketing identity or slogan; I mean how your customers or your competitors’ customers would describe it, its image? Is it strong and consistent? Does it align precisely with its identity or the positioning you want today? Do you follow the developments in its image regularly? Do you adapt your advertising and promotions to strengthen its desired image and eliminate negative changes before they impact your brand’s image? Is it authenticated by your customers’ experiences with your brand? It should be a direct reflection of your brand’s (internal) identity and promise. (Tweet this<<)

You should be able to describe your brand in one or at most a couple of sentences, using the words and ideas you want it to stand for, like these:

  • McDonalds offers “quick, convenient, family-oriented  and fun, casual dining.”
  • Bic disposable pens, lighters and razors offer “high-quality products at affordable prices, convenient to purchase and convenient to use.”
  • Dollar Shave Club: “Shave and grooming made simple.”

What you notice about these three examples is that they clearly define the customer’s benefit and what the brand is promising to provide. There is a synergy between what the internal image of the brand is and what the customers would say about it. When that is achieved you have a strong brand that your customers relate to and to which they are more likely to remain loyal.

 

Q4. How are sales and distribution?

I don’t mean just the totals. I mean the local specificities. The regional differences and anomalies. Do you know why they occur? Do these differences result from cultural differences, alternative traditions or usage, historical reasons or just distributor practices? Even if you work in marketing and not sales, understanding weekly, monthly and annual trends all mean increased understanding of your customers and their differences.

If you don’t know why your brand is doing better in some regions than others, then you’re probably missing opportunities for growth. (Tweet this<<) Always play to your strengths and correct your weaknesses as soon as they are identified.

 

Q5. Do you know what your brand is worth?

I don’t mean how much it costs to manufacture or to distribute. I mean how it is valued by the end user. How does your brand’s value compare to its current price? Incorrect pricing could mean that you are leaving money on the table!

If you are priced lower than your customers’ perceived value of it, you could be asking for more. If you are priced above the perceived value of your potential customers’, you are stopping many new customers from buying into your offer, as they don’t think you’re worth it.

Either way, you could be earning more and possibly selling more too. (Tweet this<<)

 

Q6. Are you using the right channels for your communications?

The marketing 5Ps include how to communicate consistently with customersMany marketing plans are still just a rehash of last year’s, especially when it comes to advertising and promotions. With today’s huge array of media opportunities, both on and offline, it is important to choose the most appropriate ones for your customers.

If you answered Q1. completely then you will know which ones they are currently using most often, and if you are also able to answer Q2. you’ll know how these are changing or likely to change in the future.

Wasting money with outdated media plans and channels no longer used by your customers is still one of the biggest challenges of marketing. Make sure it’s not yours.

For a fun piece on the topic, check out “ 10 Signs Your CEO Has an Outdated View of Marketing‘ on Hubspot.

 

Q7. Is your messaging consistent and complementary?

Answering Q3. means that you know what you want to stand for and the image you want to portray. Image metrics will tell you which of them need to be boosted, depending upon the desired changes.

Do you want to attract new customers, support current customers, or develop your image in a certain direction? Appropriate analysis of your image data will give you all the information you need to adapt your messaging and strengthen the positioning you have chosen for it.

For more details on image analysis check out the section in Denyse’s latest book “ Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Your Business – One Day at a Time.” It’s been called “A must read for today’s and tomorrow’s marketeers by none other than Paul Pohlman, Unilever’s CEO!

So there you have them, the seven questions that I believe will bring you greater results than just using the marketing 5Ps. What do you think? Next time you review your brand’s performance, why not give the 7Qs a try? They will provide you with a clearer picture of your brand’s current and future development opportunities, and more importantly, will identify the actions you need to take to progress its growth.

If I’ve missed any important points that you check regularly for your own brand, please share your thoughts below by adding a comment. I’d love to hear your own ideas and success stories.

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Is it time to review your own 5Ps?

Let C3Centricity support you with advisory sessions and 1-Day Catalyst training courses. Find out more and download our summary brochures HERE.

 

How to Stop Brand Decline: Following Brand Image is More than Meets the Eye

If the headline caught your eye, then you are probably challenged by a declining brand. Am I right?

Unfortunately for you, I’m not going to give you an easy five-step solution to turn around that faltering, or dying brand. And I will chastise you for letting it get that far! But I’ll also give you five ideas to help you understand why your brand is declining.

I was speaking with an ex-colleague of mine who is frustrated by her boss – aren’t we all at times? She is working on a brand that is globally doing OK, but the brand image results are beginning to show some worrying signs. The most important attributes identified for the product are all trending in the wrong direction.

Her boss continues to argue that since sales are good, why should they worry? He even went further and claimed that as the brand’s sales were doing well, there was no reason to continue to measure its image! This is just madness; wouldn’t you agree?

Brand image metrics are one of the best ways to follow the health of the brandif you are following the right attributes. 

Brand image metrics are one of the best ways to follow the health of the brand. #brand #marketing #brandimage Click To Tweet

By right I mean metrics that are relevant for the brand and the category. I have heard marketers request to measure their advertising slogans in a brand image study. This is obviously wrong, but it still comes up regularly when I’m working with a relatively inexperienced marketer. The reason you don’t is because slogans change, but the essence of a brand shouldn’t.

So if you don’t measure its advertising (directly), what should you measure? I think that the three most important areas to cover are:

  • the rational, functional benefits
  • the emotional, subjective benefits
  • the relational, cultural benefits

Let me give some examples, so you better understand:

  • Rational, Functional: removes stains, has a crunchy coating, offers 24-hour service.
  • Emotional, subjective: trustworthy brand, high quality, makes me more attractive.
  • Relational, cultural: a Swiss brand, trendy, traditional

In addition to these three image areas, I would suggest you also follow the brand’s personality and value perception. Both of these will impact its image and can provide clues to help understand changes in the image.

One further best practice is to also follow your main competitors so you have a good perspective of the category and its main selling points. Sometimes declines in image come from a competitor emphasizing an attribute for which you were previously known. As a result, although your brand hasn’t changed anything, its association with the attribute can decline due to the competitive actions.

Coming back to my friend and her manager, she asked me what she could do to persuade her boss to continue measuring brand image. This is what I told her to discuss with him.

  1. Review the attributes that have been measured, especially those showing the largest changes. Can you agree on why these have happened? Are you measuring the right metrics that cover the category or are you in need of updating them? Markets change and perhaps your attributes no longer reflect the latest sensitivities. This might be the reason for the image declines while sales continue to rise because the brand corresponds to these new customer needs and desires.
  2. Review customer care line discussions to see what customers are calling in about. See if there are any comments that tie in with the image attribute changes. These discussions will also highlight any areas that you are not currently following in your image tracker – see #1.
  3. Review your customer persona. Have you followed their changes or are you appealing to a new segment of users? If the latter, this might explain the sales increases. However, if you are measuring your brand image on a sub-group of category users that no longer reflect your current customers, this could explain the decreasing metrics. For more information on how to complete a detailed persona description, check out “How well do you know your customers?”
  4. Review market dynamics. If you are following sales and not share, you may be losing customers to other brands which are driving market growth. This might explain why sales are growing, but the image is declining.
  5. Review social media discussion. Today we have the luxury of finding out what people really think about a brand from discussions on social media. If your brand has a solid following or a respected customer base that shares their experience online, then this is a great way to know what is working and what is not. People tend to share negative experiences more than positive ones, so rather than taking offence we can obtain valuable information about a brand’s vulnerabilities.

These five areas will make for a lively discussion for my friend and her boss. They should also provide the necessary information for you to slow and hopefully reverse the negative sales trend of your brand. Of course, once you have the knowledge on what to do, you will need to take appropriate actions, but I’ll cover that in another post.

Have you tried other ways to manage a declining brand? Have I missed other actions to take to better understand what is happening? If so I’d love you to share your own experiences.

Winning customer centricityThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, it’s coming soon!

How to Stop Customer Satisfaction Drip, Dripping Away

I recently spent a few days in a condo that I have rented before in Miami Beach. It is a wonderful penthouse suite with panoramic views of the sea to the east and Miami city and port to the west. I rent it because I am always delighted to spend a few days of vacation in such a perfect place.

However, this last time I wasn’t happy. What has changed? Very little really but enough to make me feel disappointed. That made me reflect on how quickly our customers can move from delighted to dissatisfied because of some small detail we might have overlooked or which we ourselves see as irrelevant. Let me explain.

  1. I arrived at the condo building, but the usual doorman with whom I had built a good relationship has been replaced by a new person. Just as efficient but not “my” doorman; he didn’t know me so he came across as less welcoming and friendly. In the business world our customers like to be recognized for their loyalty.
  2. The condo was as perfect as ever, but had obviously been cleaned in a rush in time for my arrival. It smelt wonderful of course, but I didn’t notice the high-sheen tiled floor was this time wet and I went skidding onto my backside as soon as I entered. Customers notice when things are wrong more than when everything is right.
  3. The usual paper products were supplied, but only four sheets of kitchen roll and not many more of toilet paper! No big deal but it meant I had to immediately go out and buy them first thing the following morning instead of lazing at the beach. Customers will sometimes buy a competitive product rather than go searching when yours is out-of-stock.
  4. I went to bed early upon arrival because I was tired from the sixteen hour trip and the six hour time difference. I had never noticed before but neither the blinds nor the (too short) curtains cut out the daylight, so I tossed and turned for hours before sleep finally took over. Small issues with your product or service may go unnoticed – at least until there are many more “small issues.”

I am explaining these details to demonstrate how little things can build upon one another to create dissatisfaction. The same can happen to your customers. So ask yourself, what little changes have you been making that your customers haven’t (yet) noticed?

  • Reducing pack content just a little
  • Reducing the cardboard quality of packaging
  • Making the flavouring just a little more cheaply
  • Increasing the price just a few cents
  • Shipping just a few days later than usual
  • Call centres being not quite as friendly as they used to be
  • Response time to queries and requests a little slower than before

These adaptations are unlikely to be noticed by your customers at the time they are implemented, unless they are already unhappy with your product or service. The minor changes you have been making over the past months or years will have gone by without any impact on sales. Therefore you decide to make a few more. Each will save you a little more money, which adds up to big savings for you.

However, one day your customers will notice and question their original choice (>>Tweet this>>). To avoid this slow drain on your customers’ satisfaction and delight, here are a few ways to avoid this situation arising in the first place:

  1. When you run product tests, compare not only to the current product and your major competitors but also to the previous product. (or its ratings if the product is no longer available)
  2. Run a PSM (price sensitivity meter) or similar test to check levels of price perceptions and acceptable ranges.
  3. Measure br and image on a regular basis and review trends not only the current levels.
  4. Check that call centres are judged on customer satisfaction and not (just) on the number of calls answered per hour.
  5. Offer occasional surprise gifts or premium services to thank your customers for buying.
  6. Aim to make continuous improvements in response times both online and in call centres.

Perhaps surprisingly, in many categories, customer satisfaction, loyalty and delight come from the small differences and not the big basics (>>Tweet this<<). For example:

  • Consumers are delighted by the perfume of a shampoo more than by the fact that it cleans their hair.
  • Amazon surprises and delights its customers by occasionally offering premium delivery for the price of st andard.
  • Kids will choose one fastfood restaurant over another because of the “free” gifts offered.
  • Women love to buy their underwear from Victoria’s Secrets because they walk out with a pretty pink carrier bag overflowing with delicate pink tissue paper.
  • Men buy their girlfriends, wives and mistresses jewellery from Tiffany because they know that the little aqua box they present to their loved one already says it all, even before it is opened.
  • A car is judged on its quality and safety by the “clunk” of the door closing, more than its safety rating.

In today’s world of dwindling product / service differentiation and an overload of choice, which I already spoke about in the last post entitled “Do your Shoppers face a purchasing dilemma? How to give the right customer choice every time”, your customers want to be made to feel cared-for, not cheated. Find new ways to surprise and delight them and they will remain loyal, even if you have to increase your prices. As L’Oreal continues to remind its consumers every time they buy one of their products, “They’re worth it”.

If you would like to review your br and building and learn new ways to catalyse your own customers to greater loyalty and delight, then contact us for an informal discussion of your needs. I know we can help.

Winning Customer Centricity Book

Don’t forget to check out my latest book Winning Customer Centricity. It’s available in Hardback, Paperback and eBook formats on Amazon and andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes & Nobles, as well as in all good bookstores. And if you haven’t yet joined, sign up for free to become a C³Centricity Member  and get a DISCOUNT CODE as well as many free downloads, templates, case studies and much more.

C³Centricity used an image from Miami andBeaches in this post.

 

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