Insights are the pot of gold that many businesses dream of but rarely find. Why is that? Are you one of them? If so then I have some practical ideas on how you can get much, much better at insight development.
#1. Insights don’t come from a single market research study
Management often thinks that insight is “just another word for market research”. I remember one of my previous CEOs saying exactly that to me just before he addressed the whole market research and insight’s team at our annual conference. I am sure you can imagine what a panic I was in as he walked up to the mike!
Insights are a challenge to develop and are rarely, if ever, developed from a single piece of market research. Each market research project is designed to gather information in order to answer one or more questions. Whilst it may enable a business to make a more informed decision based upon the objectives, insight development is quite a different process.
Insight development involves integrating, analysing and synthesising all the data and information you have about a category or segment user. Then summarising it into knowledge and turning that knowledge into understanding. Only then are you ready to develop an insight.
All brands should have (at least) one insight on which its image, personality and communications are built. For example
AXE (Lynx in UK): (young) men want to attract as many beautiful and sexy women as possible. This is one of their newer ads, where the seduction is a little less in your face and more subtle – but still there.
Haribo Starmix: There’s a child inside every adult. This “Kid’s Voices” campaign has been running for years and manages to surprise and delight with each new episode.
Dulux sample paint pots: I love to decorate my home, but I don’t want to look stupid by choosing the wrong colour. Although these are now a standard offer for many paint brands, Dulux were the first to understand the problem facing potential home decorators.
Insight development will provide the basis on which you will define the actions that are needed to change the behaviour of your target audience. It also provides a solid framework on which to build your communications’ strategy.
#2. Insight development is based upon a desired behavioural change
When your sales, marketing or management look to improve their business results, their real objective is to change the behaviour of your current or potential customers’ behaviour. For example:
From buying a competitive brand to purchasing yours.
From using your services once a month, to once a week.
Moving customers’ beliefs about your brand from a traditional or classic brand, to a more modern image.
Changing customers’ perceptions about the price of your brand from expensive to good value for money.
Because insights are based on a desired behavioural change, they usually contain an emotional element that is communicated through advertising. The emotion that is shown in your communications is more likely to resonate with customers if it does stimulate their emotions. They are then more likely to remember your brand and may be more motivated to take the desired action you have identified.
If you are looking to increase sales or improve your brand’s image or equity, look to connect emotionally with your (potential) customers. Identifying the behavioural change you need your customers to make is a foundational step of insight development.
#3. Insight development needs more than Insight professionals
Although this may sound counter-productive, insights really do benefit from working from differing perspectives to get to that “ah-ha” moment, that many refer to. A deep understanding of customers and their reasons for behaving in a certain way, comes from looking at all aspects of their lives.
If you only review the actual moment when they choose or use a product or service, it is highly unlikely that you will develop that deep understanding you need. What happens before and afterwards also leads to their choice or that of their next purchase.
This is why it is important to work as a team when developing insights. Depending upon the issue or opportunity identified, the team can be made up of people from marketing, sales, trade marketing, production, packaging, advertising, innovation, and / or distribution. And these people don’t even need to work on the category in question; sometimes it is by taking ideas from different categories that real insights are developed.
#4. Insights are usually based on a human truth
The insights that resonate best with people are those that are not only emotional, but are also based upon a human truth. As you can imagine, these two elements are closely connected.
A human truth is a statement that refers to human beings, irrespective of race, colour or creed. It is a powerful and compelling fact of attitudes and behaviour that is rooted in fundamental human values. It is something that is obvious when quoted, but is often ignored or forgotten in daily business.
Human truths are linked to human needs and although it’s validity has been questioned in the past, it is seeing a revival today. The covid-19 virus has moved all human being back to a search for the basic levels of safety and health.
Examples of human truths used by some brands include:
Parents want to protect their children.
Men and women want to find love.
People want to be better than others.
If you are struggling to find an insight, it can help to review which level of needs your target audience is on and see how your brand can respond to help answer it.
Following on from the above points, it is particularly interesting that once found, an insight can be adapted to be used by different brands. There are many examples of this, particularly amongst major FMCG / CPG companies.
So take a look at your competitors’ communications and see if you can identify the insight on which they are built. Do the same for other categories targeting a similar audience. Sometimes you can use the same insight for your brand as they are using. But I would only recommend this if you are really struggling to develop your own insight.
One very successful example of this is the advertising for Omo / Persil from Unilever and Nestle’s Nido. They are both based on the insight “I want my child to experience everything in life, even if it means getting dirty.” Take a look at the two ads below and see what I mean.
Unilever’s Omo: shows that a good mother lets her child experiment and learn – even if this means getting dirty. If you don’t know their advertising, then check out one example from this long-running campaign.
Nestlé’s Nido: illustrates this need as a mother providing the nourishment for healthy growth which allows her children to explore the outside world safely. If you would like to see a typical advertisement, check it out on YouTube here. Interestingly, Nestlé has used this same insight to develop advertising for its bottled water in Asia and pet food in the Americas too.
Another example of a shared insight is again from Unilever and the local Swiss supermarket Migros. The insight is “Young women want to be appreciated for who they are and not just their external looks.”
Unilever’s Dove was the first brand to recognise and benefit from this insight. Their famous Real Beauty campaign resonates so well with young women that many other brands copied it, especially their Evolution film. Here is one of their more recent ads that I’m sure will give you goosebumps.
The Swiss Supermarket chain Migroshas a store brand “I am” which uses this same insight across all their health and beauty products. Somewhat unusually, the brand name itself is based upon the same insight, and its advertising repeats it several times: “I am – what I am”.
So there you have them, the five ideas that I came up with and numerous examples to help you to develop better insights more easily.
Although you probably already have your own process for creating them, I know from experience how hard it can be to find insights from all the information you gather.
I hope this short article has assisted you in your search for those “golden nuggets”. Do share your own ideas for making insight development easier, I would love to hear from you.
C³Centricity uses images from Pixabay.com.
Do you need help developing or updating your own Insight development process? C3Centricity offers several 1-Day Catalyst training sessions on the topic. We will work with your team to review and revitalise your own insight process, or will define a proprietary one that integrates into your other internal processes.
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Marketing is a great profession and the marketing 5Ps is the code by which we live. I’ve worked in or with marketing teams for almost my whole career and I am passionate about brand building.
From the outside, others see marketers as those who come to work late and seem to party all night. They always seem to be watching TV or jetting off to exotic places to talk about advertising!
For people working in operations or finance, marketers just don’t seem to be doing a very serious job; they’re always having too much fun! I’m sure you’ve already heard such comments.
Well, as you yourself know, marketing IS fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work, often close to 24/7 on some occasions.
So does all that hard work pay off? Not often enough in my opinion. And why? Because marketers simply don’t always ask the right questions!
The 5 Questions Marketers Should Ask
If you work in marketing, you already know the 5Ps – people, place, product, price and promotion. However, the problem with those is that when you find an issue with one of them, you know the “what” but not the “how”.
So I suggest you work with my 7Qs instead. Each of my seven questions explain not only what to check, but also the how and why you need to examine the area.
And if you can’t immediately answer more than just a couple of them, then perhaps you need to do a little more work and a little less partying!
Q1. Who are your customers?
The first “P” stands for people and often this is taken to be “Do you know to whom you are selling?” The answer is always yes and that’s accepted as sufficient.
Instead, ask yourself who your customers really are. I don’t mean just their demographics, but what, where and how they use or consume your brand and the category in which you are competing. And especially the why of their attitudes and behaviours. If you can’t give all these details about your customers, then you’re in serious trouble.
Hopefully, you answered Q1 without any hesitation – you did, didn’t you? Did you also download our template and complete it? Many of my clients find it a useful way to store and rapidly access the information whenever they need it.
It’s great that you know a lot about your customers, but people change. Are you following how your customers are changing? Are you keeping up with them and their new opinions, needs and desires?
Do you know the impact of the latest societal trends and new 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’ demand for home delivery.
Don’t be another one on the list. The current coronavirus outbreak is clearly demonstrating that we can never be too prepared for the unthinkable, because it might just happen!
The easiest way to be ready for any future changes is to prepare for them, by developing future scenarios in advance.
How many possible future societal and customer changes have you already prepared for? If you would like help in this area, we and our partners offer both standard and ground-breaking new ways to develop scenarios using science-fiction writers. Contact us for more details.
I don’t mean it’s marketing identity or slogan; I mean how your customers or your competitors’ customers would describe it?
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 identity? Is it authenticated by your customers’ experiences with your brand? It should be a direct reflection of your brand’s (internal) identity and promise.
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:
Hero Group’s mission is “to delight consumers by conserving the goodness of nature.”
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 all these examples is that they clearly define the benefit to the customer 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 each. When that is achieved, you have a strong brand that your customers relate to and to which they are more likely to remain loyal.
How would you describe your brand in one short sentence? I’ll be happy to provide feedback in a short call if you’d like to share it. Just contact me to set up a time.
Q4. How are sales and distribution?
I am not referring to 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 your brand’s weekly, monthly and annual sales trends, means you will gain an 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. Always play to your strengths and correct your weaknesses as soon as they are identified.
I don’t mean how much it costs to manufacture and 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 may not think you’re worth it. This results in your having to offer frequent promotions and price-offs just to keep your sales stable.
If this is your situation, it is certainly time to get a true evaluation of your offer by your customers. I can help if you’re not sure how to do this.
Whether you are over or under-priced, you could be earning more and possibly selling more too. Don’t stay ignorant to your true customer value.
Q6. Are you using the right communication channels?
Many 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 know which ones they are currently using most often. In particular, it is important to understand their social media behaviour, as this can vary widely by customer segment.
In addition, if you are also able to answer Q2 you will know how usage is likely to change in the future. This will give you ample time to adjust your plans and move seamlessly from offline to online when necessary.
Wasting money with outdated media plans, based on channels your customers no longer use, is still one of the biggest errors of marketing, even in this data-rich environment in which we live today. Make sure it’s not yours.
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 any desired changes you need to make.
Do you want to attract new customers, support current customers, or develop your image in a certain direction? Appropriate analysis of your brand image data will give you all the information you need to adapt your messaging and strengthen the positioning you have chosen for it.
It’s been called “A must read for today’s and tomorrow’smarketeers” by none other than Paul Pohlman, Unilever’s former CEO! Why not follow many major Fortune 500 CPG companies and get your own copy, or buy copies for your whole team?
So there you have them, the seven questions that I believe will bring you greater results than just using the traditional 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. Then leave a comment below on how useful you found this new way of looking at your brand.
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How do you know when you have too many variants in your brand portfolio? In my opinion, the answer is that it’s when you can’t answer that question! Can you?
One of the most popular evergreen posts on C3Centricity is “The Beginners Guide to Brand Portfolio Management.” It seems that we all suffer from a deep-rooted fear in managing and reducing our brand portfolio, especially when it includes many historic or regional variants.
That is why I decided to write about these best-kept secrets in portfolio management, which even large corporations are not always aware of!
MORE IS RARELY BETTER!
We live in an over-abundant world of consumer choice, but more is rarely better. The paradox of choice is a powerful concept popularised by Barry Schwartz.
It states that people actually feel freer when they are given fewer choices. Have you never ended up walking out of a store without the purchase you had planned, because you had been faced with too many choices? I know I have – often!
It is said that the limited choice offered in hard discounters in one of the reasons for their success; it’s not only about lower prices.
They usually present just one or two brands for each item they stock and the branded products they do stock are almost always at the same price if not even higher than in normal supermarkets.
More than ten years after the first research on which Schwartz based his theory, new studies have given some alternative perspectives on choice, claiming that large assortments are not always a bad thing. In the study by Gao & Simonson, they propose that there are many factors which were forgotten in Schwartz’s original study.
You can read the full article on this latest work in Neuromarketing. What I found of particular interest, being the customer champion that I am, is that they conclude by saying that it all depends on understanding your customer – doesn’t everything?! Their summary findings state that:
“In certain situations (when the ‘whether to buy’ decision comes before the ‘which option is best’ decision) a large assortment CAN increase purchase likelihood. Especially in eCommerce, it is possible to reap the benefits of a large product assortment, while helping customers make choices?”
In other words, the online searches that we all now perform before purchasing many things, will benefit from a wide selection of offers. Once we have decided to buy, then a large choice can become a barrier to final purchase.
Although Schwartz’s original book was published in 2006, he recently commented on the current choices facing consumers in “The Paradox of Expanded Choices.” He concludes the article wistfully by saying:
“We can imagine a point at which the options would be so copious that even the world’s most ardent supporters of freedom of choice would begin to say, “enough already.” Unfortunately, that point of revulsion seems to recede endlessly into the future.”
I for one enjoy shopping because I am always on the lookout for the latest introductions and innovations. For the more ordinary shopper, it looks like we need to help their decision-making by reducing the complexity of the task.
One requirement to achieving success, is clearly a deep understanding of your customers so that you can offer the best selection of variants to consumers in each region, if not individual stores. As I have so often mentioned (and sorry if I am boring you with this) it all comes back to knowing and understanding the customer. Simple really!
CORPORATIONS ARE BRANDS TOO!
Brand management is essential to a healthy business, but marketing has one of the quickest promotion ladders of many professions. That’s great news for marketers, less so for brands. Why? Well because marketers want to make an impression and get that promotion as quickly as possible. And one of the easiest ways to do this is by launching a new brand or variant.
I believe this explains why we poor consumers often end up NOT buying something because we just can’t make up our minds between the vast choice of flavours, packs and sizes on display in some large hypermarkets. More is most definitely not always better when it comes to retailing as I’ve already mentioned!
Does any brand really need tens of flavours/aromas or hundreds of variants?
Most of these brands certainly don’t have hundreds of variants from which to choose from and therefore the customer’s final selection is relatively easy.
However, interestingly only one of these companies is a CPG (consumer packaged goods) brand. Interbrand made a great summary chart (below) showing the value of the top 100 brands of 2019, which clearly shows the importance of the different sectors. You have to search to find the CPG brands – bottom right-hand corner!
I decided to take a closer look at the sub-category of consumer brands. (Note: Interbrand still separates alcohol and beverages from CPG!) Here are the top 10 CPG brands, including beverages:
What immediately strikes me is that many of these brands are actually also the names of the corporations who make them. This might explain why few consumer goods companies appear in this list, because they just have too many brands and variants.
A few of the larger CPGs – like Unilever and Nestle – have started associating their company name more prominently with their brands. However, they have taken two quite different approaches.
Unilever places its corporate logo on the back face of their product’s packaging, leaving the brand logo as the hero on the front. Nestle, on the other hand, incorporates its logo into the front panel design of most of its brands. There are a few noticeable exceptions which include their waters and petcare brands. Both of these were run as stand-alone businesses, which might explain this.
I am assuming that both organisations chose to prominently display their company logo in addition to the brand, in order to increase corporate reputation and also consumer trust, especially for their lesser-known brands. Interestingly, Unilever is not amongst the top 100 brands of 2019, so perhaps the addition on the back panel is too discrete to have any real impact?
I am closely watching to see if this strategy results in increased loyalty in the long-term, because for now their performances are not demonstrating a positive return.
BUSINESSES ARE FOCUSING BETTER
An interesting trend in the past decade or so, is that some CPG leaders, such as P&G, Unilever and Nestle have significantly culled the number of their brands’ SKUs. In some cases, this has meant reducing them from thousands down to “mere” hundreds and they continue to do so on a regular basis.
Taking Pareto’s Principle as a guide, it should be relatively easy to cut the bottom 5%, 10% or even 20% of brand variants without losing any significant share. This is why these companies continue to do this frequently; it makes good business sense.
Brand management has become far more challenging, because consumers are changing faster than are the businesses looking to satisfy them. As the Interbrand report notes:
“Today, the world’s best brands are not positioned; they evolve together with the business along trajectories that align perfectly the Human Truths they serve, the Experiences they provide, and the Economics that sustain them.”
What is surprising is that most CPG giants still don’t evolve fast enough, which is why they are being challenged by the more flexible and agile startups! But they are going to have to change if they want to stay in the race. For now, it appears that they know theoretically that they should be better focusing their portfolio and making frequent adjustments in line with their consumers’ changes. But in the end, they don’t go far enough perhaps because they’re scared of losing share.
If you are struggling to make this difficult decision yourself, then perhaps I can provide a few reasons to convince you to make that much-needed portfolio pruning:
Those multiplications of flavours, aromas, packaging etc you are making are renovations, not innovations. Wake up marketers, you are not innovating! Renovations should be primarily replacements of less successful offers, not additions to your already over-extended brand.
Retailers can’t stock every variant, so the more you offer the less chance you have of getting wide distribution. Think back to your pre-launch market assumptions; I bet they included a wildly exaggerated level of distribution in order to get that precious launch approval!
Precise targeting and a deep understanding of your consumers are the most successful ways to limit SKU explosion. If you are suffering from too many variants, then perhaps you should go back and review what you know about your consumers and what they really need.
Arguably some categories need constant renovation (food and cosmetics to name just a couple) but even that’s no excuse for simply multiplying SKUs. Use the “one in, one out” rule I mentioned above, because if you don’t, the retailer probably will. And with little concern for your own plans and preferences.
In conclusion, to summarise the best strategies for brand portfolio management, which seem to be a well-guarded secret since many corporations still ignore them, are:
Remember, that if you offer a vast choice of variants for each brand, consumers could get analysis paralysis and end up walking out of the store without buying anything.
You need to manage the corporate brand just like your other brands, especially if it appears prominently on packaging and your other communications’ materials.
Make an annual review of all your brands and variants and ruthlessly cut the bottom 20%. If you want to keep any of them, then you must have a good reason – such as that it’s a recent launch – and a plan to actively support them.
Innovate less but better. Be more targeted with each of innovation and include your consumers in their development.
Be realistic in your distribution targets. Know what will sell where and why. Not only are you more likely to keep your share, but you’ll also make friends with your retailers.
Coming back to the leading consumer brands from the Interbrands’ list, all top ten excel in brand portfolio strategies that are precisely differentiated, clearly targeted and well communicated.
David Aaker wrote an article on L’Oreal a few years ago that explains the above theories very well. Even if it’s from December 2013, not much has changed and it still makes a great read; highly recommended.
I believe that most brands with tens or hundreds of variants in a market, are being managed by lazy marketers. People who don’t have the courage to manage their brands effectively by regularly trimming their poorest performers. They must face up to the lack of success of some of their “babies”.
Are you one of these marketers? What’s your excuse? I’d love to hear your reasons for keeping all your SKUs.
Need help in cleaning up your brand portfolio, so you can put your efforts where they will bring the most return?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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:
Stability, control: Caregiver, Ruler, Creator
Risk, achievement: Hero, Rebel, Magician
Belonging: Lover, Jester, Everyman
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.
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.
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.
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.
Global Brand Equity Rankings
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'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". Find out more HERE.
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.
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.
Here are a few examples I have come across recently:
Nestlé 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 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 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!
Pringleshave 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 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 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?
Creative 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.
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?
It is more than a year ago that Coca-Cola did away with their CMO in favour of a Chief Growth Officer. Was it a wise move or foolhardy?
In a recent interview with Marketing Week their global vice-president of creative claims that it has “broadened” the company’s approach to marketing. Well something is clearly working for Coke; at the end of last month it reported higher-than-expected financial results for Q3 2018. So what do you think? Will you replace your CMO?
HOW MARKETING HAS CHANGED
Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. If you’re like me and are fascinated by how change happens, then I’m sure this complete history of marketing Infographic by Hubspot will be of interest.
With the arrival of digital marketing in the early 80’s, many companies began to take a serious look at their marketing. They realised that their primarily outbound strategy had to change. Their consumers didn’t appreciate being interrupted in their daily lives. However, with the creation of inbound marketing, they still irritated their consumers with spammy emails, popups and “subtle” cookies for following their every move. No wonder the EU felt inclined to develop its GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).
What has changed during 2018 is marketing’s deeper awareness of, if not complete adherence to, what customers like and dislike. The major trends that we have seen this year and their impact on marketing, include:
Chatbots, especially through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, to catch consumers on the go with highly personalised messaging.
The use of Voice. With the battle between Amazon, Microsoft and Google in the voice search and commands domain, customers can get answers just by asking. These are a huge challenge for businesses, because being on the first page of search results is no longer enough; you have to be first!
Video is taking over social media, with its rapid rise on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Influencermarketing is giving way to customer journey mapping with the increased detail that IoT can provide. Many organisations have moved their marketing plans to mirror their customers’ path to purchase. Or rather paths, as personalisation continues to trump mass engagement.
Blockchain technology has made marketing results more transparent. This is good for business as customers see how their data is being used, which builds trust.
Have you taken these megatrends on board and adapted your marketing this year? If not, why not?
In the past decade or so, many large CPG companies such as P&G and Nestle renamed their Marketing departments as Brand Builders, in the hope of adapting to this new world. They failed, miserably. I believe the reason they failed is because they continued to run their marketing in the same old way. With very few exceptions, their communications are still all about them and their brands and very little to do with their consumers.
Luckily, some more progressive consumer goods companies realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to consumer centricity. Or to be precise, they started on their journey towards putting the consumer at the heart of their business. Consumer centricity is not a destination because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. Therefore the aim for satisfaction and delight will never end.
It is interesting to see how Coke’s change to a growth officer pans out. I don’t see other companies following for now, so I suppose they are prefering to just wait and see.
We have taught our consumers 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 their price offs. They realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume may be different, but their performances are pretty comparable.
That’s why consumers now 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. They have come to expect constant innovation so 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.
In response to these ever more savvy customers, marketing has to change, to become smarter. In the 2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, it is confirmed that marketing needs new skills. The most sought-after skills today are analytical thinking and customer centricity.
Marketing is now as much a science as it is an art. We must take full advantage of the enormous quantity of data about our customers that is now available; we can no longer rely on creativity alone to connect.
For more ideas about improving your customer centricity, why not join the FREE Customer Centricity Champions Webinar? It shares many tips, tools and templates to catalyse your business and improve your customer understanding immediately.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU’RE CUSTOMER CENTRIC
Companies which place the customer at the heart of their business are easy to recognise. Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and games, and their contact page provides all possible forms of communication.
If you’re not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website, especially the contact page. Or why not complete the C3C Evaluator? It’s free!
MOVE BEYOND BRAND BUILDING
Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are a few of the essential first steps that you need to urgently make to adopt a more customer centric approach:
Place pictures of your customers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, on the lift doors or anywhere employees spend time.
Take a look at your target customer description or persona. 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)
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.
Spend time with your front-line staff and 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.
Share your latest knowledge about your customers with the whole 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.
These are your starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building to adopting a customer first strategy. If you’d like more suggestions about moving to a future-oriented marketing approach, download a free sample of my book “Winning Customer Centricity”. The fun drawings in this post come from the book!
This post is based upon and is an updated version of one first published on C3Centricity in 2016.
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 brand – if you are following the right attributes.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
This 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!
Last week I spoke about five of the most important actions you can take when starting your journey to improved customer centricity. If you missed it, you can read the post here; it will be good background information to build from for this week’s ideas and suggestions.
In this post, I would like to continue to support your efforts with some suggestions on an area that many struggle with, that of connecting with and underst anding your customers.
I believe that one of the main reasons for this, is that the target customer segment has been poorly defined. Perhaps it is too wide, such as all category users, or only superficially described just in terms of demographics. C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template, free to download in the members area, will provide a simple way for you to complete a more detailed description of your customer. Once you have that, you can then start to connect with them to deepen your underst anding of them.
1. Retail connections
There are numerous ways that an organisation can connect with its customers. If you have a retail presence, then this is as simple as going to a few of them and then talking to the customers present. If you yourself don’t own the outlet then you will need to ask permission of the owner, but since retailers are also interested in getting to know their customers better, they will usually accept in exchange for your sharing any learnings with them. (>>Tweet this<<)
Another opportunity to connect with your customers in retail is through promotions, demonstrations and sampling activities. These have the added benefit of being able to speak with customers who are already interested in what you have to offer, because they have stopped beside your st and. They also are generally morewilling to take the time to talk to you even if they are busy, something which can be a struggle if you are just walking up to customers in the store. (>>Tweet this<<)
In addition, I have found that both these exercises can be a great way to improve your image with the retailer and may even warrant special treatment for your br and.
2. Secondary connections
If you don’t have the luxury of meeting your customers in person, then there are still ways to learn more about them. If you have a call centre, then why not listen in or even spend time answering calls? It is both a rewarding and useful exercise to do. This is why many organisations such as Zappos, make their new employees do just that in their first few weeks after being hired.
Market research projects are also another easy way to observe and listen to your customers, although in general you will be a silent observer behind the interviewer, who is asking the questions. Some people prefer to follow focus groups or in-depth interviews, even from behind the two-way mirror, since they will have the opportunity to impact the discussions by feeding questions to the moderator.
A third way for you to make these less direct connections is by following social media discussions. These can either be on the major platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest and Instagram, or your company’s own panel if you are lucky enough to have one. In either case, I would encourage you to observe and not get actively involved in the conversations. There have been many infamous embarrassments caused by under-qualified people responding to heated customer conversations on social media. DiGiorno (Nestle) and Progressive are just two of the more recent examples; this post gives many others that can heed as a useful warning should you be tempted to get personally involved.
3. Website connections
Today, most organisations rely on some form of online presence, to be available wherever and whenever their customers would like to connect with them. Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience.
The first place to ensure you are supplying the right information is on your contact page. Are you requesting customers to complete an online form where you request many details from them? If so, it is definitely worth checking if everything you are dem anding is really necessary for that first connection. Name, email address and perhaps telephone number if you plan to call them back, should be sufficient, together with the reason they are wanting to contact you.
Secondly check that you are giving your customers multiple ways for them to contact you. (>>Tweet this<<) The form mentioned above is a rather anonymous connection, since there is no way for the customer to follow up, other than by sending a second completed form. The vast majority of consumers hate such forms with a vengeance and prefer to chat directly, or at least to be given alternative contact choices. Therefore you should provide your email address, telephone number and ideally a postal address. How many times have you been interested in a company only to find that you don’t know in which country they are based? Frontiers today are more linguistic than geographical, so your customers have the right to know whether or not they can visit your offices in person.
One area where this becomes vital is in online purchasing. Ensure that you make it as easy for customers as possible to shop your website. Enable them to check-out as a guest if they want, rather than imposing the completion of a long form of their details. Kissmetrics wrote a great post on this topic, with good and bad examples, which is worth a read if you are selling online.
Finally you should check the performance of your website; how many visitors do you have, where do they come from and what are they looking for in terms of information? This underst anding could be a whole post topic on its own, but since there are many already available, suffice it to say that if your website is getting few visits or your customers are bouncing away quickly, then it is not serving its purpose of building a relationship with your customers. (>>Tweet this<<)
4. Sharing connections
Meeting and getting to know your customers is probably one of the most enriching and inspiring experiences an organisation can have. (>>Tweet this<<) There is so much you can underst and about your current category and br and users by talking to them, that everyone should find ways to do so on a regular basis. As already mentioned, this could be by speaking with them directly whilst shopping, during a market research project, or over the internet.
You won’t be able to speak to everyone, so you will also rely on your colleagues to make such connections, or even external hostesses. This is why it is important that you get a full debrief, ideally in person, whenever you can.
It amazes me every time I speak to demonstrators, that they just go home at the end of the day with rarely any sort of debrief back to the client. On the rare occasions when they do tell their supervisors something of interest that they discovered, they are generally met with a lack of interest and enthusiasm. What a waste of intimate knowledge about the customer, their likes, dislikes and unmet needs and desires! Therefore share whatever you learn with your colleagues and ask them to do the same.
These are four ways for you to get a deeper underst anding of your customers and which are probably already available to you today. How many are you using on a regular basis? Which have you found to be the most useful or inspiring. Please share your experiences below; it would be great to hear about your own successes.
Have you already taken your mid-year vacation, are you currently on it, or are you eagerly anticipating your departure, as you finish all those last-minute tasks?
If it’s the latter, then you will find this checklist extremely useful. For those of you who have already taken your vacation, then this list will provide you with a simple way to catch up and even get ahead of your colleagues, before they return. Either way, enjoy this quick “To do” list for an easier Summer at work.
1. Check Customer Changes
When was the last time you reviewed your customer persona or profile? This should be a document that you keep near to you at all times, and update with new information every time you learn something. (>>Tweet this<<)
If you don’t yet have one, then you can read this post on how to complete one quickly and easily. There is even a free template to store all the information, which you can download from the Members area. (FREE to join)
With people changing fast in response to the incredible progress witnessed today, in technology in particular, you have to constantly keep abreast of your customers’ changes. (>>Tweet this<<)
2. Check Sales to Plan
This might sound like a no-brainer since I am sure you are certainly already following your sales monthly, weekly, if not daily. However rather than the simple comparison to plan, mid-year is a great time to review versus your annual objectives and make the necessary adjustments to meet them before it’s too late. If you wait until everyone is back in September, it will almost certainly be too late to have much impact on the numbers.
The other “no-brainer” that some top managers seem to forget, is to check your market shares and segment shares, not just your sales progression. Even if you’re growing at 20% p.a. if the market is increasing at a faster rate, you will be losing share! (I’m always amazed to find just how many companies are still only following sales and profits)
3. Check Communications to Image
Again it is easy to get lost in the detail and end up reviewing merely the creative of your past, current and planned advertising. However, this is a great time to assess in detail the first six months’ advertising of both your br and and its major competitors.
What is the overall message? Is everything coherent and building towards a story (>>Tweet this<<), or does each campaign appear to be an independent part of the total puzzle? It is surprising how few marketers ever look at all their campaign ads together and yet this is what the customer will see and hopefully remember – at least in a best-case scenario – over time.
At worst your customer will only see a selection of them across all the campaigns, which makes it even more important that your messages are coherent and building your story and image, or at the very least are complementary over the year, as well as years.
4. Check Distribution and Stock
Summertime can often be a strain on distribution and stock levels, as people leave on vacation and less experienced temporary personnel are hired to replace them. If your product is weather sensitive, such as ice cream, soft drinks, or Bar-B-Q articles (in Summer), stock levels can vary tremendously. Make sure you have plans in place to reduce or increase deliveries based upon these external factors that are out of your control.
Especially where temporary staff are concerned, whether on the retail or manufacturer’s side, they might not underst and the possible wide variances in stocks that can quickly take place. This must be carefully explained before the more experienced staff leave on vacation.
5. Check Value versus Price
In addition to (hopefully) good weather and variable distribution, summertime is also one of the major periods for sales and discounts. This is because retailers often want to clear seasonal stock in preparation for the new articles to come in the Autumn. Therefore price tends to become a more important decision factor for customers (>>Tweet this<<) as they witness and welcome the increase in price cuts and promotions.
Depending upon your industry, customers may therefore start to compare your price to the articles on sale and decide that it is no longer worth its (higher) price, because in the current climate, it has become of lesser value to them.
Whether you respond to this with your own sales prices, or bundle promotions, it’s clear that price cannot be left until your return.
6. Check how your Customers will be Serviced
Customer service excellence has become an increasingly important part of most products. Just because it is vacation time, doesn’t mean that you will no longer receive customer complaints and comments. Will they be h andled in the usual, efficient way or will time to respond be negatively impacted by the vacation period and perhaps less experienced personnel?
Customers remain just as impatient as ever, to receive a response to their contact with you, so you will need to ensure that your service continues at the same quality level.
7. Check for any New Trends that are Developing
Although you should be working with longer term future scenarios, rather than just following trends, it is always good to keep your finger on the pulse. This should be a part of point #1 above on customer personas, but I have separated it, as there may be new trends developing which might offer opportunities for new products, services or even categories.
In order to be ready to benefit from any new market situation when you return from vacation, before you leave, put in place a social media scan and analysis around any new emerging trend. This way you will have all the information available upon your return to decide whether or not it is something worth considering.
These are the seven most important items which should be on your pre-vacation marketing checklist. In fact it’s a checklist my clients work with all year long! Is there anything else that you would add? If so, I’d love to hear what is on your own pre-vacation checklist. Just leave a comment below.
If you are not yet a C³C Member, sign up (for free) in the C³C Members area. You’ll get a discount code to buy the book, many useful templates from it, as well as case studies, videos and audio presentations to download.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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)
Run a PSM (price sensitivity meter) or similar test to check levels of price perceptions and acceptable ranges.
Measure br and image on a regular basis and review trends not only the current levels.
Check that call centres are judged on customer satisfaction and not (just) on the number of calls answered per hour.
Offer occasional surprise gifts or premium services to thank your customers for buying.
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.
Why do marketers sometimes complain about the market research they get? I’ve often heard comments during presentations such as “We already knew that” or “This can’t be right” or “Why can’t you answer the questions I have?” I am sure you have said something similar yourself or been on the receiving end of such statements. What’s going on?
I believe that one of the reasons for such comments is poor briefing. Poor briefing by marketing which results in a poor market research brief to the supplier. If you too are sometimes dissatisfied with your results, then read on for some useful tips on how you can get the information you need.
A market research brief is a document that helps a market research specialist to deliver the knowledge the business needs, in a timely manner. In some cases this will require conducting a market research project, but not always. Sometimes, it may simply be necessary to re-analyse previous work, in a different or more detailed way, in order to answer the questions asked.
Therefore I would never encourage internal clients to always think in terms of requesting a market research project when they are looking for information. In fact I would actively discourage it. This is especially valid when budgets are tight, as cheap research is often useless research.
Choose what you Need
As noted by Arthur C. Clarke, there is a management “trilemma” encountered when trying to achieve production quickly and cheaply while maintaining high quality. This is the basis of the popular project management aphorism “Quick, Cheap, Good: Pick two.” Conceptualized as the project management triangle as shown below, this aptly applies to market research projects as well.
Marketing is a profession where progression is often rapid and therefore the marketer may not be aware of all the information that is available within an organisation. In my opinion, it is essential for market research specialists, who are more likely to have been in their position for many years, to appropriately advise and support their internal clients, and not be just order-takers. (>>Tweet this<<) Unfortunately in many companies this is what they have become, which is such a waste of knowledge and expertise!
When it has been established that a new research project is required, then the brief becomes the vital first step for getting the information that is needed, when it’s needed. It should be drawn up to meet individual internal requirements, and as a minimum it should contain the following sections:
This should provide all relevant information on your company’s situation and what risk or opportunity has been identified, as well as how and why this has been identified. Previous reports and studies that are relevant to the situation should also be mentioned and of course have been reviewed for answers before a market research survey is requested.
Clearly defined objectives are essential to the success of any project. In addition to the background, detailed objectives allow the best possible work to be carried out and ensure the research meets them as fully as possible.
Their precision will also avoid many of the comments mentioned above, since everyone will be starting from the same level of knowledge and underst anding, and will have agreed that there is a gap in underst anding that can only be met through the running of a research study.
3. Decisions to be taken
Knowing what questions are to be answered and how the information obtained will be used, will help to identify the best methodology. For example if large investments will be necessary to action the results, then a quantitative study should be conducted, to ensure solid information and as reliable a result as possible.
However, when looking for your customers’ ideas, thoughts, feelings, issues and desires, you could find such answers through a qualitative study or perhaps from the analysis of social media comments online.
The methodology which is finally chosen will have a direct impact on the project’s pricing, so underst anding how the results will be used will avoid any waste in resources.
4. Budget and Timing
These go h and in h and, both with each other, as well as with the choice of methodology. Normally faster is more expensive, as it requires a larger field force or online panel, and a tighter control of the project’s progress. It is also essential to underst and any budget limitations, as one that is too small for say a large quantitative study should prompt the market research expert to refuse running it. As quoted above, good, cheap, fast, choose two!
One further point is that if timing is too tight, especially for the delivery of results, you may not have enough leeway should something go wrong in fieldwork, or there is the need for more time to analyse the output. I always agree with the often quoted advice of Tom Peters, the American writer perhaps best known for his 1982 book, that he wrote with Robert H Waterman Jr and which is entitled, ‘In Search of Excellence’:
“Formula for success: under promise and over deliver”
This doesn’t only apply to timing or market research either; it applies to everything else you have to deliver as well!
5. Research target and approach
Although the MR specialist is the expert, any (internal) client suggestions about the respondents to contact or their preferred methodology to be used, should be clearly identified. If your client doesn’t believe in qualitative work, it may be unwise to rely solely on such a technique. I’ve known companies – dare I say quite a few in the US? – that run tens of group discussions, just to have a “sufficient sample size of respondents to analyse.” If you are likely to meet such criticism, then I think it’s better to know before you start, so you can make relevant changes to the methodology!
6. Test materials and availability
If materials are needed to run the test, whether products, concept boards, advertising prints or videos, clear numbers of copies and their delivery date must be specified. Too often they are delivered late but the research results are still expected to be provided on the agreed date, which just puts everyone under unnecessary and easily avoidable stress.
Not all research needs a detailed report (>>Tweet this<<); sometimes a presentation or summary of the results is sufficient, especially when timing is tight. Again, knowing upfront your internal client’s needs can impact both cost and timing and the likely success of the outcome.
So there you have it, a summary of the seven major parts to a good market research brief. Of course, in reality there are many more sections that can be added, which are more dependent upon internal priorities and specific industry or category requirements.
This post was prompted by a request from a client who is looking to update their market research and insight processes. If you too would like to upgrade yours, then why not contact us today and let’s discuss your own particular needs? Each of our offers is unique and customised, and can include a market research toolbox audit, process updates and one-day catalyst sessions to get everyone on the same page within your organisation.
The image used in this post came from Denyse’s forthcoming book Winning Customer Centricity, now available for pre-order on C³Centricity, Amazon.com and Barnes & Nobles.
How do you develop your br and strategy and vision? Do you just take last year’s document and revise it? Do you build your plan based upon the sales and profit increases imposed by management? Or do you start from your target customers’ perspective?
You know me well enough to have guessed that as a customer centric champion, I am going to say that the third answer is the correct one. Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take neither last year’s plan nor management’s targets into account. Rather I’m suggesting that as you are selling to your customers, they should be top of mind.
If you believe that your own br and planning process could do with an update, then read on; I have gathered together some of the latest ideas and best practices to inspire you to make a few improvements.
One of my favourite quotes on planning comes from Alan Lakein, an American businessman and author:
“Failing to plan is planning to fail” (>>Tweet this<<)
Another from A. A. Milne the English author and playwright says:
“Planning is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up” (>>Tweet this<<)
So let’s start planning so we don’t mess things up!
Where you are – the situation analysis
The first step of the process is to run a situation analysis. This phase can include, but not be limited to, a review of market shares and trends, your current customer persona, your br and’s current image and changes, as well as the full details about your offer – price, packaging etc. Here we’re not speaking about the industry definitions, but the consumers’ perspective, or course. You will also need to do the same for your major competitors, but more about that below.
Who are your customers?
anding” width=”349″ height=”197″ /> The 4 Ws of targetingThis should be a no-brainer and yet I am constantly surprised just how many clients are unable to answer this question in detail. They may succeed in being relatively specific on demographics, as the above example mentioned, but not much more.
Only be completing a detailed profile, or persona as many like to call it these days, will ensure you are starting from the best possible position.
What is your current image?
A br and image and equity review is essential for both new and existing br ands. What category are you in? Is that an industry definition or a customer one? I remember working with a client who thought they were competing in the carbonated soft drinks market. In discussing with consumers we found they were competing in a mush wider arena including carbonated soft drinks AND fruit juices, because their drink contained real fruit juice.
The segment in which you compete is vital to underst and, as you will then review how your image compares to those of your major competitors. If you don’t know in which segment(s) you are competing, the latter are going to be difficult to identify.(>>Tweet this<<) And you may miss a major one through your limited view, as did my client mentioned above.
Another client of mine wanted to sell a new service for young people but its corporate image was one associated with older businessmen. It would have been a huge struggle for them to change this image, so I suggested removing the company name from their packaging. Would you believe it? The br and took off immediately because it could then position itself as a product for their precise target group and adapt communications to them. It worked – big time!
Why you got here – your key issues & opportunities
Based upon your br and audit and situation analysis, you should be able to review your current positioning and see whether you are still aligned with the vision you set. You will also have a good underst anding of your major competitors as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing where you are and why, you can now start to identify what gaps exist and the reasons for them. The actions that you plan to take could be a change to your communications to emphasise a different strength of your br and; or maybe you decide to exp and distribution to better cover your weaker regions; or maybe it’s time to launch a line extension or even a completely new br and. See why the situation analysis is a vital step to conduct before getting into strategic action planning?
Where could you go – your vision
I mentioned earlier about management’s targets that may have been set for your br and. Often these have been developed with a view to the total business needs and then attributed to each br and or category in which the company is active. It is your job to review what is possible, not just what is dem anded.
Whether the targets are too high or too low, you need to review both the budget and actions needed to meet these targets and inform management early if they are not aligned.
I know that this won’t make you popular, but at least it gives management the chance to adjust their own plans based on such input and they may be able to adjust them across their full portfolio.
How can you get there – your strategies & tactics
Now your targets have been reviewed and agreed with management, they need to be translated into strategic initiatives you will plan for the year. At this stage keep them high level. Review how you are going to meet them, remembering that there are basically only three ways to grow a business:
get more people to buy
get people to buy more
get people to spend more
Decide on which one (or more) methods you will concentrate on and then you can identify the actions needed.
If you are working with a declining br and, then you can still review these three methods but you will use them to defend your share. For this you will need to underst and which of them is the major cause of the decline and then identify tactics to reduce these losses.
What you need to do – your actions & limitations
Planning your activities need to be done with careful thought and thoroughness. You need to take into account many internal as well as external factors. For instance:
How does your plan fit with those of the other company initiatives? The salesforce won’t be able to work on every br and at the same time.
Is your br and seasonal or impacted by outside conditions? Weather, local celebrations, holidays or cultural habits can all impact dem and for certain categories and br ands.
Do your competitors have an identifiable planning that you can either interrupt or avoid?
What personality does your br and have? Your activities need to fit with your br and’s personality, which you will have checked during the review of its image.
What budget do you have? Better to concentrate on a few touch-points than to cover all of them so thinly your efforts have almost zero impact.
How do your communication plans fit across all the media you will use. They don’t have to be identical but together they should build a complete story.
Those of you that are regulars here know my love of threes. Therefore another useful way to work in a simple but not simplistic way, is to plan three strategies and have three tactics for each. Nine actions are more than enough for any br and.
When presenting your plan, don’t get hung up on the numbers. Tell a story about your vision; where you are today and how you plan to get to where you are going. Use numbers to support your ideas not to blind or drown the audience.
The same goes for your wording. Be precise and succinct, not long-winded in order to just fill the plan template – I think every company has one, no? Organisations oblige managers to use st andard templates, but treat them as guides and not as a bible. I have never heard of a plan being criticised for being too short, although I have of course heard them being criticised for lack of relevant content, which has nothing to do with its length.
What are your best tips for a successful br and strategy? I’d love to hear your own recommendations, especially if you are using a different process.
If you would like our support in developing your br and strategy, vision and plans, then please contact us here; we are sure we can help.
C³Centricity used an image from Kozzi in this post.