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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me give some examples, so you better understand:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Stop Customer Satisfaction Drip, Dripping Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winning Customer Centricity Book

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

C³Centricity used an image from Miami andBeaches in this post.

 

Are P&G Right to End Marketing?

In the last couple of weeks, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion around P&G’s decision to change marketing into br and management.

The consumer products world closely watches whenever P&G announces changes, whether to their strategy, marketing or in this case their organisational structure. As this AdAge article (herementions “P&G seems well out in front of the rest of the marketing world — or what used to be known as the marketing world — on this”.

As businesses have become more social, there have been a lot of articles about marketing. Some have spoken about the need for marketing and IT to get together, if not even merge in some way (See this Forbes article). Others have proclaimed the end of the CMO’s position altogether, including the infamous piece by IMD’s President Dominique Turpin “The CMO is Dead ..… Welcome to the CCO. Then there have been even more articles challenging marketing to show their worth and suggesting metrics to prove their ROI (See  Fournaise 2011 study of 600 CEOs or  Forrester’s Marketing Performance Management Survey).

The fact that there have been so many different pieces on the topic over the last year or so, suggests to me that marketing is still vital for and extremely attractive to business, but that it is in desperate need of reinventing itself. I believe this is behind P&G’s move.

At the end of last year I wrote a post proposing what I thought would and wouldn’t change and what needs to. Six months on, in light of P&G’s announcement, I thought it useful to review my list:

What will change

  • Marketing can no longer work alone in a silo; it needs to become more collaborative and more commercial or business oriented. It can no longer remain fuzzy and hide behind claims that its ROI is difficult to measure.
  • anding customer service opportunities” width=”375″ height=”226″ />The sales funnel will be (has already been) replaced by the purchase decision journey, which will be a multi-layered, flexible representation of the route to purchase. For more on this, read “How Great Customer Service Leads to Great Customer Loyalty”.
  • Advertising  and messaging TO the customer will be replaced by valuable information made available FOR the customer. In line with the longer sales journey and multiple online consultations, communication will become more informative, more useful, more timely.
  • Local will no longer be geographic but “Native”. Whether it’s language, habits or interests, customers will be targeted on their similarities that will rarely, if ever, include geographical proximity.
  • Mobile web consulting will become the norm, so br and sites need to become adaptive. Content will aim to inform, educate and entertain first and foremost, rather than sell, and websites will become flexible and adaptive to the differing screens and customer needs.

What won’t change

  • The customer is still the king, but content joins the ranks in almost equal position, needing more respect and value, and less commoditisation. For a great post on this read “5 Ways Content Marketing Must Change in 2014”.
  • Recommendations will remain a vital part of choice and decision-making, but they will no longer come from just friends and family. They will come from organised collection – think TripAdvisor or Angie’s List – or from (self) proclaimed experts through their Blog posts and faithful followers.
  • Customer (consumer) underst anding remains vital and in fact the need for underst anding will even increase as customers will be in constant evolution.

What must change

  • We are all swamped with messages and information and yet – perhaps because of this – our attention span is declining. Messaging must become shorter and simpler as people use headlines to decide whether or not to stick around.
  • In addition to the increased need for informative content, it will need to engage as well as (or is it more than?) inform. Storytelling will become an essential skill for marketers, both internally and externally.
  • Wearable technology will totally change our where and when decisions of messaging. The customer will not only be in charge of what messages are received but when to be “visible” to receive them.
  • The old marketing funnel to advocacyHaving changed the sales funnel to a path to purchase, the usual loyalty funnel no longer works. The simple path from awareness to loyalty will be replaced by a constant and consistent battle for trust. What’s more it will never be truly “won” as customers continue to be fascinated by novelty.
  • Marketing can no longer depend on creativity alone. It won’t be enough, as if it ever was, and marketers will need to get (even more?) comfortable with their BigData and its usage.
  • Customer underst anding will come from multiple sources and market researchers will become underst anding analysts responsible for turning the unstoppable flow of information into the organisation, into palatable morsels of digestible stories.

Although I didn’t predict P&G’s change, it does in fact address most of the above, by combining four functions under the new title of Br and Management: br and management (formerly known as marketing), consumer and marketing knowledge (their name for market research), communications and design. At least by combining these groups under a single leader they will be forced to work less in silos and there should be more and better collaboration. Only time will tell if this move will be successful.

Do you think P&G’s change is the right move? Will you consider doing something similar? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you are, or aspire to the “old” CMO or marketing roles. 

If you need help in adapting to the new world of marketing, why not work with one of the new breed of marketers? Someone who combines cultural sensitivity with creativity and technical know-how; a catalyst for the change your organisation needs. Contact us here  and let’s discuss your needs.

C³Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.

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