A New Year tradition we started here at C3Centricity back in 2011, is to share our most popular brand building strategies and posts of the year. This gives everyone a chance to catch up on our best posts that they may have missed.
This year has been a particularly successful year for C3Centricity, with many of our newest post getting the top scores globally. This is quite tough for a blog that has been running for almost eight years and highlights the quality of the content we share with you! So have a look at our list and see if your own favourites are there. If not, then please let us know in the comments. Thanks.
This post shares the highlights of recent research into how market research departments can become true business partners, rather than being viewed as a mere cost center. It also shares ten steps to reinventing and upgrading your market research department. If you believe that you could be getting better support on your customer understanding and insight development, then these ten ideas will take you a long way to doing this in 2019.
Many CMOs are frustrated by their lack of recognition by their fellow c-suite colleagues. If this is your case, or you are new to the position and want to make an impact quickly, then this is a must-read post. It shares the most collon opportunities and challenges you may face and suggests five areas to (re)visit which will provide a new and fresh perspective on their business.
These are the most shared marketing infographics of 2017. As usual, for each one we have added an action for you to take based upon the topic covered.
What was new for last year is that many marketing infographics that were shared were actually about content marketing. It’s as if “true/traditional” marketing doesn’t exist any more! That in itself says a lot about the focus of marketers these days! Are they right to do so? I don’t think so, but let me know your opinion.
In its simplest form a customer first strategy is about thinking customer first in everything you do. Yes I know it sounds easy but it really isn’t. It doesn’t come naturally, at least to start with. And it involves a culture change to move the organisation in this direction. But I can assure you it’s worth it; its value is now well proven.
This post lays out the importance of being data driven, innovative, collaborative and agile to succeed a customer first strategy. It also shares the seven reasons most companies fail.
This post shares the three lessons learnt from a personal (bad) experience with a hotel chain and its “guaranteed lowest price” promise. These are: 1. The customer journey needs to integrate all possible contact points. If it doesn’t you could alienate your customers before they make a purchase. 2. If you mess up admit it and correct the situation. People understand that mistakes get made. While they may forgive you if you quickly put it right, they will never trust you again if you pretend nothing is wrong. 3. Follow up to make sure the customer is happy. In the heat of the moment a customer may feel satisfied that something was done. However in the cold light of the next day, week or month they might feel that what you did was not enough.
In working with clients around the world and in numerous industries, I have found that many are lost by the wealth of information that is available to them. In fact it seems to drown out their reasoning of what to do and they remain frozen in indecision.
If this is your situation, just follow the detailed steps of this post and you will soon be doubling, quadrupling, if not 10x the ROI of your data!
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.
If you’re having issues with your own brand in either of these areas, then you’ll find this article both interesting and valuable. It covers why we buy brands, the different elements of a brand, the three types of attributes you should be measuring for your brand. It then goes on to review brand personality and the main archetypes with some great examples.
This article has been amongst the top twenty posts every year ever since it was first published back in 2013, a staggering five years ago! If you haven’t read it yet, then you really have been missing out on some surprising facts about insight development. Perhaps one of them is the reason that you are still struggling to develop valid and actionable insights? Check it out and see what you have missed all these years.
We all know how extremely demanding consumers have become. Constant innovation and novelty has made us all more impatient and critical. We want things better, faster and sometimes cheaper as well. And customer satisfaction is becoming insufficient to drive growth alone. Marketing must deliver more!
This article shares three examples that provide a clear roadmap for anyone wanting to move their customer service and engagement to the next level, by offering more than mere customer satisfaction.
All brands and services need to choose a group of customers that they are going to satisfy, since it is impossible to satisfy everyone most of the time. This means that you need to make a choice and agree to ignore some of the category users you could appeal to, in order to totally satisfy your target customer.
Although this may sound counter-intuitive, segmentation is the only way to ensure you have the best possible chance to satisfy the needs of your targeted customers.
When I look back at these top ten posts I am proud that most of them are from 2018. After almost eight years, it seems that what I am writing today is more in line with marketers’ needs than previous posts which have been around for much longer.
There are a few exceptions to this, my evergreen content on topics that will always appeal to marketers young and old. This year, as in the past, they are on the topics of Brand image, equity and personality, Insight development and Principles of segmentation. I think this makes a lot of sense as they are fundamental skills that every marketer needs, even in this digital age.
Now my question to you dear reader, is what topics you want me to cover in 2019? If you have reached the end of this post then you must be a keen supporter, so I will offer a free e-book to everyone who completes our short survey in January 2019. Just click on the button and you will be taken directly to the survey. Once completed you will receive an email with a link to download the ebook “Secrets to Brand Building” for free – it’s normally US$ 4.95!
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 couple of weeks ago on brand image and personality. These are two vital elements of branding. They need to be clear and consistently represented in all your communications.
If you’re having issues with your own brand in either of these areas, then you’ll find the following article both interesting and valuable.
Why we Buy Brands
According to Wikipedia, a brand is:
“a set of marketing and communications methods that help to distinguish a company from competition and create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.”
Although this definition is a little sterile in my opinion 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 when 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 elements 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.
Therefore, 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 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 idea because the relationships a brand builds with its customers have become vitally important in today’s world of social media. I did notice 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 everyone can 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 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.
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 of both loyalty and advocacy.
The final power metric is that this trust 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.
They 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. Or they measure too infrequently, if ever, and don’t know what their current brand image is.
Another problem I find is that the choice of attributes is often sub-optimal, to be polite. They 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 on the left, together with some sample adjectives to describe them. It is important to understand how customers see your brand. Do you know?
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 on the right 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 communicationsand visualisations.
For more ideas about improving your Brand’s Image & Equity, 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.
Examples of Strong Brand Images & Personalities
During my lecture at the University of Miami, I shared many examples of brand images and personalities. These included showing how some brands have successfully managed to change theirs.
Two of the brands we discussed were Axe and Old Spice because they have gone through some interesting evolutions over the years. Most recently it even appears that they are overtly challenging each other through their advertising.
Take a look at the ads below and see if you can identify the archetypes before continuing to read the post.
AXE: This Unilever brand has been portrayed as the Lover, the Hero and most recently as the Everyman. Here are a couple of their ads to show the transition from Hero (Fireman) to Everyman (Find your magic).
In particular, note the shower sequence at the end of the second Axe commercial (a slight - or is it a sly - dig at Old Spice?) and the heroic fire demonstration in the Old Spice ad!
OLD SPICE: This P&G brand has been portrayed as the Explorer, Everyman (The Man Your Man Could Smell Like) and most recently as the Rebel (Rocket Car) - or is it, Hero? Let me know which you think in the comments below.
As I did for Axe, I've selected an older and a more modern example of their campaigns, so you can compare the change of approach.
I am looking forward to seeing how these two ad campaigns continue to develop. It is clear that Unilever and P&G are closely following and perhaps even being inspired by each other. Those are two of the actions of great marketers.
Finally, I couldn't leave the topic of personalities without mentioning Apple. Often seen as the Creator archetype, Apple went as far as to visualise their persona and personality in their "Get a Mac" campaign. (see example from AdAge below)
The ads featured two men, called Mac and PC, comparing their functionalities. The campaign ran from 2006 to 2009 and was a hilarious success, positively impacting the Mac's image. In the ads, they describe themselves as:
Mac: Cool, trendy, young, friendly, casual, reliable, fast and looking for fun.
PC: Boring, formal, cold, old, unreliable, slow, not inspiring.
Which two archetypes do they suggest? Answers in the comments below, please.
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 doing this will be both higher sales and profits, due to being valued more than its competitors.
Consistency is vital to growing a strong equity. The results of doing this will be both higher sales and profits, due to being valued more than its competitors.
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.
It is interesting to note that BrandZ's 2016 show Google overtaking Apple as the most valuable brand in the world. The other major difference in rankings of the top ten brands is the higher number of more "technical" brands in the Millward Brown results.
So there you have it. All the major points a marketer should know about brand image, equity, personalities and archetypes.
A marketer's role is primarily to defend and grow its brand's image and equity through a strong personality and consistent communications. If you are not succeeding in all areas then you are almost certainly challenged by weakening sales.
Brand image usually declines before sales do, so it is an invaluable measure of your brand's health. If you would like to learn more about measuring and analysing brand image, there are several chapters dedicated to the topic in my book "Winning Customer Centricity".
Don't forget to add your answers to the couple of questions I asked in the article in the comments below. Let me know what you think about defending brand image and growing equity. And I'd love to hear about your own brand's archetype and whether you had trouble in defining it.
This post uses images from Denyse's book "Winning Customer Centricity". You can download the first three chapters for freeHERE.
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!
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.