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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.

 

Brand Strategy, Vision & Planning: When did you Last Review Yours?

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.

A recent and-underst and-your-customers/” target=”_blank”>post on this topic will definitely help you get better and more precise at describing to whom you are selling your product or service, so do check it out.

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.

You might also have to check your corporate image if it is mentioned on the pack. Make sure its image is adding to and not negatively impacting your br and’s image. (>>and’s%20image%20[tweetlink]%20%23br and%20%23image” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

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.

Final thoughts

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.

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