blog: Brand Integrity

Rebranding America: who’s buying?

From a marketing perspective the dramatic shift in how the world perceives America since it downgraded its rhetoric with Syria is an interesting study in the potential risks of rebranding, without fully determining the consequences across all your customer segments.

Politically speaking, America has, like any other country, 2 markets – domestic and export.

My interpretation of its brand message (since 1942) for export markets was: “WE TAKE THE FIGHT TO THE ENEMY.” Its brand message to its domestic market was: “FEND FOR YOURSELF.” That dual aggression translated into US commercial domination of global markets from the ‘50s through to the ‘90s.

My interpretation of the current domestic brand message for America is: “WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN” (as demonstrated by Healthcare reforms and quantitative easing). Its export brand message could be similarly interpreted as “WE DON’T WANT TO GET INVOLVED UNLESS IT’S ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.” It could be said that this was a reversion to America’s brand pre-1942.

I have no political agenda. I am simply interested in who is buying?

Domestically, US Government is shutdown through partisanship and the economic decline is skirting a fiscal cliff. In export markets, every country that recognized America as the ‘come out swinging’, ‘save the day’ brand is feeling the void and the main beneficiaries seem to be America’s ideological competition.

In 1942 America became a hero on the world stage. The arch-nemesis of USSR helped it mold its hero brand into a powerful marketing weapon both politically and economically. How does the hero transition into a stay-at-home family man? Is this not a cautionary tale to all marketers how to consider the broader implication of rebranding? Something to think about.

Reference: http://www.hydrogencreative.com/thinking-of-refreshing-your-brand/

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My Google AdPicker, My Choice

When “Single Women Want You” ads started to appear in so many of the news and information sites I was browsing at my office, I became suspicious. Before that it was ads for a downtown hotel with a good reputation. I am not suggesting there was a connection, but my web-browsing exists solely for business (at home I prefer to read books), I am 25-years happily married, and have no reason to stay downtown in a hotel, so I was mystified why I was being haunted by these ads.

In Firefox I tweaked a few settings, so that now my cookies delete daily and the Women vanished.

Big news: Microsoft’s web browser default is now set to “Do not track”. This has earned the resentment of advertisers in general, because being able to track and insert ads wherever the customer searches and browses gives the advertiser a lot of impressions.

The beauty of Remarketing online is that the advertiser doesn’t have to pay Google until there is a click-through. Remarketing means your ad will follow an online web user through their successive browsing experience until you stop decide to stop paying for the campaign. This earns lots of impressions at no cost. Google is supposed to manage it so that the insertion of ads from sites you have visited does not become obvious or annoying. I don’t remember visiting any dating web-sites, but in my business I do a lot of research on advertisers, so it is possible I did, but not as a punter. Any tab left open in a browser, the duration-of-site-visit is clocked, even if you don’t look at the page. If my advertising market research tripped Google’s Remarketing program, then it became a very annoying feature!

Will this type of campaign flourish, or will the Do Not Track caucus win out?

Here is where I think the online ad universe is headed:

Users will start to set their browser privacy settings to “Do not track”. A lot of online advertisers will get bummed off.

Google will then present me with a personalized database of advertiser opt-ins called MyGoogleAdPicker so I can elect which ads to view based on my search and browse history, to enrich my daily browsing experience. I will also be able to add my own list of opt-ins of anything trending in Social Media, or word-on-the-street. Google will also be able to suggest – based on my search history, and some canny algorithm using demographic assumptions – any marketers that I might also find of interest under the category of MyGoogleAdPicker Plus. Google will offer incentives to use MyGoogleAdPicker Plus that will be charged back to the advertisers like an inverted PPC model.

Within this model, as an Internet-browser, I will have the expectation that every online banner I see is tailored to my interest. The advertiser will get a highly-qualified conversion rate and the web will have less clutter to worry about. You can’t get more customer-centric than that.

What is the down-side? Why isn’t this happening yet? Because the consumer market is not yet that savvy. It hasn’t pushed Google to take the initiative. But it will and they will. Not soon enough for single women perhaps. If the concept is my invention I’ll be happy take a percentage, but I hope someone is already hacking away at this model, because I am happy to appreciate the benefit, like every other Internet user.

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The Religion and Politics of Branding

Credit to Chris Koentges for his article entitled “Can a brand speak to both the lunatic left and right? There is plenty of evidence of brand partisanship from political, social, environmental or religious perspectives.

The question we should really ask “what is the implication of defining consumers by their partisan leanings?”

 

There are many characteristics shared between opposing factions that gave John Lennon a reason to believe in the Brotherhood of Man: Hassidim use cell-phones , anarchists eat potato chips, and most men with two legs put on their pants one leg at a time. If you take religion, countries or politics out of the equation we have more in common than what divides us.

As a marketer we have some choices in how to align to customer values. Do you define a segment by what sets it apart, or by what unites it? Take single, overworked single Moms on low income as an example. If research states that 70% of them have strong socialist leanings, do you press that button for stronger brand affinity – or do you stay true to the broader human condition? If your competitor takes aim at a customer segment by sponsoring a cause, do you react, up the ante, go in a different direction?

There is no right or wrong except by measure of results. Some products will relate better to an ideology and some to a basic human need, but brands don’t determine personal values. So do you have a rule of strategy, or do you just play along with an opportunistic grin.

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TRAVERSE MARKETING

You have your product and your partners in place and core of customers that value what you offer who maintain your cash fl ow and profitability. Opportunities beckon in other markets, providing chance to duplicate your success. You scope out thepotential and speak to a few people. The board is supportive, you give it your best shot and in a few months you are seeing a sizeable return on your investment. If only it were that simple. For more see: Traverse Marketing

The 360º About-Face

I was once told that the furthest two points on a circle are right next to each other, because you have to travel the entire circumference to connect them. Sound silly? Try to draw a circle without connecting two points next to each other. You can’t do it. The paradox that the closest and furthest points of the circumference are adjacent is an interesting metaphor for how to miss or connect with customers.

As marketers we tend to look at the market through the lens of our brand, product or service and accept whatever filters through. We define the product based on its finest qualities and spin these into potential benefits, having first made sure of competitive qualities through price, performance or appeal. It is a product-centric model: the product is at the centre, and its radius is a function of market segment and reach. Customers fill in the area of the circle. Completely full is nirvana.

In a customer-centric world, your product is just one point on the 360º circumference of a circle that constitutes the entire customer predicament. Your marketing efforts travel inwards on a direct line to the centre. If you reach the centre it means they bought you.

So there is also a paradox between the product-centric model and the customer-centric model: to the marketer the product is a 360º totality but to the customer it is a 1º Maybe.

How can these two disparate models be reconciled? The challenge for the marketer is to travel the remaining 359º to fully understand the customer predicament and then apply that knowledge. Touch Marketing is the expression I use to envelope customer values, position the product properly and develop a marketing platform that builds a relationship based on shared values. In the 360º view of the customer price may not be important, features may not be important. Convenience and simplicity might be important but you won’t know until you do the 360º About Face, learn how your customer really sees their world and relates to your product within everything they do.

It takes some effort to wrench oneself away from the comfort of one’s own perspective. Nobody wants to have their ‘comfort-tree’ shaken. I am not talking about customer-satisfaction. Too many marketers pat themselves on the back with positive customer survey responses and remain in marketing stasis. I am talking about real-life relevance:
–> how to make your marketing more relevant to customer values so that they embrace not only what you are selling now, but also what you will sell in the future. If you do the 360º About Face, your next products will also support their values.

You have to go as far away from what you know and feel about your business or products to learn what it means to be customer-centric. Then you will have done the 360º About Face and be ready to pick up your product, brand or service and build a meaningful relationship with your customers.

In case you thought I was advocating going this distance with every single customer – that would be unnecessary. Customers form into segments also. The classifications won’t always fit the precise definitions of your marketing textbook. Go and find out. In each case it’s interesting and you’ll learn something to help you grow your business.

MAKING THE CUSTOMER THE CENTER OF YOUR UNIVERSE

One of a series of white papers on Touch Marketing®  Click here TouchMarketing White Paper to download the document.

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Honesty In Relationships: Part II

Honesty In Relationships: Part II

Absolute Truth

If there is such a thing as absolute truth, it exists outside of this world. As much as we regard honesty, integrity and trust as roadmaps for relationships, they are relative terms. This represents a risk to business continuity. Any decision you make could compromise your business relationships because of the external impression created by your actions. This occurs even at the most basic level: to choose with whom you want to have a relationship. It is a practical need, yet it is also confining. Since “you can’t be all things to all people” your representation of your well-intentioned relationship is exclusive to these choices. When those whom you exclude put you on the wrong side of their loyalty values we call it pigeon-holing. Marketers are often confounded by typecast restrictions that have been molded around a business by customers with whom it has never had a relationship. And most customers depend on pigeon-holing to sort through their decisions.

Theory of Relativity in Business Relationships

There is a relativity formula to relationships:

THE BENEFIT DERIVED FROM A RELATIONSHIP IS COEFFICIENT TO THE PERCEIVED VALUE OF THE RELATIONSHIP.

From this we learn that the perceived value of the relationship will increase or decrease depending on the value of the benefits gained. Also that the desire to establish a relationship is based on the expectation of its rewards.

Value-Add

The critical idea is that, whenever the benefits gained exceed the perceived value of the relationship, then the perceived value will increase to match the benefits. This is how ‘value-add’ expands loyalty and frequency into business continuity. Adding value makes the difference between a performer and a super-performer in business relationships. It is the ingredient that can break a business out of the mold of typecasting e.g. to enable a volume discount producer to enter a luxury market (Toyota/Lexus). It is also the most challenging component of sustaining a relationship, as the constantly rising of the bar of expectations represents greater consequences to underperformance. You can never go back to ‘ordinary’, because that would be a reduction in value. But, that issue aside. everyone can live with thought that continually adding value creates a consensus in relative truth.

Pull the Wrong Lever And You Fall

Perceived value and benefit rewards are so closely linked that misguided use of any levers in the relationship can create schism and distrust.

Take, for example, wholesale price discounting: once the customer has experienced a price discount, this benefit reward can easily become a defining aspect of the relationship. The customer expects the lower cost. In counterpoint, the retailer gets reduced benefit from the transaction, so its sense of value decreases. We now have relativity divergence in truth and trust: the customer’s benefits have increased and the retailers value of the relationship has decreased. Consequently, the retailer may compromise the value of the relationship to the customer, by merchandising lower quality goods, reducing customer service, reducing product selection etc. Retailer’s view of truth: my customer is a price chiseller.

Customer’s view of truth: my retailer is a price chiseller.

Neither position might be true. The reason for the contradiction is that the retailer used a market lever that was counter-productive to increasing the value of the relationship.

The 365-Day Sale

Price in retail has become the most common lever used by retailers to lure customers, and in juxtaposition, customer service and satisfaction has dropped. It has been replaced by refunds, warranties, and call centres. Recall our formula for relativity: the customer expects more from the relationship relative to price, but experiences the negative impact on other important components of the relationship such as service, quality or choice. When relative truths are in conflict, each party will withdraw to its corner, exploit for its own interests and abdicates loyalty when these are not served.

Addiction Vs. Loyalty

It is the predicament of our market mentality that the most successful business is the bottom-feeder in the cost/price matrix. I would argue that customers are not loyal to Wal-Mart – they are addicted to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has built its customer relationship on the price lever, and expands the benefit rewards it brings to its customer by expanding its range of merchandise with the same promise. By focusing on this one lever, Wal-Mart has worked this relativity formula consistently into tremendous profitability. How does the formula work for Wal-Mart? The benefit its customer gains from shopping at Wal-Mart (price) is maximized by consistently shopping at Wal-Mart for all its needs, and so the perceived value of the relationship to the customer has matured into a dependency. The consequences to the retail sector are widespread. Everyone is chipping away at price and we live with a discount mentality. There is no consumer segment that Wal-Mart will shirk from if it can consistently achieve its goals. PRICE is now the relative truth that has redefined many marketing relationships and reduced them to just this one lever.

But price-sensitivity is not the only lever for the sustainability of a relationship. As long as it is built on honesty and trust as defined by the customer’s needs within the relationship there are other levers that influence purchase decisions.

Segue

I had planned to spend more time in this entry discussing these other levers. Let’s say for now that the purpose of this entry – to demonstrate how truth is relative to the customer and that a practical business action could have a correspondingly unfavourable customer reaction – is served. Every action a business takes has consequences that are broader and deeper than it usually prepares for. This is because it rarely focuses on truth relative to its customer’s perspective.

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