In 1980 Michael Porter transformed the marketing world with his text on Competitive Strategy. It remains a brilliant work in its simplicity, a fundamental approach to analyzing the competitive landscape. Porter’s five forces brought clarity to a topic muddied by countless unproven approaches.
But there’s even a simpler approach: Three words that inspire even the smallest competitor to dream big.
Be big somewhere.
If you can’t compete with the big boys in their space, make a smaller space. Control the scope of your solution to one only your brand can satisfy. Of course it has to be realistic and meaningful to customers. But by the fundamental laws of mass merchandising, customization of solutions will almost always be rewarded with greater target attention and higher profit margins.
Many marketers mistake market opportunity for market size. But consider this: Would you rather own a 1% share of a market that’s 1 million strong or a 30% share of a market that’s a tenth that size…with higher profit margins?
I know. It’s against a marketer’s very nature to think small, but as a strategic consideration, it can be the best fuel your small or middle-market brand can get. And with all you’ll learn at a lower risk inherent in a more tightly defined market, you’ll be far more efficient at expanding to larger ponds later. This kind of long run approach drives long-term brand profitability.
If you can’t be a big fish in a big pond, shrink the pond.
You can’t put a whale into a fish bowl. But it doesn’t take a huge fish to rule there. So here are a few tips to shrink your way to success.
FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS.
First focus on your customers.
Draw careful distinctions between what customers think they WANT and what your expertise tells you they truly NEED to satisfy that want. For example, people have long searched for their favorite radio station that plays the kind of music they are in the mood for, when they are in the mood. What they really needed was a way to access a personally customizable music playlist without buying all the recordings. Enter Pandora. People couldn’t “want” it because they didn’t know the technology existed. The magic lies in the way you analyze and interpret a customer stated want.
Next focus on your offer.
Second, focus your offer and positioning so tightly that the offer itself actually defines a segment, albeit smaller. Competitors tend to disappear when your brand appears to be the only one that can satisfy a very specific set of needs. This strategy done right can make your brand appear as prominent as the giants, to those who matter.
Then focus on your motives.
Be authentic. If your brand is truly customer focused in the most authentic way, you have no competition in the traditional sense. In its place, you have a commitment to serve your customers in a way they cannot be served elsewhere. That demands being constantly connected to your customers as well as non-customers. Anticipating their needs. Developing solutions based on your thought leadership around the application of new technologies, techniques, and trends.
And don’t forget about alignment. Aligning your business goals with those of your customers and your employees makes for a self-perpetuating success. Be sure to conduct a strategic alignment exercise at least once a year to be sure your brand is keeping up with changes in technology, regulation, competition, and other market forces.
What are the ingredients of powerful RAPPORT? How can you harness the force that projects charisma, persuasion, negotiating power, and credibility to all the stakeholders who affect your work life? Not only your boss. Not just your team. But people within every function of your organization and all your brands’ stakeholders, including customers.
To take it even further, RAPPORT can be scaled to unite brands and their customers, employees and employers; all to achieve real business results.
Believe it or not, this kind of power can be acquired by following only seven down-to-earth steps called The RAPPORT Process™.
(R) Research — Know your stakeholders
(A) Analysis — Determine not just what they want, but what they need to do to get what they want (your strategy). Pick your battles by focusing on needs that your solutions can best facilitate, and the segments that value them most.
(P) Positioning — Develop a way to deliver your strategy that addresses your stakeholders’ perceived wants. Begin with their objective and work backwards to your own. Focus on the single facet of your stakeholders’ want that you can “own.” Let them discover all the other great benefits later. Be big somewhere, rather than small everywhere.
(P) Planning — Once you know what your stakeholders want and what they need to do to get it, you need a detailed approach. Formalize the events, costs, benefits, and sequence in a plan.
(O) Operation — Execute your plan…roll it out…take action
(R) Results — Measure your outcomes and progress toward your goals
(T) Translation — How can you do this better next time?
Imagine everyone in your organization—from the stockroom to the boardroom—using this process to deal with every kind of issue from improving shipping efficiencies to launching new brands. Minds aligned. Conflicts averted. Cultures united. Commerce accelerated. Efficiencies unlocked. Common process means common language and focus. And that means a better rapport, which opens a whole new universe of benefits—all from operational alignment through The RAPPORT Process.
Much like the Quality movement in decades past, the RAPPORT revolution can help businesses achieve greater customer satisfaction, increase revenues and margins, and improve operational efficiencies. GroPartners is launching a multi-year trial of our trademarked RAPPORT Process for organizations that believe alignment sets into motion a chain of heightened customer and employee satisfaction, which leads to enhanced revenues and margins. Our aim is to build a case of solid metrics on actual organizational implementation.
Contact us if you’d like to participate in our trial. This process might be a way for you (and your fellow employees and your customers) to get everything you want at work this year, and beyond.
You can read more about the RAPPORT Process in my new book, “Getting There From Here: Bridging Strategy and Execution” available on Amazon http://amzn.to/1yK9DTG or digital version on Apple iBooks.
Many organizations are very good at developing brand and marketing strategies that have the potential to produce excellent business results. But often these strategies become diluted or even derailed due to misaligned execution. Other organizations are experts at flawless execution of strategies that may not align with actual customer behaviors and organizational goals. The reality is that it takes both to succeed. And that requires a holistic approach, connecting internal and external components to create a symbiotic brand.
When marketers fail, it is generally tied to their inability to connect strategy with in-market execution. My new book, “Getting There from Here: Bridging Strategy and Execution,” takes on the task of not only outlining how critical it is to bridge this gap but also identifying the rewards on the other side: operational excellence and in-market impact. It is an excellent reference for perspective and processes that help bridge expectations, experiences, and behaviors among all brand stakeholders at every touchpoint.
Visit http://amzn.to/1yK9DTG to download a copy. Whatever your goals, it will help you get there from here by giving you tools and processes to effectively bridge strategy and execution for better business results.
Getting There from Here: Bridging Strategy and Execution
Page 15: The power of the bridge between strategy and execution
Page 59: The RAPPORT Process; a master process and language that helps align every level of your organization
Page 125: How to conduct an effective Strategic Summit
Page 42: How to know a good vision statement when you see one
Page 116: How to build a metrics bridge dashboard
Page 17: The true relationship of brand and marketing
Page 21: Harnessing the relationship between business, brand, and innovation
Page 34: Finding strategic alignment control points
Page 53: How to be sure you’re selecting the right opportunities
Page 56: When estimating can be better than counting
In recent years, branded documentaries have gained popularity in the marketing mix among a wide range of brands, including Stella Artois, Ericsson, Audi, Proctor & Gamble (Pantene/Downy), PetSmart, Jack Daniels, and Revlon’s Mitchum deodorant and many others.
What are Branded Documentaries?
The difference between branded documentaries and advertising or public relations is that they are actually “micro movies” (usually 3-20 minutes long) versus ads or sound bites (under 90 seconds). And unlike corporate videos, branded documentaries are issues-focused, versus brand-focused. These micro movies “feel” different. They tell emotive stories with cinematic techniques, resulting in a deeper and more engaging experience than is possible from any form of direct promotion.
Branded documentary director Nathaniel Hansen provides some insight: “Viewers are a lot more media and message savvy than we often give them credit for. If the film is people- or issue-focused, it’s a great way for the brand to take a back seat and let the content build demand.”
Some filmmakers behind branded documentaries prefer original music scores to heighten this cinematic experience. They feature real people telling stories around issues and events in their own words with authenticity that only the “real deal” can evoke. The sponsor’s brand may not be featured in the production, though sometimes cleverly placed. Instead, these films often use a carefully crafted storyline to present a worthy cause, or build a solid case for why certain attributes present in the brand are important in making people’s lives better.
Pantene Beautiful Lengths used branded documentaries to promote a cause: donating human hair to make wigs for cancer patients.
For example, in 2012, Pantene Beautiful Lengths charity expected to donate a record 12,000 real hair wigs to women fighting cancer nationwide. Though we can’t confirm this goal was met, the Pantene Beautiful Lengths website reports that since it’s inception in 2006, Pantene has donated to cancer patients approximately 24,000 wigs made from 400,000 consumer-donated pony tails. As a core component of Pantene’s marketing program, they created a branded documentary series that captures compelling stories from hair donors and wig recipients to drive public interest in the Beautiful Lengths program. In Pantene’s case the documentary was clearly branded. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BK0J5jgf36M&list=SPIUDgI1r16CsQxkYdDNImNXCV3Rrf2EXM&index=1
Painting Coconuts is a documentary posted in January of 2013 that takes viewers behind the scenes of the model-building genius of the Audi Quattro® Experience. This one-of-a-kind slot car track creates a virtual driving experience with the world’s first car-mounted camera and iPad display/controller to put participants in the seat of a model Audi Quattro as it streaks around the highly detailed model track. “Drivers” take control of a custom-made 1/32 scale Audi A4 model slot car to test their on-track skills and promote the luxury auto brand. This documentary was a great way to leverage the investment in building the track, bringing it to the masses in a well-made 15-minute film (though it could have been 9 minutes with the same impact). It didn’t necessarily stir me to any form of action, but it did raise my awareness of the Quattro and associated it with detailed craftsmanship and driving enthusiasm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQxOKtCWEGE
Legendary documentary director Albert Maysles helped Mitchum keep it’s slot on retail shelves.
Mitchum rekindled interest in the heritage brand by sponsoring a nationwide contest in search of the “Hardest Working Man in America” in 2010. The deodorant/antiperspirant brand worked with CAA Marketing, director Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour,” “Red Dragon”) for a branded-entertainment program that played to its heritage and tagline: “So effective you could skip a day.” The winner was Chad Pregracke, founder of Living Lands & Waters, who alone racked up more than 50,000 votes for the award. Chad hauled over 6 million pounds of garbage from America’s rivers and their water sheds over the last 10 years, working seven days a week and selling what he could from the trash. See http://vimeo.com/64632163 for a short video case study including traditional and social media programs supporting the program and results.
Telling v Selling
Why are branded documentaries becoming so popular? My knee-jerk research reaction while writing this blog was to pit branded documentaries against traditional advertising effectiveness. But after doing some research, I realized it’s just not that simple: They are two entirely different forms of promotion, like PR and advertising. Branded documentaries deal with issues. They tell longer-form stories that engage viewers in causes of social conscience, learning, or special interest, then associate the content with a brand through sponsorship or some other non-direct means. By contrast, advertising deals with overt selling messages based on direct product use features and benefits. You might say the contrast could be summed up as “Telling versus Selling.”
Can documentaries actually convert customers or make paid promotion more effective with a halo effect? I’d love to see a study on that.
The motivational model consumers use to make purchase decisions appears to be changing. One major driver is the growing culture of social responsibility (aka “causes”). Brand consumption is no longer an “I” thing, but now a badge of community consciousness. Consumers and customers feel and show others that by “participating in brands” (aka buying and using them) they’re actively making the world a better place. The emotional logic goes something like this:
“This documentary makes me feel strongly about this cause →This brand is associated with this cause → (they must be providing some kind of support for it, right?) →So by buying their brand (consistently), I can support this cause →This makes me feel good because I am making the world a better place!”
Another driver of brands’ increased investment in documentaries is the ubiquitous adoption of online video by the world’s population:
Online video now accounts for 50 percent of all mobile traffic and up to 69 percent of traffic on certain networks. (Bytemobile Mobile Analytics Report).
52 percent of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in online purchase decisions. (Invodo)
In attempts to replicate top performers’ results among
their peers, many organizations instinctively look to traditional
methods. Additional training and messaging, managing toward strategic goals, internal promotions, compensation incentives, and research lead the list. But today forward-thinking organizations are finding success with technology-driven peer-to-peer (P2P) employee collaboration strategies.
P2P collaboration can galvanize employee engagement efforts
to a point of measurable return on investment (ROI). Much like
social media’s effect on consumerism, peer-to-peer collaboration among employees is empowered by new technologies and efficiencies that can take employee engagement to a whole new level — including bottom line results. At this new level there is a “P2P Effect” that takes on its own momentum. With it, an organization can improve business performance in targeted areas and clearly track it to ROI.
B2B marketing folks are often deer in the headlights when their CFOs challenge them for proof that brand building funds return value on their investments.
Financial executives – especially in B2B organizations– often have a hard time justifying brand-building investments. That’s mostly because when marketing folks like us are asked to provide ROI calculations for the big bucks we request, we morph into deer in the headlights before their very eyes.
So what do we do? We cloak brand building in marketing execution expenses that the financial guys can wrap their heads around. Simply put, we expense it. Feeling wimpy yet? You’re not alone. But now it’s time to help your CFO understand the value of building brand equity and put it in the asset column where it belongs…because investment in assets and a solid valuation methods are things they can relate to.
Who Doesn’t Want Higher Business Valuation?
For many middle-market B2B companies, brand equity falls off the financial radar completely, mostly because there’s no official GAAP measurement formula for organic brand equity. In a survey of nearly 200 senior marketing managers, only 26 percent responded they found their “brand equity” metric very useful. That’s pretty sad, considering that some prominent marketing researchers believe brands are one of the most valuable assets a company owns. This is a measure brand and marketing managers should leverage in their stakeholder relationships.
Who doesn’t want 5% – 20% more company valuation?
Even in B2B, where “branding” is looked upon as something more suited for consumer products, brand equity can account for 5% – 20% or more of a company’s market value. And who wouldn’t want that (except maybe for that Cheerio-lobbing cherub who disses Jimmy Fallon on those Capital One commercials)?
In certain industries, increasing customer loyalty by 2% can impact the bottom-line in the same way as a 10% reduction in costs (The Market Research Executive Board, “Measuring Brand Equity”). The report continued to cite that a composite of companies with brands considered by business leaders as “superior” grew 402% in the 1990s while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose only 308%. And if that tidbit doesn’t cause pause in your CFO, toss this one at her: research finds that companies with the largest gains in brand equity generated an average current-term stock return of 30%, while companies with decreases in brand equity lost 10%. This is the kind of cred bean counters need to begin viewing brand as an investment instead of an expense.
What is brand equity really?
Brand equity trends are a good barometer overall brand health. But much like measuring the happiness of hippos, no single, comprehensive, industry-wide definition for brand equity exists. If pressed for a broad definition, brand equity essentially addresses the financial value that a brand’s identity, persona, and emotional appeal add to a product or service. It’s less about function and more about the customer experience and relationship. It all comes down to RAPPORT.
“Emotional value” is a pretty squishy thing to measure in financial terms, but it is undeniable that even in B2B, emotional attachment is a powerful issue. Though it may be expressed on different levels than B2C, people are still involved in the decision-making, influencing, and purchasing processes. And where there are people, there are emotional attachments.
The bottom line is…well, the bottom line…meaning that even if a brand has an emotional connection with its stakeholders, differentiation in the marketplace, high awareness, and easy accessibility, but not sustainable sales and margins; what’s it worth? This could be one reason why many B2B financial folks hold limited regard (and approve fewer, smaller budgets) for supporting this “phantom asset” than in B2C.
The flaws in most approaches to B2B brand equity measurement are their overemphasis on marketing factors and diminished emphasis on business, financial, and operational efficiency factors. After all, equity is a financial concept, so brand equity measurements – especially in B2B companies – should be less about the marketing aspects and more about the business and financial impact, right? One hitch: Marketing folks are more comfortable identifying and measuring brand equity drivers (marketing factors) that are great for prescribing ways to improve the financial equity of a brand, but not so good for measuring the equity. See the difference?
A Scorecard Just for B2B Brand Equity
To provide measurement of brand equity specifically for middle-market B2B brands that balances the marketing (external) and financial (internal) dimensions of the brand, I’ve crafted a scorecard that balances the two. The scorecard framework is based on the perspective that brand and business objectives always work hand-in-hand, because neither would exist without the other (if you believe that brand is a relationship with stakeholders). Another point to keep in mind is that the scorecard metrics are not meant to be used as isolated snapshots, but rather assessed in trends, taking the measurements at different periods over time and watching the delta and direction. This trending approach averages temporary influences and favors long term outlooks for valuation and predictive modeling.
The Devil’s in the Details
Dimension: The aspect of the brand to be measured
Eight select business and marketing dimensions of the brand are identified from a balanced “branded-business” perspective
Internal/External: Categorizing each metric as internal or external
Internal factors are things that can be controlled internally, such as setting pricing, aligning people, or switching operational processes or investing in specific capital equipment. These are business metrics. External factors are controlled by forces outside the brand organization. They include factors such as media, marketing, events, economics, etc., and affect the dimensions of external culture, awareness, and preference.
Loyalty is a bridge between internal control factors and external control factors because the organization (internal) has control over loyalty programs, but customers (external) are ultimately the ones who control the loyalty score. These unique qualities make loyalty a very powerful indicator of brand health because they provide an ultimate measurement for the faithful delivery of the brand promise.
Metric: The specific measurement for each dimension
1. Financial: Price premium and positioning over median category pricing
This is a traditional brand equity measure. One caveat: Make sure the category is segmented very carefully (whether you are valuing a product or corporate brand). Price premiums can skew heavily either way if the category includes competitive alternatives or substitutes positioned off your target. If you’re valuing a corporate brand, you can quantify corporate perceived price positioning by using a “basket of brands” approach against the market median pricing of an equivalent basket for each competitor. This is an internal metric because the B2B brand has control over its pricing.
2. Operational: Operational alignment score
Operational alignment occurs when the operational aspects of an organization and its people are all in alignment with the brand strategy. This means that everyone in a line position knows what to do on a daily basis in their jobs to support the brand’s delivery to its customers. This often combines elements of the corporate and product brand strategies. Operational alignment is not given much credit in the brand equity spreadsheet, but it can dramatically reduce costs in many ways. This is an internal metric because the B2B brand has control over its operational investments, processes, and policies.
Brand delivery is a brand touch point metric that assesses the alignment of stakeholders’ beliefs of what the brand delivers to them, above and beyond the functional aspects of the product or service. When employees and customers share the same understanding of what the brand is delivering (attributes beyond the functional), a brand is well aligned. When operationalized in every employee and customer group, this metric can pinpoint areas of misalignment, leading to clues for significant improvements in customer satisfaction. This is an internal metric because the B2B brand has control over setting and meeting customer expectations.
4. Loyalty: Net Promoter Score
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of customer advocacy and evangelism. Essentially, it measures the percentage of branded customers who actively refer a brand within their personal and professional networks. High NPS has been related to strong brands and sustainable financial success. This is a hybrid internal and external metric because the B2B brand and the customer each have some control over loyalty.
5. Awareness: Brand awareness score
Brand awareness alone is a measure of marketing success and not necessarily financial success. But combined with the other metrics in this scorecard, it can help drive financial success. This is an external metric because awareness is a customer perception factor.
6. Recognition: Logo/packaging
Brand recognition is an important dimension that helps quantify not only differentiation, but also the degree to which a brand cuts through the noise of the modern marketing landscape. It is an external metric because it is customer perceiption-based.
7. Preference: Market share trend
This metric is a traditional bell weather and helps round out the competitive success of the brand. This is an external metric because it deals with the external market competitive milieu.
8. Cultural: Buzz metrics (segment or industry) Social media has made “buzz” an undeniable part of our brandscape. Measuring resonance with brand positioning amidst current socio-economic trends is another facet of awareness, but includes richer customer positioning connotations. This is a purely external factor because it is in the control of customers.
All metrics should be expressed in percentages and averaged together for a composite score. Each or any of these factors can be weighted to accommodate specific industry peculiarities.
Once you begin treating your brand investments like investments instead of expenses, you’ll be surprised at how much more confident you’ll be in your brand budget discussions.
Contact GroPartners Consulting for guidance on how to measure your B2B brand equity, either corporate or product. 847-845-6970
A strong corporate brand strategy is one of the most powerful forces an organization can marshal. Properly operationalized, it can measurably improve top-line effectiveness for product brands and bottom line efficiencies throughout the organization from the stock room to the board room − and everywhere between. In the best brands, the strategy acts as a guide for every stakeholder decision, from the highest level to the most granular, which can result in reduced management costs and greater employee satisfaction.
But just as any other kind of strategy, the true power of brand strategy is activated only with aligned execution. A brand strategy road map helps brands stay on track with clear process, aligning business, vision, people, and process.
Brand strategy originates in your organization’s vision and values. Aligning business goals, customer wants and needs, and employee satisfaction with that vision is critical to sustainable growth.
Virgin operates 53 separate brands, as diverse as airlines, records, books, and health. All Virgin brands are based on the same vision and values:
“Virgin believes in making a difference. We stand for value for money, quality, innovation, fun and a sense of competitive challenge. We strive to achieve this by empowering our employees to continually deliver an unbeatable customer experience.”
Experience…Founder Richard Branson showcases the Virgin brand with his swashbuckling extreme sports, spaceships and experience-steeped TV commercial roles. By contrast, many organizations mistake the branding process for an identity exercise. And while that is an essential piece of brand, there are three major components to branding:
A brand strategy road map helps communicate the process to senior management and provides “gates” that must be sequentially satisfied to move through the process. (Click graphic to enlarge)
Your company’s best branding strategies will almost always come from aligning customer insights with organizational vision, values and business objectives. Those strategies are brought to life with brand development (logos, messaging, governance, programs, products, services) and should permeate your organization’s processes and culture/employees. Only on this strategic footing is the brand ready to push outward to customers through sales and marketing touch points. This process helps organizations “live the brand,” so customers’ and consumers’ brand experience is consistent with what the brand stands for. This consistency provides a host of business benefits from enhanced productivity, support for premium pricing, and deflection of competition, to higher revenues and margins.
Mergers & Acquisitions
When a merger or acquisition occurs, though there may be solid business due-diligence behind the transaction, brand misalignment is likely. Rarely are two brand cultures so similar that an alignment action isn’t needed to optimize business performance. Developing a brand strategy roadmap, along with some seasoned facilitation and guidance, helps resolve brand misalignment issues so people and processes support a common goal.
Get the (big) picture?
Alignment essentially assures that people, processes, and business goals all understand the vision and support each other. Alignment of talent, brand delivery, marketing, operations, and other functional areas and stakeholder groups make up the entire alignment picture. “People” include not only employees, but also distributors and customers.
Chicken and egg
There’s a debate among brand consultants about whether business strategy drives the vision or vice-versa…that business strategy may change the organizational vision. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Leave a comment (see top of post).
Delighted customers are worth more than their individual revenue streams.
In my August, 2010 frenchonbrand.com, “Is Customer Delight Overkill?” (http://wp.me/pU6PC-25), I downplayed the concept of customer delight as potentially over-performing on the premise that people don’t necessarily want to be delighted, merely satisfied. My logic was that over performing in this area causes excess cost. Since then, and as a result of one of my reader’s well-informed and thoughtful comments (thanks, John H. FMB!) — and more research on the subject — I’ve moderated my position on customer delight and pass along the following convincing metric: a way to measure the impact of customer delight on word-of-mouth promotion to optimize the investment.
I realized the impact of customer delight extends far beyond the customer, after a review of W. Edwards Deming’s Profound Knowledge and Fred Reichheld’s “The Ultimate Question” (Net Promoter Score a.k.a. NPS). In this holistic approach to business, operationalizing customer delight becomes essential to its importance. Instead of viewing “delight” as overkill, I can now reconcile it with other favorable business results, such as increasing the lifetime value of a customer (promoter) beyond the customer revenue stream, and into areas such as:
Low-cost customer acquisition via referrals (reduced marketing costs)
Viral customer acquisition (referrals of referrals)
More nimble market response due to vibrant customer connections (innovation)
Continuous improvement of operations through cultural alignment (operationalized brand)
And many more
The result is sustainable growth.
To measure customer delight word-of-mouth radiance, Reichheld offers the following formula (this can be modified per individual situation). A customer survey is needed to capture the information needed to perform the calculations below (contact GroPartners for specific survey content).
Pick a benchmark date in the past (for example, the past 12 months, or last fiscal year). Then use this measurement process.
1. How many delighted customers do you have?
Find out how many of your new desirable customers were referred by other delighted customers (NPS of 9 or 10, meaning “on a scale of 1-10, how likely would you be to refer a friend or colleague to your brand?)
2. What is your average new customer worth?
Calculate (or see industry analysts’ calculations) what your average new customer is worth in dollars and cents.
3. Calculate the total value of those new delighted customers
Multiply the data from #1 (above) by #2 (above)
4. Calculate the value of positive comments
In your NPS survey, also ask respondents for positive or negative comments that support their NPS rating. If x number of positive comments generated $y in revenue (from 3 above), divide y/x to calculate the value of each positive comment
6. Calculate the value of each promoter
In your survey, find out the number of people per year to which each promoter might have commented, and multiply the average number by the value in #4 (above) to get the value of word-of-mouth per promoter. This is the “magic number” that helps optimize customer delight.
Anything can be measured. Even the power of customer delight. Now I’m a believer. How about you?
frenchonbrand.com is content published by
GroPartners Consulting helps middle-market organizations bridge strategy and execution for better business results.
Brand is the network of relationships that surrounds a business or product, including all its touch points.
I once spent the better part of a year convincing the CEO of a marketing organization that brand was not a subset of marketing, but instead, the reverse. To my surprise, during that year, I noticed his perspective is fairly common, even among marketing folks.
To many people (especially direct marketers and finance folks), “brand” associates with really fluffy connotations. In reality, brand is much bigger than marketing. In fact, it’s bigger than the products brought to market and even bigger than the companies that make the products that go to market. Why? Because the brand includes not only the company and its products, but relationships among its people, all its functions, channels (distributors, etc.), customers and even – to a degree – its competitors. It encompasses values, purpose, beliefs, and ultimately, identity. Essentially, brand is about that precisely dicey issue of “what you stand for” and what that means to people in the context of their lives. Finance guys often get heartburn from brand discussions mostly because they can’t easily and accurately prove out ROI on brand investments. An operationalized approach to brand investments can quench the heartburn. This means placing strategic metrics among and between internal operations, customer touch point metrics, marketing results, and financial results.
The difference between Marketing and Brand
Click image for a larger view.
Marketing builds and measures transactions. Brand builds and measures relationships. Even though marketers refer to building relationships through marketing, the goal is transactions, so technically, there’s a little brand blended in with the marketing mentality. Brand relationships continue after marketing has delivered products to customers. The goal of branding is to build relationships as a pipeline for transactions.
Where marketing is about all the intelligence and activities it takes to drive transactions, brand focuses on the underlying relationships and expectations among stakeholders around the transactions. When positive relationships exist and expectations are met, the stage is set for a continuous stream of transactions (i.e. successful sales and marketing campaigns).
This sets into motion a chain of operational implications, both internal and external. Brand-aligned organizations use this as an opportunity to examine the dynamic and causal relationships among employees, customers, and operations. Identifying cause-and-effect among these forces builds business value – the goals at the core of business operations. To do this successfully, an operationalized brand metrics program should first be in place (for more on this, contact Gropartners).
The truth is, most people feel more comfortable gaining a level of trust before they take the leap into a transaction. Until they experience a level of satisfaction or value as “compensation” for the currency they trade, customers experience anxiety and feel vulnerable. But they may not even take the leap until they feel they can trust the seller (kind of “chicken-or-egg” first). So whether an ad campaign puts a friendly face on the brand, a sampling campaign lets you “try before you buy,” or a recommendation from a trusted friend disarms you, some level of pre-transaction relationship is usually required to help minimize the feeling of risk and start the flow of transactions. This, and it’s post-transaction counterparts (“customer care,” etc.), wrap the transactions up in “relationship wrappers.”
Brands are relationships between people and products, services, or ideas, which are made of three fundamental elements: focus, distinction, and trust. The word “brand” should be distinguished from ‘branding.” “Brand” focuses on the strategic dimensions of a relationship while “branding” refers to execution. “Branding” is a term that broadly defines the scope of activities that bring the brand to life for stakeholders –- creative application of brand values, identity and communications (logos, taglines, guidelines, messaging, etc.). These activities “voice” the brand to stakeholders. And while these are certainly essential elements of brand, they are usually products of creative execution under strategic direction.
So when you hear or use the phrase “brand marketing,” it generally relates to issues about customer relationships and delivering on the promise. In contrast,”product marketing,” issues are mainly about transactions and delivering the product. That’s how brand marketing and product marketing work hand-in-hand to build business value. And that’s why you find many high-profile CEOs personally driving brand conversations and initiatives. The big picture guys get it.
Today, content is king in branding. This is a long post but worth the read, with practical tips you can use today!
Mark Addicks, CMO at General Mills, predicts, “…many marketers will start with content as a way to engage their best customers and grow their business versus advertising.” This powerful statement carries with it some game-changing implications, and signals the realization by Corporate America that brand—the baneful black hole to bean counters everywhere—isn’t some fluffy little eccentricity.
Think about it. If brand is the relationship between two entities (corporations, products, people, etc.), based on focus, distinction and trust, then building that relationship requires more than self-indulgent glorification (aka “brand advertising”). Consumers and end users are more well-informed than ever before and they reward with consumption those who make their lives easier. They are not the lemmings of times past who were really glad they used Dial and wished everybody did. Or who got too wound up after drinking a pot of fully-leaded coffee, so they switched to SANKA and became a better person. No, today, we are a nation of jaded consumers searching for the truth under all that brand advertising.
We digital-age consumers do this with research and social media, mostly. In the epoch BW (before the web), research was hard work, and not often worth the consumer’s time. By contrast, today we can find out in 30 seconds how much a worker building iPads in China earns in a day ($17/day in a single facility employing more than 250,000 workers – one of the best jobs in China, reportedly). So, getting right down to “just the facts, ma’am,” has become the great global kneejerk reaction to seeking the skinny on a product before purchase.
The bottom line for branding? In my opinion, it’s actually good news. While brand advertising as we know it may fade in favor, it will be upstaged by a branded form of content that actually helps people become more productive. Much of this new branded content will be driven by processes such as message mapping.
Propel your brand with content that bridges strategy and execution resulting in transactions
Case in point: I’m shopping for a new boat propeller (the old boat prop looks like it went through a shredder). Most marinas are closed this time of year and I don’t want to travel to get one. But I don’t know what size it is, or any of the other technical stuff I should know before attempting to order one on the web. So, I consult Google for “how to size a boat prop.” The results return all kinds of help from places that sell props. I wasn’t yet searching to buy a prop, just to figure out what specs I need. So I clicked on a paid ad that led me to a landing page whose ad seemed to be aligned with what I wanted to know.
A site named prop.com hosted a very helpful landing page, explaining in readily understandable terms how to determine what size, pitch, and style of prop is needed for various applications. It also showed me how to optimize the boat’s power performance by selecting the right prop. It really seemed these guys knew their stuff.
Even though the page design wasn’t highly professional, the content was pretty well written and exactly what I was searching for. The content quickly built my confidence in the brand, which transferred my trust into a same-session transaction. Here’s why:
The content matched my search query far better than others (promise matched performance), whose links took me directly to transaction pages of their websites without any acknowledgement of my search for propeller info (promise/performance mismatch).
The content was complete yet brief, so I could get on with my transaction. It built an appetite for my transaction without overshooting or losing my interest (didn’t waste my time).
An easy-to-find link at the bottom of the prop.com landing page led me directly to the host brand site transaction page (very convenient access to get my prop now that I knew what to buy).
But just when I thought I’d won the ecommerce lotto (found exactly the information I needed, became educated enough to make a confident online purchase over $100, all in less than eight minutes), the entire process derailed. When I clicked on the link at the bottom of the page, the host-brand site loaded and – OMG – charts chock full of unfamiliar jargon and specifications bullied me into a psychological fetal position. No way could I begin to connect the knowledge they provided on their highly informative landing page with my needs. The result: no sale.
In a nutshell, although their content and search strategy was great and the landing page motivated me to visit their website – ready to spend – they fell woefully short at the point of sale. It was not easy to buy! Where was that helpful brand whose content wooed me to the point of transaction? Lost somewhere in transition, I guess.
Lesson? Content-driven digital presence has the potential to immediately and dramatically close the distance between brand building investments and ROI. That translates into excellence in bridging strategy and execution, the key to survival in this New Age of brand marketing.
So here are some useful tips for planning your brand content-to-transaction strategy:
Use a content-driven landing page with useful info and no selling between your search ad (or organic result) and your transaction site.
Be sure that your search result is relevant to the search term. This builds the first rung of trust.
Offer content that is well-written, brief and to the point, yet complete within the scope of the topic (don’t try this at home – consult a professional, and test it) — again … no selling.