- How To Keep Your Brand Promises Before You Make Them Hear
- How To Keep Your Brand Promises Before You Make Them Laugh
- How To Keep Your Brand Promises Before You Make Them Cry
- How To Keep Your Brand Promises Before You Make Them Knowing
- Create a concrete plan to fulfill the promise. Even the smallest promises can be neglected or unfulfilled if you do not set aside the time in your day to complete the promise and are equipped with all the tools and skills needed to keep the promise. Draw up a step by step plan so you don’t fall short on your commitment.
- Defining (and Making) the Promise. Your promise needs to be relevant, compelling, believable and achievable – and supported by the values that drive your organization – to make a deep connection with your target audiences. To define your brand experience promise, you must understand your organization, your customers and your competition.
'If your other communications look warm and friendly and you brand yourself as service-oriented, but your Web sight is impossible to navigate and doesn't have an email response or is just kind of clunky, people are going to say, 'I thought you were someone else but now I know who you really are',' says Kosgrove.
When you think of marketing, you more than likely think of marketing to your customers: How can you persuade more people to buy what you sell? But another “market” is just as important: your employees, the very people who can make the brand come alive for your customers. Yet in our work helping executives develop and carry out branding campaigns, my colleagues and I have found that companies very often ignore this critical constituency.
Why is internal marketing so important? First, because it’s the best way to help employees make a powerful emotional connection to the products and services you sell. Without that connection, employees are likely to undermine the expectations set by your advertising. In some cases, this is because they simply don’t understand what you have promised the public, so they end up working at cross-purposes. In other cases, it may be they don’t actually believe in the brand and feel disengaged or, worse, hostile toward the company. We’ve found that when people care about and believe in the brand, they’re motivated to work harder and their loyalty to the company increases. Employees are unified and inspired by a common sense of purpose and identity.
Unfortunately, in most companies, internal marketing is done poorly, if at all. While executives recognize the need to keep people informed about the company’s strategy and direction, few understand the need to convince employees of the brand’s power—they take it as a given. What’s more, the people who are charged with internal communications—HR professionals, typically—don’t have the marketing skills to communicate successfully. Information is doled out to employees in the form of memos, newsletters, and so forth, but it’s not designed to convince them of the uniqueness of the company’s brand. The marketing department might get involved once in a while to tell employees about a new ad campaign or branding effort. But the intent usually is to tell people what the company is doing, not to sell them on the ideas.
We have found that by applying many of the principles of consumer advertising to internal communications, leaders can guide employees to a better understanding of, and even a passion for, the brand vision. Applying these principles enables employees to “live” the vision in their day-to-day activities. And when employees live that vision, customers are much more likely to experience the company in a way that’s consistent with what you’ve promised. I’ll outline the principles of internal marketing in the following pages.
Choose Your Moment
Most people have limited tolerance for change initiatives, and branding and visioning exercises are no exception. But at certain turning points, times when the company is experiencing some fundamental challenge or change, employees are seeking direction and are relatively receptive to these initiatives. Such moments can create either positive or negative energy—enthusiasm for new programs or unproductive rumormongering. Turning points are thus ideal opportunities for an internal branding campaign; managers can direct people’s energy in a positive direction by clearly and vividly articulating what makes the company special. Indeed, we’ve found that internal branding efforts launched without the momentum such a moment can generate nearly always fail. Without a natural turning point, managers seeking to boost the brand internally may need to manufacture this kind of moment, perhaps by launching a new marketing strategy.
British Petroleum seized such an opportunity when it merged with Amoco and then ARCO. It rebranded itself as BP, redesigned its logo, and launched a campaign simultaneously to staff and the public declaring that it was going “beyond petroleum.” The company repositioned its brand and put aside its identity as an oil company to become an energy company, moving from an old-style, closed corporation to an open, collaborative, new-economic venture. This break with the past gave employees from each of the original companies a new and distinctive identity. A survey that was taken after the internal branding campaign was launched showed that 76% of employees felt favorably toward the new brand, 80% were aware of the brand values that constituted the new brand messages, and a full 90% thought the company was going in the right direction.
The arrival of new leadership is another opportune moment for internal rebranding. Staff expect to hear from a new leader right away and are usually open to new ideas at such times. Carly Fiorina exploited this window when she took over Hewlett-Packard. She took a personal interest in the branding strategy and played an active role. To demonstrate her commitment, Fiorina appeared in launch commercials, which asserted that, “the original start-up will act like one again.” The company’s new tag line, “Invent,” became a mantra inside the company, and cofounder Bill Hewlett’s garage, where he and Dave Packard made their first inventions, became a symbol in both internal and external communications. A new leader rediscovering the company’s heritage released a surge of energy throughout the organization.
Similarly, when Arthur Martinez was named CEO of Sears in 1992, he took advantage of his new role to energize and focus employees, using marketing tools such as surveys, focus groups, and a new tag line to pull the company out of a sales slump. It worked: Sales picked up, and morale did, too.
But choosing your moment also means knowing when to pull back. Martinez and other Sears executives, energized by their success, stepped up the campaign in the years that followed. They didn’t know when to leave well enough alone, and, by 1998, employees were so overwhelmed with marketing materials that they began to feel confused and disconnected. A classic case of initiative fatigue set in as floor staff were inundated with messages that had little relevance to their departments, completed survey after survey, and lost significant sales time attending myriad training classes. One frustrated executive turned up at a meeting with a wheelbarrow holding one month’s worth of memos, questionnaires, and instructional videos. The moment had clearly passed. So, at that year’s annual meeting, in a paradoxical effort to recapture the energy of 1993, the CEO announced that there would be “no new initiatives, no new big ideas.” The back-to-basics approach came as a relief to employees and reenergized them around the customer service themes they had embraced five years earlier. Today, the company maintains a low-level, consistent stream of internal marketing initiatives but has curtailed internal campaigns in order to achieve a more appropriate pace.
Link Internal and External Marketing
Employees need to hear the same messages that you send out to the marketplace. At most companies, however, internal and external communications are often mismatched. This can be very confusing, and it threatens employees’ perceptions of the company’s integrity: They are told one thing by management but observe that a different message is being sent to the public. One health insurance company, for instance, advertised that the welfare of patients was the company’s number one priority, while employees were told that their main goal was to increase the value of their stock options through cost reductions. And one major financial services institution told customers that it was making a major shift in focus from being a financial retailer to a financial adviser, but, a year later, research showed that the customer experience with the company had not changed. It turned out that company leaders had not made an effort to sell the change internally, so employees were still churning out transactions and hadn’t changed their behavior to match their new adviser role.
Enabling employees to deliver on customer expectations is important, of course, but it’s not the only reason a company needs to match internal and external messages. Another reason is to help push the company to achieve goals that might otherwise be out of reach. In 1997, when IBM launched its e-business campaign (which is widely credited for turning around the company’s image), it chose to ignore research that suggested consumers were unprepared to embrace IBM as a leader in e-business. Although to the outside world this looked like an external marketing effort, IBM was also using the campaign to align employees around the idea of the Internet as the future of technology. The internal campaign changed the way employees thought about everything they did, from how they named products to how they organized staff to how they approached selling. The campaign was successful largely because it gave employees a sense of direction and purpose, which in turn restored their confidence in IBM’s ability to predict the future and lead the technology industry. Today, research shows that people are four times more likely to associate the term “e-business” with IBM than with its nearest competitor, Microsoft.
The type of “two-way branding” that IBM did so successfully strengthens both sides of the equation. Internal marketing becomes stronger because it can draw on the same “big idea” as advertising. Consumer marketing becomes stronger because the messages are developed based on employees’ behavior and attitudes, as well as on the company’s strengths and capabilities—indeed, the themes are drawn from the company’s very soul. This process can result in a more distinct advertising idea because marketers are more likely to create a message that’s unique to the company.
Perhaps even more important, by taking employees into account, a company can avoid creating a message that doesn’t resonate with staff or, worse, one that builds resentment. In 1996, United Airlines shelved its “Come Fly the Friendly Skies” slogan when presented with a survey that revealed the depth of customer resentment toward the airline industry. In an effort to own up to the industry’s shortcomings, United launched a new campaign, “Rising,” in which it sought to differentiate itself by acknowledging poor service and promising incremental improvements such as better meals. While this was a logical premise for the campaign given the tenor of the times, a campaign focusing on customers’ distaste for flying was deeply discouraging to the staff. Employee resentment ultimately made it impossible for United to deliver the improvements it was promising, which in turn undermined the “Rising” pledge. Three years later, United decided employee opposition was undermining its success and pulled the campaign. It has since moved to a more inclusive brand message with the line “United,” which both audiences can embrace. Here, a fundamental principle of advertising—find and address a customer concern—failed United because it did not consider the internal market.
When it comes to execution, the most common and effective way to link internal and external marketing campaigns is to create external advertising that targets both audiences. IBM used this tactic very effectively when it launched its e-business campaign. It took out an eight-page ad in the Wall Street Journal declaring its new vision, a message directed at both customers and internal stakeholders. This is an expensive way to capture attention, but if used sparingly, it is the most powerful form of communication; in fact, you need do it only once for everyone in the company to read it. There’s a symbolic advantage as well. Such a tactic signals that the company is taking its pledge very seriously; it also signals transparency—the same message going out to both audiences.
Advertising isn’t the only way to link internal and external marketing. At Nike, a number of senior executives now hold the additional title of “Corporate Storyteller.” They deliberately avoid stories of financial successes and concentrate on parables of “just doing it,” reflecting and reinforcing the company’s ad campaigns. One tale, for example, recalls how legendary coach and Nike cofounder Bill Bowerman, in an effort to build a better shoe for his team, poured rubber into the family waffle iron, giving birth to the prototype of Nike’s famous Waffle Sole. By talking about such inventive moves, the company hopes to keep the spirit of innovation that characterizes its ad campaigns alive and well within the company.
But while their messages must be aligned, companies must also keep external promises a little ahead of internal realities. Such promises provide incentives for employees and give them something to live up to. In the 1980s, Ford turned “Quality Is Job 1” from an internal rallying cry into a consumer slogan in response to the threat from cheaper, more reliable Japanese cars. It did so before the claim was fully justified, but by placing it in the public arena, it gave employees an incentive to match the Japanese. If the promise is pushed too far ahead, however, it loses credibility. When a beleaguered British Rail launched a campaign announcing service improvements under the banner “We’re Getting There,” it did so prematurely. By drawing attention to the gap between the promise and the reality, it prompted destructive press coverage. This, in turn, demoralized staff, who had been legitimately proud of the service advances they had made.
Bring the Brand Alive for Employees
The goal of an internal branding campaign is very similar to that of an external campaign: to create an emotional connection to your company that transcends any one particular experience. In the case of employees, you also want the connection to inform the way they approach their jobs, even if they don’t interact with customers. You want them to have the brand vision in their minds and to consider whether or not they are supporting the brand in every decision they make. How do you do that? Much the same way you cultivate the connection with external audiences. You need to plan and execute a professional branding campaign to introduce and explain the messages and then reinforce them by weaving the brand into the fabric of the company. The messages should be directed at employee “touch-points,” the day-to-day interactions that influence the way people experience the workplace.
A professional branding campaign is just what it sounds like. It takes the form of a consumer branding campaign, with a set of stages that starts with research and continues through the planning and execution of a communications strategy designed to convince your employees of the merits and credibility of your brand. And designing and executing this campaign should be the marketing department’s responsibility. The marketing people have the necessary skills, they understand the context surrounding the external campaign, and, perhaps most important, they are uniquely positioned to match the internal campaign to the external campaign.
Market research is a given for any consumer marketing campaign, but companies seldom invest in such research when their employees are the audience. Companies can use many of the same tools for the internal market that they would use for consumers: focus groups, in-depth interviews, and surveys. They can then map their findings to create a big picture of the culture that shows where different subcultures reside and how information flows through the organization. Why go to the trouble? Because once organizations find out what’s on people’s minds, they can tailor their campaigns accordingly.
Miller Brewing Company took employee attitudes very seriously when it launched a new internal branding campaign aimed at improving employee morale. The company conducted an in-depth study, which revealed that employees took great pride in the company’s tradition of brewing, mythologized by stories such as that of founder Frederick Miller carrying the yeast in his pocket from Germany in 1855. The internal campaign became a celebration of employees’ passion for great beer. Larger-than-life posters of employees decorated the breweries, depicting workers as company heroes. The company also distributed materials reinforcing the campaign, including a book celebrating the vocation of brewing and T-shirts emblazoned with “I Make Miller Time.” In accordance with Principle 2, these internal findings influenced and reflected Miller’s external consumer advertising, which drew on the brand’s heritage of craftsmanship. The new TV commercials feature employees talking to the camera, expressing their passion for Miller beer. An added bonus of internal research: By collecting stories like that of Frederick Miller, organizations can be sure that company folklore doesn’t walk out the door when long-term employees leave—preserving the culture for future generations of employees.
Following research, the next stage is to plan the campaign, a full-blown communications strategy like Miller’s that mirrors a consumer marketing strategy. In thinking about the campaign, top executives should first answer some key questions: What do employees think of the company? What do we want them to think? What will convince them of this? And why should they believe us? Once these questions have been answered, the work of creating communications materials can begin.
Unfortunately, the way most companies approach this task is so generic, so removed from the business’s frontline realities, and, frankly, so dull, that the very prospect of the campaign and the new coffee mugs is likely to prompt a collective groan, or, worse, mockery at the water cooler. To overcome people’s natural cynicism, the campaign and the communications materials must ring true for employees and must draw on the company’s very soul, reflecting and reinforcing what people care about and what makes them come to work in the morning. Materials must be free of jargon and grandstanding and must focus on the essence of the company.
To be effective, these materials must be as creative and eye-catching as the materials you deliver to an external audience. Just as in a consumer advertising campaign, you need to surprise and charm your audience. This is a task of persuasion, not information, and dry, lifeless materials will quickly be shelved or discarded. (For suggestions on making these materials compelling and useful to employees, see the sidebar “How to Create Communications Materials Employees Will Actually Use.”)
When it comes to delivering the message, it’s tempting to send out a memo, a video, or a package of colorful materials and consider it done, but there’s no substitute for personal contact from the organization’s highest levels. Indeed, failure to communicate at a personal level can undermine the most sophisticated and expensive rebranding campaign. The failure of the merger of Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank in 2000 can be attributed in part to the failure of management to persuade Deutsche’s investment bankers of the vision for how the newly merged company would compete. Many key employees left, and the threat of a mass walkout forced Deutsche to abandon the deal after considerable damage to the share price of both companies.
It’s worth noting that research conducted early on can pay off when it comes to implementation. If you’ve identified a subculture of resistance, for example, you can give extra attention to the resisters when you roll out the brand. Or if you’ve learned who the most influential employees are—the ones who shape the attitudes of those around them—then you can target those employees directly, and, if you get them on board, they can help get the word out.
The final stage of a branding campaign is feedback and participation from the target audience. For large, geographically diverse organizations, the company intranet can be a superb facilitator of communication and interaction. Indeed, we’ve found that in companies that do not use intranets for candid dialogue, employees inevitably turn to external Web sites like the Vault to complain about the company. Accenture understood that risk when it rebranded in January 2001. It created an interactive Web site to allow people to ask questions and view the replies to questions others had posted. Joe Forehand, Accenture’s CEO, also includes a feedback button on every internal message he sends to employees and personally responds to every question or suggestion.
As yet, however, the potential of this medium is unfulfilled. There is no reason, for example, why the chairman can’t Webcast occasional “fireside chats,” a possibility undreamed of by previous generations of managers. But don’t let the Web become a substitute for face time or walking the corridors: Fireside chats can be broadcast to different company locations so that everyone can take part at once, but the leader shouldn’t hole up in his or her office to deliver the message.
Fireside chats can become part of an effort to weave the branding into the fabric of the organization. Since it’s not feasible to conduct a series of major campaigns—it’s costly and employees begin to tune them out—the company should make every effort to incorporate the branding into everyday experiences, so that employees “live” the brand at all times. Such employee touchpoints mirror the consumer touchpoints that have become familiar in consumer marketing, where every point of interaction with the consumer is an opportunity to reinforce the brand. (Some of the best examples of consumer touchpoints are retail outlets like Niketown or UPS’s vans and uniforms, which are deliberately styled after the military to express discipline and punctuality.)
The most obvious place to begin is the company’s physical space. When Condé Nast asked the architect Frank Gehry to design a cafeteria for the offices (home of Vogue and Vanity Fair, among others), he used curved glass panels to reflect the see-and-be-seen culture of the fashion magazine world. And Nike celebrates its heritage and devotion to athletes by naming key landmarks on the company campus after sports legends: Bowerman Drive leads to the campus, where you’ll find the Joe Paterno Child Development Center and the Bo Jackson Fitness Center.
Companies can also reinforce the brand very effectively through company policy. Quality Bicycle Products, which employs 195 people in the suburbs of Minneapolis, includes as part of its vision statement a commitment to protecting the environment. To bring the vision alive for the people who work there, the company offers a financial reward: Employees who live within ten miles of the company are paid $2 a day to bicycle, carpool, or take a bus to work. The money is paid in credits toward the company’s products. Recruiting and hiring policies are other areas that can serve as touchpoints. Hollywood Video, which regards its passion for movies as its differentiation from the mammoth Blockbuster chain, requires that employees show knowledge of and enthusiasm for movies. Southwest Airlines is known for rigorously assessing candidates’ personalities during interviews, rating all potential hires—from pilots to mechanics—on a scale of one to five on seven traits corresponding to the brand’s core values. While other companies might consider only more traditional values like honesty or responsibility, Southwest preserves its unique brand personality by hiring only people who are a perfect fit.
By incorporating the brand vision into these employee touchpoints, companies, over time inculcate the vision into the employee experience to the extent that on-brand behavior becomes instinctive. Apple is an obvious example, as are Disney and Virgin Airlines. It’s no accident that, despite formidable challenges from the PCworld, there remains widespread Apple zealotry both inside and outside the company.
By weaving the brand messages into employees’ everyday experiences, managers can ensure that on-brand behavior becomes instinctive.
Amid the pressure to develop new products and squeeze costs out of operations, internal marketing is easily overlooked. After all, in times of financial stress, even external marketing budgets are scrutinized, despite the well-known fact that external marketing is important. But it is a truth of business that if employees do not care about their company, they will in the end contribute to its demise. And it’s up to you to give them a reason to care.
Building Your Brand
Branding is more than just a businessbuzzword. It has become the crux of selling in the new economy. If the old marketing mantrawas,' Nothing happens until somebody sells something,' the new philosophy couldbe' Nothing happens until somebody brands something.'
In its simplest form, a brand is a noun. Itis the name attached to a product or service. However, upon close inspection, a brand representsmany more intangible aspects of a product or service: a collection of feelings andperceptions about quality, image, lifestyle and status. It creates in the mind of customersand prospects the perception that there is no product or service on the market thatis quite like yours. In short, a brand offers the customer a guarantee and then deliverson it.
You might infer, then, that if you build a powerful brand, you will in turn be able to create a powerful marketing program. However, if you can't convince customers that your product is worthy of purchasing, no amount of advertising dollars, fancy packaging or public relations will help you achieve your sales goals. Therefore, successful branding programs begin with superior products and services, backed by excellent customer service that permeates an entire organization.
I. The Importance of Branding
One of the truths of modern business isthat there is almost nothing that your competitors can't duplicate in a matter of weeksor months. If you have a great idea, you can be certain that somebody will copy itbefore long. And not only will they follow your lead, but they may also be able to do abetter job or sell the product or service at a lower price. The question then becomes, 'What competitive edge do I have to offer that cannot be copied by anyone else?'
The answer? Your brand.
Creating a strong brand identity will buildmind share — one of the strongest competitive advantages imaginable. As a result, customerswill think of your business first when they think of your product category. For example, when you think of tissues, more likely than not, you think of the Kleenexbrand. And when you're looking for tape to wrap a present, Scotch is the brand that springsto mind. Likewise, when your child wants a hamburger, he will often say he wants to goto McDonald's. The reason behind these strong brand-product associations is thatthese companies have built rock solid brand identities.
'A brand is the one thing that you canown that nobody can take away from you,' says Howard Kosgrove, vice principalof marketing at Lindsay, Stone and Briggs Advertising in Madison, Wis. 'Everything else, they can steal. They cansteal your trade secrets. Eventually, your patents will expire. Your physical plant willwear out. Technology will change. But your brand can go on and live. It creates a lastingvalue above and beyond all the other elements of your business.'
That value is often called brand equity, orthe worth of the brand. Brand equity, unlike other abstract marketing notions, canbe quantified. For instance, if you owned the Marlboro Company and wanted to sell it,you would begin to value the firm by looking at the assets tied to the Marlboro brand.You would then identify the cost of the factories, patents, trucks, machines andstaff.' They are worth a small fraction of what you can sell that brand for,'says Kosgrove. 'The value of that brand is huge compared to those actual physical assets.'
The importance and value of branding becomes apparent when an entrepreneur wants to sell his or her company or take it to Wall Street for a public offering or other infusion of capital. It is often the brand that a business owner has to sell in such cases.
II. When Should You Brand?
Because of the competitive nature ofbusiness today, nearly all industries can benefit from a branded product. All of thetraditionally brand-conscious industries, including fashion, restaurants and consumer goods, arebeing forced to continue to brand heavily — perhaps even more strategically than theyever have in the past. Financial services, which were one of the last frontiers, areeven beginning to see the importance of branding by tagging banking packages and evenmutual funds with catchy names. Even industrial markets, where cost is usually more of aloyalty building factor, has seen brand names creep in. For example, Tyvek, a DuPont fiber,improbably one of the best known industrial branded products.
Other industries in which branding is amust include:
- Fast food
- Packaged Goods
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III. Types of Brands
A brand cannot be all things to all people.By definition, no one brand is going to appeal to all customers. On the contrary, brandingis based on the concept of singularity — targeting individuals in a personal manner— and therefore precludes the concept of universal appeal. This is why manybrands broaden and widen their appeal by creating tertiary brands or line extenders.
Although most industries and productsor services can benefit from a brand, not every product needs its own stand-alonebrand. Brands can be separated into three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary.
- Primary Brands - This is a company's core brand or umbrella brand. Primary brands typically garner a large percentage of a company's revenue potential and therefore need to be given priority and have a sufficient amount of advertising in order to root them firmly.
- Secondary Brands - These are often line extenders, or 'flankers,' for a core brand. Secondary brands don't need to have their own name; usually a modifier to the brand name will suffice and strengthen the core brand. Take, for instance, a toothbrush called the Crest Deep Sweep. Crest is the core brand, and Deep Sweep is the secondary brand. Line extenders are characterized by having a descriptive term that allows the base brand to be the true selling proposition and the flanker to really designate to the audience what that particular product's key feature or benefits are.
- Tertiary brands - These brands typically have insignificant revenue potentials or expectations, but they contribute to the company's overall image in some way. Therefore, they sometimes don't sport registered brand names, but just descriptors. For example, a garbage bag manufacturer may make a generic-brand bag in addition to its flagship brand. The generic line may bring in minimal revenue for the company, but it fills a need within a niche market so the company continues to manufacture it under the unregistered name Household Trash Bags. Therefore, the generic line is considered a tertiary brand for this company.
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IV. What Goes Into a Brand?
If your product or service is new or unique,thetas of branding is made easier. Since there are no pre-existing biases toward theproduct or service, it will be easy to manipulate customer attitudes.
More often, your product or service willhave been in existence for a while and have direct competition. And if it doesn't, itprobably soon will. Therefore, products that may be roughly equivalent in terms of theirfeatures need to have a brand identity that will impact consumer choice.
Brand identity is comprised of:
- Pricing - a component of value; higher prices may signify to consumers higher quality, and lower prices may suggest decreased value.
- Distribution - availability; limited distribution of a product or service may imply exclusivity to discerning consumers.
- Quality - which impacts satisfaction; obviously, higher quality will translate to more satisfied customers who come back again and again to purchase your offerings.
- Presence - prominence in the paid and unpaid media; products or services with a high-profile market presence will lead to brand recognition and increased sales.
- Awareness - top-of-mind awareness, residual awareness and recognition, which are directly related to presence; the higher your offering's awareness, the better your sales results will be.
- Reputation - enduring public opinion of brand character, which is built over time and difficult to change once established.
- Image - perceptions of brand traits or prototypical buyers; often represented by qualities the consumer relates to. Like reputation, image is difficult to change once established.
- Benefits - consumers may equate certain positive and negative consequences with use of your product or service; these may be warranted or unwarranted.
- Positioning salience - differentiation from the competition, which is established by a combination of all elements of the brand.
- Preference - a predisposition to buy displayed by consumers who are establishing brand loyalty.
- Share of market - increased market share is a direct result of a successful branding campaign.
- Customer commitment - loyalty is built through long-term branding and close consumer contact.
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V. What's in a Name?
The foundation of your brand is its name.After its uniqueness wears off, it will be your brand name against the brand names ofyour competitors in the marketplace. So, how can you create a name that will stand the testof time?
'First, it should be able to communicateon its own without a lot of advertising,' says James Dettore, president of the Brand Institutein Boston. 'It has to be easy to pronounce and have neutral to positive associations around the world,or at least in various languages. Because of the high ethnic influences here in America,you still have to have a name that crosses over many ethic and language barriers.'
Some extremely successful brand namesinclude Google, Calvin Klein, Evian, McDonald's and Nordstrom.
Many companies have committed translation faux pas when they failed to cross reference the brand's name in other languages orcultures. One of the most popular instances was the marketing mishap with the Chevy Nova. Thecar didn't go over well when the Latin consumers, as the vehicle's name in Spanishmeans' It doesn't go.'
More recently, marketers at Reebok obviously didn't dotheir homework when they named their women's running shoe 'Incubus.' Apparently,no one at Reebok was aware of the nightmarish nature of the name: An evil mythologicalspirit believed to descend upon and have sexual intercourse with women as they sleep. Thecompany was mortified and looked into ways it could wipe out the offending name, whichdidn't appear on the $57.99 shoes, but on boxes.
Besides making sure that people from all ormost ethnic backgrounds will accept your brand's name, it should also be memorable and easyto communicate in packaging and advertising.
If possible, the name should also complementthe overall core values of the company. For instance, Pampers was a perfect name forthe diaper line that Procter &Gamble launched in the late 1970s. The name is easy to say, has positive associations, andlinks to the performance of the product. Besides that, the brand came out at a time whencloth diapers were still largely popular with mothers. By the name alone, mothers could makethe switch to disposable diapers that were more convenient without feeling that theproduct would compromise the comfort, or pampering, of their child.
In cases of large companies, a brand namecan help propel a product or service through the marketplace. In other instances,particularly with younger brands, the descriptiveness of the name can have a strong influence onhow well it's accepted (i.e., Aleve, America Online, Performa). For others, the name hasno meaning at all until broader identity building programs are built around the name (suchas ESPN, Foster's Lager, Tide laundry detergent).
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How To Keep Your Brand Promises Before You Make Them Hear
VI. Brand Positioning
A. Characteristics of the Campaign
Positioning is the art of creating a brandthat can persuade and realistically demonstrate its relevance to a customer's daily lifeto become his or her regular choice.
Positioning is not created by the marketeror the individual brand itself, but by how others perceive it. In fact, Kosgrove saysthat the brand is not created by the marketer at all, but rather by the customer.Marketers don't create the positioning; rather, they create the strategic and tacticalsuggestions to encourage the customer to accept a particular positioning in his or her mind.
For instance, bread and milk are notbranded items, and despite companies' push to try and brand the two products, no company hasfound much success building brand equity. When customers want either one of those stapleitems, they usually choose what is on sale or what is available on their local grocer'sshelves. Beer and cola, on the other hand, are heavily branded product categories: Consumershave formed a relationship with and will search out their preferred brands.
To position your offering properly, you need to identify the key attributes or benefits that represent the value of your product or service. That will, in turn, create trust in your brand. As you begin to understand the relationship that your customers have with your brand, you will be able to more efficiently meet their needs, wants and desires through your brand. 'Positioning is everything,' says Dettore. 'Positioning studies identify the audience according to their needs, expectations and wants. Those drivers then come into developing products and services that best fit those audiences' needs and wants.'
While marketers do not literally position brands, they can have a significant influence on how they are positioned. Several characteristics can work in a positioning campaign, such as:
- Relevance to a customer's lifestyle - The more apparent the connection is between the brand and the prospect's daily activities, the greater the chances are that the prospect will buy that product. Relevance, or the connection that the prospect has to the brand identity, is how customers ultimately decide which brands to buy and which they will discard.
Ask yourself: Is the identity of the brand too young for my target market? Is it too old? Is it too upscale?
- Promises backed by support - Benefits need to be backed with some sort of persuasive reason to believe the product's hype. Many times, products or services have some formula or patent that is 'unique' from all the other brands out there. Why do we trust Pantene shampoo, for instance? Because we believe in the brand's 'revolutionary' Pro-V formula that leaves hairs strong and healthy. Why do we believe Secret antiperspirant will keep women smelling sweet? Because 'it's pH balanced for a woman, and not a man.'
Ask yourself: What promises are you making about your brand? Can my products or services follow through on those promises?
- Message of the brand Is clear and focused - No matter how brilliant a strategy you have, you need to be clear about the message. Some examples of crystal clear campaigns include 'Gillette - The Best a Man Can Get' or 'Choosy Moms Choose Jif.'
Ask yourself: Are my messages in line with what I want to convey about my products and services? Are there messages that can be misconstrued? If so, how can I change them to be more accurate?
- Message of the brand Is appropriate - Have you ever seen a commercial on TV that seems to come from left field? It grabbed your attention, but told you nothing about the product or service, and it seemed inappropriate for what is being sold. For instance, financial institutions can't effectively work humor into their ads because the preconceived notion is that banks are not supposed to be fun or entertaining. The message that you send needs to be appropriate to the product or service you are trying to brand.
Ask yourself: Are my advertising messages in line with the image I'm trying to convey about my company, products and services? If not, could they be hurting, rather than helping, the brand?
- Product Is the genuine article - Many successful companies build customer trust by claiming to be the real McCoy. For instance, Pace Picante sauce tells you that they are not the brand from New York City. Coke tells you that 'It's the Real Thing,' 'Coke Is It' and 'Always Coca-Cola.'
The copy line helps reinforce that this brand is the genuine article for that category of products. Even service companies can make claims to being the real deal. AT&T's True Voice lets its customers know that they are receiving a level of clarity above what other telecommunication companies carry through their fiber optic lines.
Ask yourself: In what ways are my products and services more 'genuine' than my competitors'? How can I emphasize those elements to give the brand a competitive advantage?
B. Types of Prompts in a Campaign
Once you determine the way in which youcan reach your market, the next thing to look at is how you are going to lure your customerto try your brand. That method is called the 'positioning prompt' of the brand.
A brand can evoke several different typesof prompts. Be aware, however, that positioning prompts are not verifiable scientific hypotheses, and there is a great deal of interpretation and high degree of risk thatis involved in choosing one positioning over the other. That's why it makes sense to lookat alternative positioning types before deciding on which one you will attach to your brand.
1. Quality positioning - Perception of quality is probably oneof the most important elements for a brand to have and can be combined with any of theother prompts below.
'If you look at the most profitable companies in thecountry, they have a very high perception of quality, and it may be different thanmeasured quality,' says Kosgrove. 'Somebody can come in and say, 'My product isbetter.' Look at the computer industry, for instance. People say that Apple is a better product [than the PC]. ButPC manufacturers will say that the PC is better because more people believe in it. Youcan talk about how your product or service is better, but you have to get people to believe in it.'
Quality, or the perception of quality, lies in the mind ofthe buyer. Build a powerful perception of quality, and you will succeed in creating apowerful brand. Al Reis and Laura Reis, authors of 'The 22 Immutable Laws ofBranding,' say the best way to increase perception of quality is to narrow the company's focus.When you narrow a product's focus, they explain, you become a specialist rather thana generalist, and a specialist is perceived to know more, or be of 'higher quality' than a generalist.
Another way to build the perception ofhigh quality is to simply attach a higher price tag to your brand. Most people think thatthey know a high quality product from another, but in reality, things are not always asthey seem. For example, does a Rolex really keep better time than a Timex? Does aMont blanc pen write better than a Cross? Do Sony radios get better reception thatSanyo's? Do Calloway Clubs really improve your golf game? Not really, but all of these brands carry a perception of higher quality because of their higher prices.
Believe it or not, high price is a benefit to some customers.It allows the affluent consumer to obtain psychological satisfaction from the publicpurchase and consumption of a high end product. Of course, the product or service does need tohave some perk or difference to justify the higher price. For instance, Rolex makes aheavier watch than Timex. Mont blanc has a fatter pen than Cross. Calloway clubs have a biggerhead than Titleist. Each of these characteristics gives the perception of quality, butthey don't necessarily improve performance.
2. Value positioning -- Although at one time, itemsthat were considered to be a good 'value' meant that they were inexpensive,that stigma has fallen by the wayside. Today, brands that are considered a value are risingin popularity amongst consumers. In fact, packaged good brands, especially cereals, experienceda backlash when their prices rose too quickly. Private supermarket labels, as wellas smart companies like Quaker, which introduced a breakfast cereal that aims at undercuttingbrands like Kellogg's or Post, have found a strong market. Southwest Airlines isprobably the best example of how a company has been able to offer discount pricesand still keep a strong brand identity. In fact, most of the other major airlineshave followed Southwest's lead by rolling out value-priced flights under new, co-branded names.
3. Feature-driven prompts -- More marketersrely on product/service features to differentiate their brands than any other method.The advantage is that the message is clear, and the positioning will be credible if youstick to the facts about the product. Unfortunately, feature-orientated stances areoften rendered useless if the competition comes out with a faster or more advanced model.
4. Relational prompts -- One of the most effective ways tocreate interest in a brand is to send out a positioning prompt that resonates well withpotential buyers. For instance, Sketchers equates sneakers with cool and that characteristicpasses to all who wear them. When Apple was down on its luck in the overallcomputer marketplace, started asking computer users to liberate themselves from the PC campand' Think Different.' Jeep has created a car and branded apparel for rugged individualists. These brands have achieved positioning based on who buys what theysell, not solely by what they sell.
5. Aspiration positioning -- These are positioning promptsthat offer prospects a place they might like to go, or a person they might like to be, ora state of mind they might like to achieve. The now defunct Joe Camel mascot forCamel cigarettes infuriated parents, anti-smoking lobbyists and the federal governmentfor promoting an identity of cool that young people could aspire to and achieve through smokingtheir cigarettes. And a new campaign from IBM has random people exclaiming,' I am Superman,' because they use a new version of the Lotus Notessoftware program.
6. Problem/solution prompts -- As the name implies,problem/solution prompts show the consumer how a sticky situation can be relieved quickly and easilywith the brand or service. What problem/solution campaigns lack in imagination, theyusually make up for in directness and credibility. Packaged good brands tend to be themost frequent users of problem/solution prompts. For example, frozen meals cut mealpreparation time to minutes. Detergents and cleansers also make good use of these prompts.
7. Rivalry-based positioning -- By definition, positioningdeals with how one brand is thought of compared to its obvious competitors. Therefore, theidea of a rivalry-based position might seem redundant but many campaigns take thisapproach. Laundry detergents, for one, are constantly going head-to-head to prove which one hasthe most power to lift stains. Other campaigns that challenge consumers to be the judgehave cropped up between car companies, garbage bags, even between search engines on the Web.
8. Warm and fuzzy positioning -- Underneath our capitalistdriven needs to consume, we are still docile and emotional animals. As such, many marketersplay on our feelings. In the book, 'Building Brand Identity: A Strategy for Success ina Hostile Marketplace,' author Lynn Upshaw writes, 'How people feel about abrand is oftentimes need- or desire based, which means that emotional or psychological approachescan oftentimes be very effective as positioning prompts.'
Need proof? AT&T's commercials are often tearjerkers,asking friends and family to 'Reach Out and Touch Someone.' Volvo hints thatthrough purchasing their Swedish import cars, you are buying the only real way to 'Drive Safely.'
9. Benefit-driven positioning -- Other brands base theirentire positioning on the fact that they give back to the consumer. Discover credit card,for instance tells customers that 'It Pays to Discover.' Use the card and getmoney back. Discover was among the first major credit cards companies to provide its userswith a financial incentive for using their card. Now nearly all credit cards offer some typeor reward, be it frequent flier miles, discounts on gas or store purchases.
C. Determining Which Position Will Work for Your Brand
To determine which position will work bestfor your company, ask yourself what business you are really in. Similarly, determine whatthe benefits are for your products and services. If you sell computers, for example, you maybe in the business of:
If you sell travel packages, you may be in the business of:
How To Keep Your Brand Promises Before You Make Them Laugh
Next, focus on relevant reality-based customer benefits. After completing thenecessary research and reviewing the relevant examples of positioning, your marketing team shouldbe able to describe a precise customer benefit that can be addressed in some way bythe brand. The team members must be clear on what customer benefits are being offered andhow they are based on real life needs and desires. To accomplish this, have them answerthe following questions:
- Who are your competitors and how are they positioning their brands?
- What can you offer that is different?
- Who would buy our product or service?
- What markets should we target with our brand?
- Do we need to register trademarks for our products or services?
- Are there extension opportunities for these branded products or services? If so, what are they?
- How much advertising support are we going to need for the brand and how much will it cost? Does our budget allow for those costs?
- How descriptive is the brand? Are there ways that it can be improved?
- Can the brand name be pronounced easily? Does it translate well into other languages?
- Are there regulatory issues? If so, how will we overcome them?
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VII. Building Brand Personality
Brands that carry with them a true persona,and the beliefs and experiences similar to a personality make a brand rise to a newlevel. After all, it's hard not to like someone with a good personality. In matters ofbranding, a personality helps to humanize an otherwise inanimate object or service so thata prospect's defenses are lowered. An attractive brand personality can pre-sell theprospect before the purchase, reinforce the purchase decision, and help forge an emotionallink that binds the buyer to the brand for years to come. In such cases, 'you aremore willing to overlook flaws and search for strengths,' writes Upshaw.
According to Kosgrove, small-companybrands usually take on the personality of the entrepreneur who owns them. It's hard, he says,for an entrepreneur to create a brand that is a 180-degree turn against what the founderis like. Therefore, if the founder is a high adventure sports enthusiast, the brandwill probably not be the favorite of a conservative investment banker. 'A brandis everything that your customers know about you,' says Kosgrove. Every contactthey have with you helps to build that brand, good or bad. An entrepreneur or founder, toa large extent, is the brand because the personality and the interest of the founderis going to have a lot to do with the way that the company is perceived by others.'
One entrepreneur whose personalitypermeates every aspect of his brand is Nicholas Graham, founder of Joe Boxer. The off-beat, humorous line of boxer shorts and loungewear that the company produces bears the distinctive image of the zany Graham himself,who is best known for unorthodox marketing antics like shooting an underwear-laden rocketinto space and holding an undergarments 'fashion show' on a transatlantic flighton Virgin Airways.
A brand's personality can offer the singlemost important reason why one brand will be chosen over another, particularly when thereare few product or service features that are different between competing brands.The personality gives the consumer something to relate to that can be more vivid thanthe perceived positioning of the brand.
The personality, in some ways, is much morereal than the other aspects of the brand because it is the outstretched hand that touchesthe customer as an individual.
Although a strong identifiable personalityis not imperative, it can make it easier for customers and prospects alike to understandwhat the marketer has to offer. Even more important, a brand with a distinctive personality presentsthe would-be buyer with something he or she can relate to as an individual, a practicalprerequisite for success in an increasingly individual-driven marketplace. Personalityis usually shown in three ways.
- Provider-driven - Provider-driven images are popular with services because there is a greater need to build confidence between the provider and seller since there is usually an intangible product on the table. Brands that lean heavily on the provider image include insurance companies and financial institutions. Prudential's 'The Rock' and Allstate's 'You're in good hands,' show that the brand is trustworthy and their brands reflect the same attitude.
- Image of the user - Other brands like to show that the people who use the brands are people that you could be friends with, relate to, or want to be like. Many companies with branded products geared toward Generation X and Y use this tactic. However, these generations are also skeptical of marketers and are keenly aware of when a brand is targeting them.
- Image of the product or service - As strange as it may sound, packaged products often take on a personality that consumers can relate to. Whether through a mascot or an animated figurine, products come to life to give consumers more than just a brand to trust, but also a face. For instance, the Pillsbury Doughboy's laugh reinforces that the product will make your family feel good.
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VIII. Strengthening Your Core Brand
Although it has become somewhat of a fadamongst companies, co-branding is a way for businesses to extend their brand's identity andcut expenses by partnering with compatible products and services. For instance, Tropicanaand Chiquita have made numerous fruit juice concoctions by blending their respectivespecialty flavors. And Betty Crocker uses real Hershey's chocolate in their brownie mix.And financial companies have even jumped on the bandwagon. A slew of credit card companieshas-been teaming up with retailers to offer co-branded items such as the L.L. Bean credit card.
On the Web, co-branding, or what is betterknown as strategic relationships, are rampant. Besides content swaps, companies invitebranded products and services to be sold from their sites in what are known as affiliate programs.
Co-branding works because it createsnew excitement for the brands involved. One brand teams with another to offer a productwith an enhanced (or seemingly so) benefit. However, before you jump into a co-branded relationship, ask yourself if the excitement that the deal will bring will build thebrand or sabotage it. Sometimes a co-branding strategy isn't as advantageous as it mayseem, particularly for small companies that oftentimes get overshadowed by larger partners.The larger company receives the added benefits from the smaller company's product, butthe smaller company's brand doesn't really receive much attention.
Check that your potential partner is notonly compatible with your product but also that it won't eclipse your own brand. For instance, Intel's Pentium Processor campaignhas-been so successful that many computer buyers don't care whether they have an IBM or Hewlett-Packard orDell computer. Instead, their question is, 'Does it have Intel inside?' Infact, Intel has been so successful at marketing their brand that the industry now benchmarksthe performance of other semiconductor chips based on Pentium by calling themPentium-like Processors.
No two brands have exactly the same impacton the consumer. Therefore, one partner in every co-branding partnership will receivemore attention than its counterpart. If that risk is accurately assessed and accepted bythe junior partner and it's still a net gain for its brand identity, then the partnershipis sound.
B. Identity Contact
Identity contact is the sum total ofall information and experiences that a customer or prospect has with a brand. As youcan imagine, there are many different ways that a customer can have contact with a brandin such a way that it communicates his or her identity.
'It's the marketing team's jobto prioritize identity contacts and to judge how they might contribute to the brand's identity, and in what way they are relevant to the realities of the consumer'severyday life,' writes Upshaw.
For example, if a software company comes upwith a new version of one of its programs, more can be done than just change a copystrategy and run new advertising; nearly all of the brand identity contacts can be manipulatedto increase emphasis on the new functions of the software. For example:
- The product's packaging can be reprinted so that bursts highlighting a 'New' or 'Improved' version of the program.
- Store salespeople can wear pins alerting customers to ask them about the new software features.
- Support staff can tell current users that there is a new version available when they call for help or service on the older version of the software.
- The company can highlight the new product at trade shows or conventions.
- A press release can be generated about how programs need to keep pace with the demands of the workplace and provide proper functionality.
The following chart details some other popular examples of brand identity contacts:
|Brand||Example Brand Identity Contract||Contribution to Brand Identity|
|Pep Boys||Follow-up phone call after servicing the car.||Reminder that the auto maintenance shop cares about customer service; method to check up on efficiency/courtesy of service department; opportunity to remind customer of upcoming sales.|
|McDonald's||Ronald McDonald Houses for the families of seriously ill children.||In addition to its humanitarian value, RM houses remind parents of McDonalds' commitment to the American family.|
|MCI||Electronic billboard tabulating how much MCI customers have saved by using its services.||Brand-name registration in compelling way; reminder of savings positioned; revisable numbers send signal that MCI is on top of what's happening in prices.|
|Nike||Advertisements with athletes of Olympic or star stature. Close-up of Nike logo on shoes of player in NBA championship or on Tiger Woods in PGA Gold Tours.||Brand associated with the best athletes in their sport; reinforcement of superior quality or product and prestige of being worn by winners.|
Source: Building Brand Identity: AStrategy for Success in a Hostile Marketplace
Identity contacts are important because theycan set a tone for subsequent contacts with the company and the brand. GM's Saturn is one brand that has beenable to establish the commitment of the brand before a customer even walks into theshowroom.' Saturn said, 'We are not going to sell the car; we are going to sell thecompany's brand,' says Kosgrove. 'They say 'We are a different kind of car company,and we are going to prove it.' They do that by making sure that every point of contact witha customer is going to be completely different. When a customer enters the showroom,they see people in matching polo shirts rather than suits, and the showroom itself is cleanand friendly, not slick. And when there is a service problem, they give coffee anddoughnuts to the people when they come in, instead of being crabby with them and makingthem wait.'
The result, says Kosgrove, is that the brandis known as just what they said it was — 'A Different Kind of Car Company'— even though they are still selling the same products that every other carcompany is.
Grassroots marketing is a formof branding that has really hit its stride in the last few years. Sponsorships ofeverything from local baseball teams to non-mainstream musical events have been sought bymarketers looking to carry their brands into the customer's backyard.
Vans, ashoe company in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., has led the way in sponsoring events that theiryounger customers care about. The sneaker company has become synonymous with alternativesports by hosting events in the skateboarding, BMX biking and snow boarding categories. Besides just sporting events, events where shoes are a prerequisite,the company has done well stepping into other areas of their customers' lifestyles.Vans sponsors the very popular alternative Warped Tour, an alternative music festivalthat combines other types of cutting-edge live entertainment. Last summer's rovingtour featured punk and 'ska' bands as well as pro demos from skateboarders,in-line skaters, rock climbers and BMX bikers. In past years, the tour has also featuredthe Mega-Pump Climbing Wall Competition and Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation.
Nantucket Nectars has also garnered fame by usinggrassroots promotion strategies. The juice company sponsors two Winnebagos to roam thecountryside and entice consumers to become 'juice guys.'
Smaller companies, while they may not havethe budget to get involved with paying the gas and living expenses of sending two employeeson a cross-country jaunt to spread the word about their brand, can easily sponsorcommunity events. East Providence Cycle, a bike shop in East Providence, R.I., for instance,tune-up students' bicycles on a local college campus to get them ready for theback-and-forth trips from the dorms to classes. The business also sets up makeshift service shopsoff area bike paths on sunny summer days.
'You want to look at what yourcustomers care about,' says Kosgrove. 'If you have a retail business in aneighborhood, you may want to focus on a charitable or community organization in your neighborhoodand make a commitment to it so people understand that you are committed to the community.Ask yourself: What do my customers care about, and how can I get involved in those things?'
D. Word of Mouth
Whether it is planned or not, word of mouthis well worth the effort it takes to generate it. 'Word of mouth is still consideredthe most potent marketing communication of all because it's dispensed by the mostcredible sources of all — ordinary citizens who don't carry a built-in bias ofcommercial sponsors,' writes Upshaw. 'When your company is lucky enough to bethe beneficiary of word of mouth, your identity problems may be over, and your capacity problemsmay just be beginning.'
Some of the better known beneficiaries ofword of mouth phenomena: the Wii, the videogame system sensation of Christmas 2008 that sent parentsinto shopping frenzies, and Zhu Zhu Pets, the hot toy in 2009.
Snapple also hit it big when kids started passing the word aboutthe delicious iced tea beverage. The company capitalized on that by highlighting the wordof mouth phenomena in its television ads, going out to ask people who wrote to the companyif their passion for Snapple was really true. In one memorable ad, the ex-Mayor of NewYork City, Ed Koch, visits a young fan from the Midwest to ask if he really believesthat' Snapple is the only good thing to have come out of New York.'
For Web-based brands, word of mouth canwork extremely well. For instance, the company US Wings, which sells genuine military jackets and gear, hasnever posted an advertisement online. Instead, the company has relied on word of mouthto promote its brand and Web site during its four-year history. The founder, SergeantDave Hack, says that by staying true to its mission, the company has been able togenerate positive promotion on the Web. 'We are selling something with quality andvalue. People are going to tell other people,' he says. 'It snowballs, and you endup with something that is very positive.'
While it is difficult to intentionallygenerate a positive word of mouth branding strategy, it can be done if you have the rightproduct and the right strategy. It also doesn't hurt to have something extremely unique, be itthe product or the promotional vehicle.
One word of caution: Brands that arepropelled by word of mouth often run out of steam quickly since most tend to be just fads ortrends. Competitors are also quick to duplicate the product or service being hyped. Oncestrong word of mouth is achieved, the company needs to convert the brand into something thatwill sustain the hype. For instance, after Snapple's success, nearly every beveragecompany came out with their own line of iced tea — each one with a different gimmick, beit sun-brewed, spring-filtered, ginseng-fortified, or some other herbal concoction. Afterthe onslaught of the copycat brands, the company's earnings slid. Snapple was smart tosell its brand to the Quaker Company in 1994 for $1.7 million.
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IX. Creating an Online Identity
Online companies are putting branding towork with remarkable success. 'The Internet helps promote companies' products in avery efficient manner and especially to all audiences in all parts of the world,'says Dettore. 'Typical advertising media hit only a segmented or regional strategy, sothe Internet is one of the most cost effective ways to brand.'
Kosgrove says that companies that want to build their brand online may actually havean advantage over brands in the physical world since there is the opportunity to startfreehand have new associations. 'Any long established brand has had bad experiences,and there are mistakes that have been made in the past,' he says. 'Whereas ifyou are fresh and new, you have a clean slate.'
In short, e-branding is very important andmust be taken into consideration. John Lynch, from Synnetry, an online marketing firm says, 'Sites need tobe branded so that the consumer can have confidence in the site and is willing to makea purchase there.'
Some tactics to build an online brand include:
1. Selection and speed -- Online brandsdon't usually tout themselves as cheap. The main benefit is that they are going to be fast,and they will have a large selection.
That tactic is certainly true with largeonline stores such as Amazon, 'The World's Largest Bookstore.' The company can'toffer the warm, friendly environment that Borders can, says Kosgrove, but they can promiseto ship you the book of your choice practically overnight.
2. Customization -- Another way that brandscan differentiate themselves is by providing online customized solutions and productsfor visitors based on information that they plug into registration forms.
The Web allows companies to take on new edgeor benefit that a company would not be able to use in the real world. For instance, apet food brand on the store shelf does not have many choices about the positioning ofits product. Online, however, a company can brand itself as more than just a dogfood supplier, but rather as an animal nutrition expert, says Lynch. The site can walkvisitors through a personalized analysis based on the animal's needs and activity level.
Once the information is entered intothe database, answers are compressed, data is cross referenced, and information tellingyou which formula of food your pet should be consuming is spit out. 'Then it isn't justa bag of dog food, but nutritional care for your animal,' says Lynch.
There is no way that a pet food company wouldbe able to gain that brand identity in the real world. 'What pet store owner is goingto carry that message for the ped information telling you which formula of food your pet should be consuming is spit out. 'Then it isn't just a bag of dog food, but nutritional care for your animal,' says Lynch.
There is no way that a pet food company would be able to gain that brand identity in the real world. 'What pet store owner is going to carry that message for the pet food manufacturer to the pet food buyer?' asks Lynch.
'Through the Internet, they are allowed to create a better position for themselves than they could if they were going through regular distribution channels.'
For additional reading on this topic, see Personalization Strategies to Attract and Retain Customers.
3. Using Interactivity -- Creating services that other Web companies don't have will ensure that your brand is stronger than the rest. Luckily, the Web is the perfect place to do just that. Unlike other media, online customers can interact with the brand and its identity in a way that no other medium can offer.
Ways to increase contact and keep your brand in front of people include creating:
- Targeted emails
- Message boards
- Advice columns
4. Build a community -- Community is the other buzz online. If your brand can stimulate a community around it, then it has a powerful ally. For a community to be successful, you need to have a category that will engage people and spur them to want to talk with one another. For instance, people seem to never tire about the wonders of the Apple computer. The company's brand is the focus of debates and discourses in the computer world. Customers, prospects and critics of the brand have strong opinions about what they like and don't like, which leads to many opportunities for community interaction.
Some other points to keep in mind when building an online community include:
- Members must share common interests and get satisfaction from connecting with others
- Members should be able to participate in something such as a forum, chat group, auction, or join mailing lists or user groups
- Give members something to care about by establishing a clear economic or social benefit; personalize user experience through interactivity with other members and develop opportunities for common leadership/ownership;
- Encourage early and steady contributors.
5. Form Strategic Alliances -- Like co-branding, strategic partnerships between Web brands can help strengthen identity, enhance visibility and increase revenues for companies.
'If someone comes to your site and sees you link with other people that they respect, they are going to feel good about being on your site,' says Kosgrove. Good alliances on the Web allow traffic to flow between sites that have a common interest.
One way that synergistic sites can partner is by swapping banner ads. 'If your site sells ties, it would be good to form a relationship with a store that sells shirts. Anyone who buys a shirt is going to want to buy a tie,' says Lynch. Scrubs 5 spanish. 'Synergistic sites can swap banner ads usually without any fee being paid.'
One of the best ways that an e-commerce site can partner with other sites is to embed themselves within another company's site. For instance, each time you purchase a package from an e-retailer, chances are that you are also giving business to UPS or Federal Express. Both shipping companies invite companies to use their software to calculate shipping weights and secure deliveries to the purchaser's home. Federal Express also allows catalog companies like Lands End to move Federal Express data to their own Web sites so that Lands End customers can track their packages' progress.
Dell Computer Corp. partners with smaller computer dealers online to let customers configure their own computers. It may look as if you are on Joe's Computer Shack Web site, but actually Dell has lent Joe software so customers can customize their PC. 'The best sites in the world, in terms of traffic and selling, are the ones that you don't even know that you are going to,' says Lynch. 'You are not spending all the promotion money, and you are multiplying your promotional money by many times because you have other people who are trying to get people to go to their site who in turn are at your site.
6. Building credibility -- Since competition is only a few clicks away, the standard for customer support must be higher for the Web than it is in the off-line world. The most essential aspect of customer support on Web sites is to respond to every request for information with accurate answers or corrective actions within competitive time frames.
'If your other communications look warm and friendly and you brand yourself as service-oriented, but your Web sight is impossible to navigate and doesn't have an email response or is just kind of clunky, people are going to say, 'I thought you were someone else but now I know who you really are',' says Kosgrove.
So be sure you do your homework about what goes into a strong Web site. This is of the utmost importance when you are building a new brand or bringing a new brand to the online arena. Some of the basics that your Web site should have include:
- Personal Domain Name
- Contact Information
- Simple site design and navigation
- Easy to identify prices, if applicable
- Quick server response
7. Dedication to Service - Online customers have little opportunity to see your brand's dedication to service. If your customer service skills aren't up to par, however, it's likely that a customer won't come back to interact with your brand or your site.
Despite that logic, market watcher Jupiter Communications found that 42 percent of the top-ranked Web sites either took longer than five days to reply to customer email inquiries, never replied, or were not accessible by email.
'This effort illustrates that many Web sites have been unable or unprepared to respond to the flood of user questions that come in via email from their sites,' says Ken Allard, group director of Jupiter's Site Operation Strategies. 'Answering thousands of questions per month is an enormous challenge for sites offering complex products and services, especially if they never had a traditional call center. Yet companies that delay responses to user questions instantly lose a significant degree of credibility and user loyalty, and not responding perpetuates the consumer notion that using the Web site is not a reliable method of doing business with that company.'
One way to solve the email deluge is to take advantage of 'auto-acknowledge' software that responds to all incoming requests stating that the question was received and estimates a time frame for how long it will take to respond to the question.
While email is the primary communication tool, it is not the be-all, end-all of customer service. Companies that want to attach a sense of dedication to their brand should think about having a call center, support staff or other communication tools that will help strengthen the relationship between your brand and customer.
How To Keep Your Brand Promises Before You Make Them Cry
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Al Reis & Laura Ries, 'The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding' (Harper Business, 1998)
Lynn B. Upshaw, 'Building Brand Identity, A Strategy for Success in a Hostile Marketplace' (John Wiley, 1995)
Greg Helmstetter, 'Increasing Hits and Selling More on Your Web Site' (John Wiley, 1997)
The Brand Institute
Web Marketing Today
How To Keep Your Brand Promises Before You Make Them Knowing
Lindsay, Stone and Briggs
copyright © 2013 virtual advisor, inc.face='Helvetica, Arial size=' 2'=''>copyright © 2013 virtual advisor, inc.>