Jun 12 2021
The conventional brand strategists and marketing companies may find it hard to believe, but there was a time when they thought they knew everything they needed to work in active marketing or build their brand strategy. Of course, they may have been naive, but they had decades of experience under their belt and tons of successes. But that all changed with digital and social media.
Brand managers of marketing companies discovered that there were so many things they didn’t know or had to learn daily. They should feel overwhelmed, but they should decide to do something productive about it. They must start reading blogs and tech publications, following the platforms and thought leaders, finding out about the latest digital trends, writing about them, and testing them out. They should feel like a student again and must love that.
In this hi-fi, technologically advanced world, one should be excited about experiencing and witnessing ever-progressing digital marketing trends. This era of brand builders needs to cover what’s new and how the changes affect brand business and what other companies are doing to adapt. Every day is a new day in today’s technically savvy brand world. A new video gives even more motivation to these brand warriors to keep up with the latest and greatest and share what they find with others. Never let your guards down to grab mobile devices, AR glasses, VR headsets, and ready to let jump on the digital trends express.
Digital Trends, Ideas, and Insights
Brands have a new superpower. Their presence in social media news nowadays has more relevance to their brand image and awareness than anything else. All brands, global or local, should spend time and resources to boost their aura in social media news by espousing the latest trends and changes. Most importantly, they must ready to shift their digital focus for the sake of the brand’s future. Some digital trends are here to stay for some time and brands should focus on gaining full benefits.
Paying for follows and paying for merchandise, voice AI and book talk? These are some of the recent trends and changes that brands should benefit from them.
Twitter just announced super follow, a new feature that lets users subscribe to a creator’s feed for a fee and then get access to exclusive content. The company’s also rolling out interspace communities which may be a way for creators to get up close and personal with those paying fans. But you have to wonder what it will take to create tweets so amazing users will be willing to pay.
Regarding payments, Shopify’s opening up its shop pay system to more channels. Now, merchants can offer shop pay to customers who want to purchase Facebook and Instagram. It makes good sense for online stores to go the extra step for customers, let them discover a product on social and then get a no-hassle checkout right on the app.
Microsoft’s launching its custom neural voice studio, which lets companies synthesise the voices of existing actors quickly and easily if, say, there’s a copy change, or your company could work with Microsoft to create an original synthetic voice. Availability is limited, and brands need to apply — this kind of takes the notion of a unique brand voice to a whole new level.
Finally, TikTok’s customising adds to user interest, allowing brands to be more targeted with sponsored content. One of the newest viral hits on TikTok is something called book talk. In these short videos, creators post emotional reviews of their favourite novels, having a direct and positive impact on book sales and causing publishers to turn the page on their marketing plans.
Zoom, the video conferencing app, is zooming in on virtual events. With the company’s new OnZoom platform, brands can host and record a conference, training, or other events for between a hundred to a thousand attendees. Brands can collect registrations and payments right on Zoom, making the process seamless for themselves and their target customers.
Speaking of video, Instagram announced it’s extending the length of its live streaming from one to four hours. Brands will be able to archive a stream or upload it to IGTV. Perhaps that’s because more influencers are using live video to showcase and sell the products they’re promoting, or maybe Instagram wants to be the place for an old-fashioned telethon in case those ever get a digital revival.
Snapchat’s latest offering is designed to help influencers get more business from brands. They’re letting creators show their follower counts right on their profile page. If a brand wants to work with one of them, they can see their reach at a glance. Snapchat also launched Snap Connect, a free certification that teaches digital marketers how to drive value from their e-commerce, gaming, or app direct response ads.
Many companies don’t like to admit it, but the skills you have in one industry are often transferable.
With LinkedIn’s Career Explorer, marketers can now discover related opportunities where they might be a good fit. The product looks at candidates’ profiles and compares current experience and skills with the expertise and skills companies may need in another field. It recommends training courses that could fill in the gaps. That makes marketing companies more hire-able and opens up a whole new set of future possibilities.
An old App is trying to reinvent itself. Foursquare, known for location sharing, created Marsbot. This augmented reality voice app uses your location and whispers tips on the restaurants, attractions, and businesses you may be passing right through anybody’s AirPods.
Taboola, the sponsored content site that recommends posts you may like, has just jumped into the stories fray. Now brands can create short posts with swipe-up links and Taboola will present them on top media sites and marketing companies will have another way to reach customers with visual content that lives directly on trusted websites rather than on social media or apps.
Speaking of stories, brands can now embed swipe-up links right in their LinkedIn stories and measure how effective brand stories drive traffic to their site and helping achieve brand goals. On LinkedIn, the company’s new marketing labs offer free, curated courses on optimising ads and sponsored posts.
In the seeing is believing category, the YouTube mock-up tool gives brands a simple way to see how a brand’s ad will be displayed before it runs, upload the video, choose the ad type, and then preview how it will look on desktop, tablets, and mobile devices. Marketers can share the visual with colleagues or in a client presentation because a picture can be more effective than a thousand persuasive words. Moreover, YouTube’s turning the page on hashtags, literally. The company recently introduced hashtag landing pages. Users click on a hashtag and are taken to a collection of similarly themed videos. This could provide another excellent avenue for potential customers to engage with the brand.
Knowledge about digital marketing trends is an edge over other competing brands and companies stay on top of digital marketing trends, and it is necessary to share sight and sound experiences with others. But it isn’t just about what’s new. It is also collective efforts for the knowledge sharing sake to act upon that how marketers apply their strategic and creative minds to the latest digital innovations and how they test, learn, and adapt. Everybody must understand that this is a journey of discovery we’re all on together.
May 31 2021
At any time look back at history, one conclusion is evident, almost all civilisations and even religions got grown-up on stories, shared stories which install themselves in the collective unconscious through oral or written transmission. Just think about holiest of holy text, Ancient Harapan culture, or the foundation of any faith. Beliefs, ideologies, and Cosmo visions have been shaped by an innovation shared through time, which established strong links with a family, a piece of land, a culture, et cetera.
Good stories are a priceless asset, being spontaneously passed through generations as a way of coming to terms with mankind, the universe, or societies. If someone need more proof about the value of words, think for a minute about the power of satire, the use of words that ridicule someone or something, a person, a family, a corporation, a government, which in some cases casts a spell which may stick to their name for decades or even centuries.
People forget facts, names, faces but remember stories, simply relate to humans more than we do to a message or a fact. People care for a narrative where we can find other human beings with us, or our loved ones can identify themselves with. It’s like the conversation so many times heard in the business section of newspapers, what will interest readers more? A highbrow and cold chronicle on the increase of petroleum prices? Or a story about the effects of the appreciation of wheat in some unfortunate communities? Both stories are necessary of course.
Although we depend on the type of media we’re talking about and its audience, you can be pretty sure which one will attract more readers, and which one will stay longer in their memories. Because stories enhance memory, stories with emotions, hookup with our already existing knowledge, and engage with the same parts of our brain which are responsible for the keeping of our memory.
Furthermore, stories create neural coupling in our brains. They synchronize the user’s brain with a teller’s mind. This happens mainly because neurons find the same patterns which ends up connecting them both emotionally. Stories also help to create vivid mental images.
Processing stories lights up a larger part of the brain than pure facts, as the brain response to story events as if they were actually happening to the listener, engaging all the sensors and the motor cortex in the brain.
Finally, stories have the power to even change the brain’s chemistry. Even the simplest one can trigger the release of neurochemicals like cortisol or oxitosin, that heighten our attention and make us more empathic. Happy endings as we know, trigger releases of dopamine that makes us feel optimistic towards the future.
So, coming back to core arguments, instead of bombarding citizens with messages they don’t give a damn about, often people with attention disorders that will be watching TV while using other devices at the same time, why not invite them to be part of something which they’re really interested in?
It’s more complex of course, but infinitely more rewarding. Creating a brand narrative stretches far beyond creating new Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. Paid media creates temporary buzz if it’s not sustained by a strong budget over several years. Nothing pays off better than creating good stories to engage our users at a different level. It’s tempting to think that new technologies will change marketing forever with some magical metric that consolidates a new business model.
But online advertising still doesn’t work like the offline one, and technology won’t save you or build your cohesion narrative. You must have thinking about the user and often content here or she can bond with, like it happens nowadays in media, although, in some cases we must say unfortunately so.
When it says that what’s old is new again, it is referring to the power of a good story, and it is referring to the word of mouth, a very old concept. In the end, it comes down to word of mouth with new and much more powerful dissemination tools. Nobody, not even the most traffic-oriented sites in the world know for sure what’s going to work content-wise.
It is necessary for brands and their marketing companies to start planning strategically-fit editorial process, and learn step-by-step what works or does not work for target audience. If companies give enough time for some trial and error, the companies will probably find next year doing things companies had not even imagined.
For any brand, advertising is the voice of the brand. What brand likes to communicate, advertising is the source to convey the message to consumers to inform to pursue and to entertain. Through advertising, brands inform about core benefits, purpose and awareness. Persuasion creates consumer urge for the brand. Entertainment engages consumers and attracts their attention.
To drive awareness, brands need to stand out, be seen and engage consumers. The best strategy for the brand is to budget advertising money as much as it can be possible. To invest in mass media to gain entry into the consumer’s mind using TV, digital, viral video, out of home, or magazine. Where it makes sense, sponsorships, and experiential events can increase the consumer’s familiarity with the brand.
To move consumers to the consideration stage, use influencers to teach those seeking to learn more. Use public relations to make the brand part of the news, whether through traditional, social, or blogger channels.
For more complex or higher risk purchase decisions, consumers will rely on search for almost everything, even if to confirm what makes sense. Marketers can use search sites, such as Google, expert review sites, and online content, or long copy print media.
Media options to help trigger purchase, include point-of-sale advertising, with in-store signage, displays, and sales materials to prompt consumers at the purchase moment. Remarketing is a great tool to push consumers who might feel stuck at the consideration stage to reconsider and buy.
It is crucial to engage and to connect consumers through the media plan and it is more crucial to create media content that explains the real purpose of the brand to fascinate brand story where consumers are most willing to engage, listen, think, feel, and act in ways that payback to the brand.
The purpose cannot be fulfilled without the understanding of consumers’ life moments with a clear understanding of emotional benefits as pursued by the consumers. Media creative execution should be patched with emotional benefits for the consumers, linked closely to the consumer’s life moments. An excellent tool to use is to map out the “day-in-the-life” of the target consumer and place messages where they are most likely to engage. Using consumer insights to make the messages personal to make consumers feel special and attached to the brand.
Media plan must begin shifting to a maintenance media plan, enough to maintain the brand’s leadership presence and perception. Stay aware of the competitive activity, which may force to adjust budget levels. At this point, the brand can shift some of media resources into enhancing the consumer experience, to retain happy consumers, and to drive a deeper love to harness an army of brand lovers. The brand can begin creating shareable experiences for brand lovers to share with their friends.
Days were gone when Old-school marketing used to yell their messages at every possible consumer using mass media, then move consumers naturally through the brand funnel from awareness to purchase and loyalty. With so few media choices, consumers could not escape the advertising. If consumers did not respond the first time, show it to them again and again. Back in the days, it was all about the interruption of consumers, with brands focused primarily on day-after brand recall. Many times, the more annoying the ad, the better it would work. This media planning is not quite the sophisticated media strategy brands need today.
New-school marketing whispers to the most loyal brand fans, hoping they drive awareness with influence on their friends. The word of a friend will bring more influence to their purchase decision than a random TV ad. As the brand moves to the masses, consumers look for the advice of trusted peers whom they respect to know enough about the latest and greatest of the category. They also look to the brand lovers, giving them evidence the brand does deliver what it promises.
In the end, it is imperative that media plan should map out where consumer open to listening. Brands must strategies media plan to place media on the part of the consumer’s life where they will watch, listen, learn, engage, decide, and act. Align with life moments, whether they are parts of the day, the week, the year, or even milestone moments in their life. And win the hearts and minds of the consumers.
In today’s fast-paced marketing world, it is essential to create awesome balancing alignment among business, brand and behaviour. The alignment has great potential to gain a new customer baseline and further enhancing consumer values. This balancing act is the most crucial aspect while planning brand strategy and special focus should be considered at the start of the brand architecture.
It is important to understand this alignment to its core and what does the alignment mean? It is not just a stand-alone theory it is a combination of various aspects, especially a major act of behaviours. Besides, the alignment must keep focus for the collective efforts of the company, brand custodians and interactive characteristics to keep synergy.
The alignment must be fully focused to collaborate business, brand and behaviour. On the business side, thinking about the organizational purpose, organizational vision, organizational mission, organizational strategies. At the brand level, it’s about the customer value proposition, brand positioning. And the behaviour level, it is about organizational values, employee value proposition, organizational competency framework, organizational leadership model.
All of these are various codes of behaviour that the companies subscribe to their people, their employees to take part in. And they think about the relationship between these, are companies’ strategies pulling all in the same direction or are pulling all in different directions and ultimately also think about the relationship between these at a more fundamental level. Companies need to think about the business, does it allow a certain brand to come to fruition to build a certain brand, maybe the company’s heritage.
On the other hand, if companies think from the brand to the business, what is the right business structures, systems, processes, that bring their brand to life? That allows it to exist? That support it? If the company think about the behaviours, it’s also a two-way street from the brand. On the one hand, gatekeepers can think about well, what is the organizational culture? What are the behaviours, that they need to exist to deliver the brand? But it is not easy because at the corporate level strategy gatekeepers have pushed this to the extreme, to build and have a strong organizational culture. Above all, they must ponder upon on a point that what are the types of brands that they can support?
This alignment need goes both ways if companies think about these balls swinging back-and-forth. Now, this is not just an internally focus exercise. The public eye is increasingly on the alignments of these various components. This alignment between the three B’s is not just something that companies need to be concerned with internally. For operational; purposes but it’s part of the reputation, the way consumers and competition observe and evaluate in the market place.
Designing brand experience is an artistic approach to the brand purpose that can be an important aspect of winning consumer’s heart and mind and mapping consumer journey. In today’s brandy-brand world, like everything else in brand management designing purposeful brand experience is the most sought-after brand strategy. The process is intense and required well-designed game-plane because it is about how do companies go about designing experiences, as a way to differentiate their brands, it might be useful to think about how companies think of differentiation in the more traditional sense.
One-way companies have visualized is differentiation through performance curves, which is also known as value curves. But what companies are doing that they are going from the various attributes that their products and services have to the consumer benefits. And then they ask themselves for this consumer benefits. For example, how white is any company washing powder wash, or how reliable is any company’s service? And of course, the most important one may be or one of the most important ones is it is affordable. Companies must know what cost is offering it? Is your brand affordable to the customers? And the companies can kind of visualize that the value companies provide based on that. And companies can think about well how do they line up. Companies must consider the comparison to the competition and look for those points of difference. Now, these tend to be kind of measurable components of the companies offering, quality dimensions, and tend to be quite functional as a result. Now if that’s the spine that’s driving company’s differentiation that passed, things have shifted quite a bit. The spine for an experienced delivery is the customer journey.
What are the different journeys one company’s different customers go through as they interact with their offering over time, and across different parts of the organization? Whereas service in the old model tends to be quite reactive, problem-oriented. This is real events and experiences companies should have that kind of celebrate the brand, and maybe shine a bright light onto where the companies have a point of difference, in terms of the brand purpose or the brand positioning. And importantly, it’s also about making that journey as smoothly as possible. Just from an experience standpoint, and just to what any brand appetite is to think of the most mundane products or services and how companies can enhance them with an experience. And of course, for some brands, the experience is core to their brand promise. For Disney, the magical experience you have in their theme parks. For Nespresso, the experience you have in making coffee.
Of course, companies want to offer an experience which can benefit them in building their brand image. In very unsurprising ways, things companies don’t think or even observe as companies, they destroy the customer experience. Moments which we think are insignificant, like two staff members talking to each other In the store might be seen not as insignificant, but as indifferent or signally indifference towards the customer. So really nothing is neutral when it comes to the experience and it’s sometimes taking those very mundane aspects of the experience and branding them.
For example, Singapore, where the brand is about customer service. The flight attendant, which they’re called in the old days at least, Singapore girls, if you went to the bathroom, you would return and you would see your seatbelt folded in a certain way on the aeroplane. Which signalled the attention to detail, the service orientation, of the company. And many companies have also transformed themselves from being product providers to experience providers.
Another example from Hong Kong is Hong Kong Gas or Town Gas. They isolate. Now, these are monopoly providers. Their competitor is electricity providers in Hong-Kong and them kind of really went down that route of efficiency. So, how do I provide you with this commodity, the gas at a lower price?
And the first app they produced was also to, you could read your gas meter by yourself. We didn’t have to invest in the cost of the person coming to your home and reading your meter. But then something happened inside the company, they asked themselves the question, well who are our best customers? Why are they using gas? And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our best customers are those who love cooking. They cook with a very high hit in those works, they use a lot of gas so they said, well, what is the purpose of us providing gas? And that purpose became very much around cooking. And rather than using the mobile app to reduce cost. They said, well how can we enhance that brand purpose? So how can we share with our consumers’ recipes, for example? How can we give them tips for cleaning their pots? And rather than preventing our people from visiting our customers. Let’s think about all the touchpoints we have and turn them into kind of the voice of the customer. They learn about the customer so we can enhance our services and customer experience. They visited their customers much more than the companies that made the woks or even designed the kitchens and they became such experts, that they have their range of kitchenware. They even have a restaurant called Flame, where they have cooking demonstration classes for their customers. And this permeates the entire organization, the senior management including the CEO will spend time visiting customers in their home to be reminded of the purpose, which is really about the customer experience around cooking. And surprisingly they’ve won major awards and they’ve continued to win major awards for their services going forward. They’ve also built such a strong customer relationship that they now have their credit card service and gas you might imagine is really about safety. They even offer insurance to their customers. They’ve gone from providing a commodity product which is gas. To a customer relationship around cooking and safety in the broader sense. They now own the customer relationship and it’s transformed their business.
Companies can already see in that story from Hong Kong gas, their seven or at least seven stages in terms of designing and delivering on a customer experience that is on-brand. The first one starts by understanding what the brand purpose is from an experiential component. It’s about doing. Why am I doing this? Why am I buying this product? And that’s really, one can call it designing the purpose and if you think about it, well for Hong Kong Towngas, this was about cooking. For Nike, it might be about running. And to understand what that purpose is, from a doing standpoint, that already puts companies into the realm of experiences. And then companies think about that purpose.
The second step is to understand the customer journey, and you want to map that out. What are all the different “things” that customers are doing? Well, they’re learning about your product. They’re navigating the information. They are buying. They’re trying. They’re using. They’re disposing of. These are all different events, if you will, in that journey. And you want to map those out, not just from a basic service standpoint, but from a brand standpoint. Is it undermining companies brand promise, or is it demonstrating, delivering on the brand promise? Not like slapping your logo on something, but maybe like in the Apple store, the idea of creating, being creative, being evident at each of those steps and adding up consistently.
Now to deliver on that, of course, companies have to map the various touchpoints of the organization against those different moments that matter in the customer journey, that’s the third aspect. Think about your organization, how it has all those various silos. And the customer is cutting across them over time. Across these different touchpoints.
The fourth step then is to think about, well how do I go from maybe a generic or poorer experience to creating one that is meaningful, rich, and on-brand. How do I express the brand experientially? That’s the fourth step.
Worldwide companies can sometimes go wrong in understanding how brand value is created for the consumer. In other words, companies lack to understand value creation in branding at all. Instead of creating efficiency, effectiveness and experience, the most of companies have their good-for-nothing approaches without any insight that it is important to understand that experience is gaining in importance when it comes to creating value for customers and notion that brand image in the minds of consumers, not on shelves and other spectacle strategies. The very problem is with these companies that these companies have failed to illustrate the difference between what the consumers think that it might be quality and what quality is when it comes to products.
Let’s put this theory into motion and before the reader of this blog goes further it is important to understand that every product is an experience in its way. For example, think of products like a Nespresso, which has taken the art of coffee making into a whole new dimension. Nespresso is a coffee making machine. Which has been ritualized compared to the solutions that were there earlier?
Or you might think of any DIY brands where what they’ve done is that they’ve outsourced the whole production process. You’ve got unmake things to create a whole set of experiences, a whole ritual around making those things of your choice. Now imagine someone came to you, and said, you are doing all wrong, this is kind of cheating that you make people make their things and instead of giving them concession and comfort and for that, you are charging them, you would have probably laughed at vender. But it’s a very successful concept. Therefore, when it comes to products, there are experiences and everything that surrounds them, like, shopping for the products, using them, disposing of them, getting service, all of those are separate experiences which add up to an overall experience. Experience is an occurrence, an event, an episode. Something that happens to someone and that engages all of the person’s senses. Our senses are not just, sight, smell, touch, hearing. It’s also a perception of time. It is maybe how people relate to others, certain thought processes that might have. It’s how all of these add up together and these episodes, they leave impressions on people, sort of indelible impressions on the mind and that’s what really what the brand image is.
If one can think about how to build a brand image, well, it’s that combination of many, many different experiences. It’s not how we thought about brand building in the old days with a mass advertisement, where you had a big bang about your product or service. It’s much more about that collection of many, many different experiences. Many of them might seem rather mundane. Experiences when it comes to building the brand image, are also very, very powerful, and they also are a part of the self-definition. If companies build a brand with which customers identify, those tend to be the more powerful brands.
Let’s explain it with another example, some years ago, there was this movie called The Bucket List, and it was this movie about two patients with terminal cancer. They escaped the cancer ward and they create this bucket list which comes from the notion of you’re going to kick the bucket or die. And on this bucket list were all kinds of experiences. It was visiting the great pyramids, going to Paris, skydiving, all kinds of unusual things that people wanted to do. And that’s the focal point, it’s what we do rather than what we have in terms of possessions. When people look back upon their lives and when people think about what enriched them, it’s more the things they’ve done than the things that they have owned. There’s a lot of research that shows this, and many of you might have a bucket list too, and you might want to take a look at your bucket list. So, if the experience is so important in our lives, then the challenge is, well, how can we surround our brands with these experiences? How can we use experiences as a way to build our brand and maybe to prevent some of the not so good experiences from destroying our brand?
Now marketers tend to know this and some research shows that experiences are increasingly the way brands are trying to differentiate themselves and that other levers like product quality or price are increasingly less effective at differentiating the brand. Similarly, if one can think about, for example, why does the person want to stay with a company, what drives that person loyalty? It turns out that experiences, by far, are the biggest driver of loyalty and this is across different segments, in business-to-business or business-to-consumer. They’re less the reason you might join a new company. They’re still important. But of course, customers would not have experienced the brand before you’ve tried it. Thus, switching is not driven as much by the experience, but certainly leaving a brand. Customers switch brands because of bad experiences and if companies think about, they might want to ask their customers what were the things that delighted them about companies’ brand? What are the things that are memorable and positively stick with them?
What are the things that upset customers that made them switch brands, or consider switching? Companies should think about what kind of aspects those are and also think about who stands behind those aspects. They are very often people who stand behind those experiences. Not just products, but people. This gets into the realm of customer satisfaction and the way companies tend to think about satisfaction because satisfaction is actually when companies offering met their target expectations. Now customer delight or surprise is when companies exceeded those expectations and disappointment comes when they have failed to meet them. If companies think about that simple equation, that satisfaction is the difference between what customer expects and what customer experience, whatever that might be then thinking about the role traditional marketing plays in its communication to what degree does advertising build the experience versus the expectations? An obvious answer, it raises expectations. Companies should switch marketing, or brand-building, from focusing on building expectations, to building the experience because that’s a step change for the marketing function and the organization as a whole.
At times in brand building, it is very enigmatic when it comes to fulfilling customers’ needs and wants to match with the brand’s purpose. Peter Drucker who was voted as the ‘Management Thinker of the Century’ had a saying “the customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him.”
Many brands don’t actually know what they’re selling and to get to the core purpose of the brand really means to understand the core driver of your customer’s behaviour.
To understand the core purpose of the brand by the understanding of the core driver of customer’s behaviour lets create an action plan to cognize the concept. Let’s take Pakistani banks’ old age schemes deal with things like pension products as an example. Mostly their target is salaried class, who are worried about their old age and about the stable income pattern that they are used to it throughout their lives. What really trouble is that almost all banks in Pakistan haven’t done the appropriate research on the service.
They have forced notion about the service without appropriate understanding about retirement means to their target group and they got monotonous and traditional notions of retirement like; two old people on a porch, looking at the sunset, smiling at each other with family pictures at the background. They could enjoy the later years of their lives together. But it didn’t quite seem right. The banks should realize that they have an understanding of their target and they have been doing the research in the wrong way. They should also realise that to get to the core sort of the purpose of the brands’ services, these banks really have to sometimes get to the more emotional side of customers and using language is often not that easy.
In this case, these banks should ask the question slightly differently. These banks should simply ask their target group to keep on projecting themselves into the future. From where they are now into the future and when they do so they should realise that majority of customers are not worried about their retirement in any sense. What they have are big dreams. They wanted to start a business when the traditional time of retirement came or they wanted to progress to certain fields by gaining higher education or courses. Or they wanted to give back to society in terms of philanthropy or they wanted to live at some hill station in harmony and away from the worldly hustle-bustle.
Now, that is a deep customer insight and it really changed everything that these banks are so far doing. It could change their products because most of the products in the space are annuities, they kick in when one retires traditionally maybe around 65 and then you get a steady payment over time. But these big dreams, do not have the format of a steady payment over time. They come with a big payment at the moment of retirement. These banks should invent products. They also have to change the way the financial wealth planners interacted with these customers. It is a known fact that these banks and their staff are not used to speaking to their customers about their dreams. These banks should create some sort of a dream book, where the customers, typically a couple, can fill out their dreams into the future, which then provide a basis for the financial planner to engage with their customers. This can be a very powerful change for them.
Furthermore, yet another important example of brand purpose, created by Hilti, ‘makes construction simpler, faster and safer.’ Hilti Group was founded in 1941, evolving from a small family start-up to a trusted global business. Today, Hilti is still family-owned, with its global headquarters in the Principality of Liechtenstein, where Martin Hilti established the company more than 75 years ago.
Hilti understood very clearly that in business-to-business companies often forget that customers are not buying products. They’re buying solutions, and that’s been a big shift in business for many years. Hilti, where their business is fundamentally changed from selling tools, like drills and other power tools, to actually managing the tools for the customers. The customers, not only buying tools but solutions. They also do not want these tools to sit on their balance sheet. They do not know how to manage these tools and, Hilti, because they provided these tools to so many customers, invented different solutions, different services around this notion of tools for hire. So fundamentally changed the business model of Hilty and provide deeper and more purposeful value to customers.
It is important in brand architecture to think of brand purpose, starts with deep customer insight and it then means building a business around that deep customer insight that provides better value to customers.
Finally, it is very vital that companies’ employees understand the purpose their company is engaged in because of their high motivation. A deep purpose motivates your employees to be more productive, more engaged, and to provide more value to your customers. This has been shown in marketing and branding study after study. All of this has been shown to fuel productivity far more than any inspirational kind of speech that might have been given by the gatekeepers.
The brand purpose is what connects the brand to the customer, but it also connects the employees to the customer, through the brand
I am saying it a loud, please do listen carefully, in branding being different is not the same as differentiation.
By differentiation and by brand differentiation, we’re really talking about a difference that matters. That matters to consumers. A difference that’s relevant and it’s a difference that they’re willing to pay for and they are willing to acquire.
When we think about brands and the purpose of brands, often communicated through things like slogans, it’s good practice to actually think about what these slogans or these brand positionings, their brand DNA, their brand essence, whichever term you might give it. What does it actually mean?
It’s important for a variety of reasons. One reason is, that if your own people don’t understand what the brand stands for. It will not affect their behavior, they won’t know how to react.
But the question then is, how will their brand shine through? Will the customers actually know what you stand for? And I thought I’d give you a couple of examples of slogans, which are not exactly the same as the brand purpose, but they can get pretty close.
One of them is from United Parcel Service (UPS). Until 2010 the brand slogan was, ‘what brown can do for you.’ Now that’s a very internally focused slogan and part of their visual identity. That’s basically taking the brown of UPS and making it as part of their brand promise. It’s taking a colour, and that’s what the brand is about, the brand is a colour. And that’s not very powerful. This year they re-branded their slogan to, ‘united problem solvers.’ Now, that might seem a bit of an odd term, it sounds bit of like a labour union but what the brand is trying to signal is that the brand is about solving problems, not just logistical ones, but business problems overall. It’s taking their acronym UPS and given it secondary meaning.
Very much like BP, which used to be known as ‘British Petroleum’ rebranded as ‘Beyond Petroleum’ when they focused on green energy. It’s a shift more towards the customer in terms of solutions for UPS and towards the value to the environment for BP.
Let’s think about this in action for a brand which many of you will know, Pampers. These are diapers or nappies depending on which market you might be in. If we go back to 2001, they were by then the largest single brand for P&G. It was a $3.4 billion for P&G. The problem was, it was shrinking. And it was a drag on the earnings of P&G overall. And it was about to be, well, activists were asking for them to spin it off. Push forward 10 years to 2010 and it became a $10 billion-dollar brand. Entirely through organic growth.
It’s a story told by Jim Stengel in his book ‘Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies.’
And it’s one of the chapters where he talks about the story. It’s a story which was also presented on several occasions by ‘Saatchi and Saatchi’ which was the advertising agency that accompanied Jim and his team on this journey.
What did they do in order to gain more relevance for the brand? They did something very simple. They took a deep dive into the lives of their customers.
They tried to figure out what motivate mothers? Not just to buy diapers, but in general. Especially first-time mothers because that’s when they make their decision about diapers. And they typically then stay brand-loyal. Is it just about price where Huggies had really enjoyed market leadership? As a matter of fact, Huggies had become the number one brand in the US, the home market for Pampers, which was very, very painful.
It’s not just about that. If you think about being a mother or a parent, it’s about babies’ health. Babies’ development. That was the key consumer insight. And the question then was, how do I make these diapers relevant to baby development? The major commonality here was that most of these diapers, for them and their competition, it’s all about dryness.
Now how does dryness help baby development? It turns out, and Pampers did these studies, it helps baby’s sleep. If baby sleeps, they got the little sleeping habit here, if baby sleeps, that’s when the baby develops it’s mind and muscles. And of course, the parents get a bit of extra rest as well. So, P&G turned that into the foundation of their Pampers brand. They went away from dryness to better sleep. And that was a fundamental change. It was a change that did not just affect the slogan, if you will. Before the change Pampers was a very male dominated engineering culture. People in white frocks focusing on dryness and dryness metrics, focusing on product attributes. There were very few women comparatively speaking to other P&G brands working for Pampers, which is a bit surprising.
As part of this change, Jim Stengel and his team changed fundamentally everything about Pampers. The new headquarters became more baby and mother friendly, the colours were pink and apricot and the parking spaces close to the building were reserved for expecting mothers. The key metrics by which to evaluate the quality of the products went from dryness to better sleep. The values of the brand were aligned with the values of a parent.
Literally everything changed, including something that was almost holy to a P&G, which were the two-year rotations that the staff went through going from one brand to the other.
What P&G realized is even though it was a packaged product, they had to build the brand from the inside out. They hired people who had a passion for babies. Even if you’re in finance or if you’re the accountant, if you didn’t have a passion for babies, there are lots of other brands you might qualify for. But not so much Pampers. They also aligned the corporate social responsibility. Working with UNICEF about baby development, keeping babies healthy. That became the fundamental, and core purpose of the brand that also allowed them to move away from just dryness and diapers.
They moved into baby development into wipes, into products where baby had its first soap. Where they could wipe themselves for the first time. Literally, anything that had to do with baby development was now a fair territory for Pampers to compete in. That also built a very different relationship with mothers. Mothers don’t want to talk about dryness with a brand. That’s just a product attribute. Pampers village, which is a new website they developed, they can now have a conversation with mothers. Another core insight was that mothers thought of developmental stages. P&G engaged with mothers before baby was born, when baby was born, when it was a toddler, and so on. They built a true relationship over time with the mothers. Which also fuelled the development of different stages of diapers. Training diapers and so forth.
P&G have changed everything about Pampers, and it was driven by core consumer insight, which became the purpose of the brand that motivated the brand from the inside out, and even a packaged good category, it made it a huge success, so huge that it actually added to Huggies pulling out of European markets. With their lower cost diaper because Pampers had taken over that space.
Like what Chinese proverb said, “If you don’t know how to smile then you have no right to open your shop.” Similarly, nowadays if you are not internet savvy then you have no right to be in the brand marketing business. Today’s brand landscape is about the digital transformation, the internet, the whole way the world’s been changing and the digital journey has been accelerating in full speed at the never-ending road.
No matter if it is tangible or intelligible products or services, the answer is the digital journey to success. From online marriages to a slice of banana bread, the internet is playing a big role as a disintermediator.
Whereas the internet is an essential tool of today’s marketing world, but the most important aspect of the internet is that it became an easy price comparison engine. So there were predictions made that basically, the internet is going to be this vast digital commodity pit. And it would be the greatest force of shifting value creation from experience and effectiveness to efficiency.
But that’s not happened. Now, of course, efficiency is a great benefit. If a person thinks about some data show if he has a transaction which is face-to-face, the cost to the organization might be upwards even of Rs 500 to Rs 1000. A telephone interaction might be less expensive, it’s somewhere in the middle, maybe Rs 50 to Rs 150, maybe around Rs 200. And a digital interaction, often self-service, we’re talking about Rs 3-5. There’s a vast difference in cost between physical and digital experiences which has really kind of re-emphasized that efficiency focus. And taken companies away from thinking about experiences yet as we see digital data and digital opportunities of course exactly the opposite has happened. What has not happened as much, at least not for all companies, is to think about not just the journey as being one that’s convenient, smooth, easy to understand and intuitive. Which is kind of a generic way to make experiences that are digital and valuable?
But to think about, how do we think about digital and the internet as part of the expression of any brand. Are there aspects of this journey that might be destroying the brand? Or are there ones we can use the digital aspects to enhance?
Today’s brand landscape is part of that journey. If any company think about how do the company create a branded experience? Let’s go to Nespresso and their business model is not just about making high-end coffee machines and market it the coffee additive nations and in the non-coffee drinking nation like Pakistan whereas the trend is picking up among the middle-upper, upper and upper-upper classes of the country. But to Nespresso, it’s that whole club-like experience, where you’re a member of a club. And you get to have coffee advice on the telephone for example as in the West, and they spent a lot of money and they hired the right kind of people to deliver that experience. They’re part of Nestle and they really couldn’t survive and built that luxury coffee culture in their Nestle Headquarters. They created their own space, which was much more luxurious, wood-panelled walls, etc. they could have an authentic luxury experience over the telephone with their club members, their customers. Now when the Internet came along, this fed into Nespresso’s business model, they could enrich the experience even further. As a customer, you can now come and you can learn about the coffee in ways where you might not be so embarrassed to talk to somebody about coffee. They can provide a much richer interaction. They can show you where the beans came from, the way the beans are made through video and other sources. Therefore just learning about the coffee became richer. They also learned a lot more about you. What are the variants you looked at, they could update you in unobtrusive ways? Remind you of maybe when to order the coffee. They could invest in events like they invest in the events and amplify that investment by sharing that online. They could engage their customers. They have done things like your best golf shop for example. They are high-end customers many of them are golfers that provided a grand experience. And when it moved onto the mobile platform they’re in for quite a surprise, because it’s a massive investment for an espresso to go there. And they reached their sales targets far, far quicker, than they ever anticipated.
It’s much easier for today’s consumers to grab their phone, to order it right then and there than to maybe go and boot up their computer and to follow the process to call, express on themselves. Brands in today’s landscape are spending a lot to enhance the brand experience, for examples, the Nike fuel band, the Disney magic band, the Lamborghini accessory. All of those things enhance the customer experience around what the brand tries to deliver, around the brand purpose if you will. Now it doesn’t look like branding like a logo would, but these are digital experiences that add up in a consistent way to deliver on the brand promise.
Today the brand landscape is not what it used to be some years back. Today the brand landscape is more complex, intense and highly competitive. Today the brand landscape can be economical theorised as “Perfect Competition” in which market rivalry is so ferocious that the players in the industry are forced in terms of their pricing down to their cost base. They don’t make a profit anymore. All the value that’s created goes to the consumer.
Now, what are the conditions under which you have perfectly competitive markets? One is you have a large number of sellers with low barriers to entry. The other is you have perfect information and the third is you have homogenous or commodity-like products. Well, have a look at Google and think of a product like the iPhone. Lots of retailers are selling the same product. Just consider the retailer profits, they’re basically under huge pressure because everybody’s selling the same products. What about the concept of perfect information, especially in a global environment? Today, you look at the internet. You look at Google. You look at Metasearch engines like Kayak, which is a search engine on top of search engines. In the UK, we have moneysupermarket.com. Consumers can even go to a store and use their mobile phone, and scan in the barcode, and find a better price elsewhere. And there are even some websites, like ratemyprofessor.com where you can get information on the people that teach you. So, there’s a lot more information consumers have. Not only do they have more information today than they had yesterday, but they often have more information than your very own salespeople at least about the products they are interested in. For example, if one goes and buy, let’s say, a television. One might have done his or her search online beforehand. The consumer has selected two, three different models and he researched them in depth. And when the buyer goes to the store, the buyer wants the sales person to help me make my decision. Now of course, they have dozens of TVs to deal with. They have lot of other electronics in their mind. It’s quite difficult to know more than buyer know, so that whole relationship in terms of information has shifted. The customer often knows more than the company.
Most of them are very, very much alike between competitors. And even think about the iconic Apple brand in terms of the pad, in terms of the iPad. The lawyer when they were suing Samsung went to the judge and showed the tablet from Samsung versus the pad from Apple and said, look, they are so similar. They’ve copied everything we do. Competitive benchmarking and competition have commoditized industries, and one doesn’t have to tell those of you in business to business products how difficult it is to differentiate your products from each other. Not only that, but potential customers are driving this commoditization. In business to business, we’ve got strategic functions now, which are procurement and they are making products seem very similar. Why? Because they want to ask you to compete on price. They’re telling you as competitors, hey, you’re the same as all these other prequalified suppliers. Give me their best price.
The question is what role does a brand play in this environment? Does it matter if the same product comes from one brand versus the other? If the oil comes from Shell or it comes from Total Parco, does it matter. In reality, it does matter.
The brand is not a product or even a service, it’s an experience that happens over a prolonged time. There are many, many touch points and these touch points cut across all consumers’ different business silos. It can be the parking lot attended. It can be the ticketing person. It can be an operator of a little choo, choo train where you can listen to. It’s a small world and you’re in your own little magic bubble while you’re there. And you can think of even vendors who are constantly fixing and upgrading the shopping window, they have to disappear into the background. It’s very, very difficult to create a magical experience. It’s not the same as commodity products. This is the behaviour of dozens, if not hundreds of people that occur across this experience that you have.
What matters is about the brand promise and delivering the promise accordingly which traditionally, marketing communications was about creating that promise. It’s creating those expectations and about the delivery of that promise. The brand is not just the icing on the cake, it’s the cake itself. It’s not an outcome, as in the brand image. It’s part of the process itself. It’s its inside the organisation. It fuels innovation. It drives your people’s behaviour who then deliver the costumer experience. Now, this is a real step change from the way we think about branding before. Before, it was very controlled. It was the visual identity. I could have advertisements, place them media, again, which were very controlled. Now it’s about internal to the organisation, engaging with different business functions that marketing traditionally has not engaged with. Operations, human resources, IT.
And it’s about those functions, delivering the brand at many various touch points across the customer experience, that’s really what matters the most!