How to reverse trend and meet your marketing plan

Why Most Marketing Plans Fail & 9 Ways to Succeed with Yours

This Monday is Memorial Day in the US, when Americans everywhere think back to those in the US Armed Forces who gave their lives in the line of duty. I too am thinking back, but to all the marketing plans and ideas that have been sacrificed!

The reasons why some plans are accepted and others aren’t are many. Non-alignment with corporate plans is one of the most usual, but lack of clarity, consistency, preparation or budget are also common. And even when accepted, they aren’t always executed as planned. So I thought that it would be useful to take a look back at our own marketing plans that we set earlier this year and review what is and isn’t working. We still have time to make changes and meet our 2014 targets, so which of the following is your current issue?

Declining market share

Firstly, you should be ashamed that you’ve let your brand slide so much that you are actually losing share! Brand equity measures would have given you a clear warning that something was going wrong, months if not years ago! Did you ignore the numbers or were your efforts too small to have the necessary impact? Either way, it’s time to start working out what’s going wrong. Review the 5P’s of marketing for starters and prioritise actions based on what you find.

Stable market share

So your brand’s growth is slowing? This happens in the normal life-cycle of a brand, so no panic, but you do need to take action to renew growth. But don’t think that small tweaks will be enough. Competition is ruthless these days and you will need to create some buzz around your brand. Surprise and delight is the name of the game to win (back) consumers. Start from your strengths and then ramp one or two of them up a couple of levels.

Declining image

As mentioned above, your brand image will start to weaken before market share is affected (>>Tweet this<<), so in theory you still have time to prevent significant share loss. But you must act now! It is more effective to review your image ratings by experience group, to see what you need to do to recover lapsed users or convert more trialists. In my experience the answers should be clear from a regularly run and thoughtfully analysed brand image study using a well-developed attribute list.

Losing consumer trust

This is a serious issue. (as if the others aren’t!) Trust in companies and brands is what enables consumers to forgive mistakes or accept higher prices. (>>Tweet this<<) And it tips the balance in your favour in product comparability when performances are similar. Trust is a complex principle built out of a number of influencing factors, such as integrity, reliance, confidence, quality and worthiness. Which of these has resulted in your consumers’ loss of trust? Once identified, you will need to review how you can influence it. It will take time – sometimes a lot of time – to change perceptions.

Inconsistent communications

Since most companies have one product manager or group in charge of each brand, this shouldn’t happen and yet it still does. Multiple suppliers with differing interpretations of the brand promise, and annual revamps of simply the previous year’s work, makes for communications that gradually slip from the original positioning and message. Instead of just looking at the latest or planned communications, it is vital to also review the previous five years’ work. It then becomes obvious how messaging has shifted. (>>Tweet this<<)

Inconsistent product performance

As with communications, most product testing compares current to the proposed new product and sometimes also versus the competition. Unfortunately small changes made can be undetectable to consumers even in direct comparison, or are within statistical errors and so are ignored. But over time, consumers are likely to come to realise that the product to which they have been loyal for many, many years, is no longer what it used to be. Therefore it is useful (essential) to compare product ratings to those from previous years, as well as to the current product.

No emotional attachment

This is a dangerous situation to be in, since if consumers have no emotional attachment to your brand, they can switch without too much thought. In fact your brand is no longer a brand, it’s a commodity! It needs to stand for something in the hearts and minds of consumers, so that they will choose you rather than a competitor. Especially in categories where performance differences are minimal, emotional attachment is what keeps consumers loyal. (>>Tweet this<<)Review how your consumers feel about your brand and what you can do to build more emotional attachment. The stimulation of the senses is a great way to do this. (read more here).

Confusing brand hierarchy

Your line extensions are like family members. There should be a well-defined parent brand and each variant should have clear resemblances to it. As mentioned above concerning product and communications consistency, line extensions can drift away from the look and feel of the parent brand, especially in dynamic categories where innovation and renovation are vital. When was the last time you looked at your whole product range – together? Differences in fonts, colours, sub-brand descriptions and design become quickly obvious. Make the changes needed to get the family back in line.

Lack of (the right) social media presence

I couldn’t end this list without including social media and the internet as this is where most consumer product brands “live” today. (>>Tweet this<<)It is not enough to launch a website and Facebook page for every brand and promotion. Living is the operative word here, so it’s much better to have one site that is regularly updated than tens that are visited by twenty people a month (and yes I’ve found that in many major CPGs in the past). Also make sure that your tone online fits your tone offline and portrays the same personality. Social media is not new media, it’s just another channel, so it must fit into your overall communication’s strategy.

Hopefully this list has given you some food for thought and ideas on which to take action this week. If you are facing a different challenge I’d love to hear about it and possibly offer you some solutions. Just drop me a line here.      

C³Centricity used an image from Kozzi in this post.

Young Woman Biting Her Finger Nail

Time to Change your Outdated Work Habits

This week I’ve been helping a client create a new website. He had already mapped out what he wanted to include in it and he provided me with pages of ideas and possible content. Have you ever noticed how it is much harder to rewrite or adapt something, than it is to create from scratch? (>>Click to Tweet<<)How difficult it is to “unlearn” behaviours? Whether it is changing the content of a website, editing the script for a play or book, or adopting new habits, it always demands far more effort than the original creation itself. Why is this?

One reason is that we humans like comfortable solutions. We always look for the easiest and simplest way of doing things. That’s why you can find yourself in your car in front of your garage with no memory of the drive back home. You know the way so well, you’ve been on autopilot and your brain has been thinking about other things. 

A recent excellent short read in The Guardian entitled “Habits: why we have them and how to break them” by Dr Benjamin Gardner, Lecturer in Health Psychology at University College, London, provides some of the answers:

  1. Habits are automatic responses to situations
  2. Smoking, snacking and TV viewing are common habits
  3. We learn habits by repeating actions in a situation
  4. Around half of all everyday actions are habitual (>>Click to Tweet<<)
  5. Habits free up mental resources for use elsewhere
  6. They usually take more than two months to form
  7. Setting a realistic goal will help you persevere
  8. Habits may form more quickly for enjoyable tasks
  9. To break a habit, find and avoid the habit trigger
  10. Moving house disrupts many existing habits

So how does this apply to our work? Well firstly, if you are looking to measure behaviour, customers are likely to struggle when referring to the reasons for certain habits, since they have been adopted and now take little mental power (points 4 & 5 above). This is why retailers sometimes change the layout of their stores – although that can also have a negative impact too – to make their shoppers think about what they buy and perhaps also tempt them to try new products or categories.

Reading the above list, it may sound like it will be difficult to break a habit, but as the last point mentions, disruption makes it much easier to change. Think about the arrival of a new boss, the introduction of a new structure or some other event in business, it can result in many habitual tasks being re-evaluated and even replaced. Read on to find a few ideas on how you can make some perhaps necessary changes of your own.

Tracking Brand Equity

Brand equity measurement is a great habit

Last week I wrote about the importance of tracking the three areas of customer brand value: those of functional / rational, emotional / subjective and relational / cultural. Now before you congratulate yourself on measuring the complete spectrum of image attributes, ask yourself how long you have been working with exactly the same list. We all love consistency and comparability but that is often just an excuse to avoid the hard work of evaluating the current metrics and deciding what needs to be added, replaced and removed.

The marketplace for so many – dare I say all? – products and services is moving so fast today that your attributes need to be regularly reviewed and adapted to the new market environment.

Tracking Usage & Awareness

Are you still measuring usage through an omnibus paper or telephone interviews? Look into the possibility of online or mobile as both a quicker and cheaper method of data gathering. Or what about using automatic data gathering from mobile phones, online websites, or smart chips on your products? Of course you will need to conduct comparative runs before switching methodologies, but you may find you get more acceptance from the consumers contacted and easier and swifter returns of information into the organisation.

Trend Following

Future landscape

Do you continue to buy a standard service and reporting for following societal trends, just like your competitors do? How about extending trend following into scenario planning? It will make more use of your current service and will provide a significant competitive advantage. (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Replacing Reports by Stories

Replacing reports bz stories is a great habitThere is so much talk about the value of storytelling that I hope I don’t need to explain this point, but have you done anything to integrate it into your own work? One of C³Centricity’s partners (SciFutures) just produced a short and inspiring summary of the key themes and ideas generated at FT2013 (2013 Foresight & Trends Conference). However, they did it through telling a science fiction narrative, rather than by writing the usual report. I would highly recommend checking it out here and then I dare you to tell me that you would have preferred to read a conference report instead!

So these are just a few habits that it might be worth considering to change in your work environment. Do you have others that your know you should break? If so I would love to know what they are and more importantly, what is stopping you from bringing those needed changes? Let me know because perhaps I just might be able to help.

Did you know C³Centricity runs training workshops and support sessions on revamping your Market Research Toolbox and Processes?  Contact us to learn more.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime, Microsoft and Kozzi

Reputation and trust, your brands and corporation need both

Reputation and Trust: Do you Have Both?

At the end of last year I asked readers to send me their biggest challenges for 2014. The winning question was related to innovation, which I wrote about last week: “This is why your new products crash & burn“.

Another of the questions I received was related to measuring equity and the relative importance of following the image of the brand or the corporation. I respond below to this interesting dilemma and propose some ideas about what you should be following.

The three essentials of brand valueLet me start by saying that I covered brand image metrics in some detail last year in a popular post  called “How to Build Brand Reputation and Consumer Trust: And then Track it”. The article spoke about the three important areas that you need to measure in order to have a complete perspective of your brand image, namely Rational / Functional, Emotional / Subjective and Cultural / Relational.

Whilst this is the simplest method for measuring brand equity, it is said that there are in fact seven essential elements that make a business great in the eyes of the customer. These elements are a combination of product perceptions as above, together with those of the enterprise. Perhaps surprisingly, the latter actually trump the former in driving behaviours today, so corporate reputation is now essential to follow too. It also suggests that whilst product performance, services and innovation are important, it is the companies behind the brands that influence a consumer’s trust and final choice. If you’d like to read more about this, please click on the above link where you can find more details.

Coca Cola logo

However, measuring brand image and corporate reputation is still not going to give you all the answers you need. One of the areas that few organisations study today, even when they measure both of these, is the relationship between the images of the brands and the company.

Unilever AXE logoFor some brands such as Coca Cola, the relationship is both obvious and strong, whereas for Pantene or Axe the link to P&G and Unilever may be far less evident.

P&G Pantene logo

Despite an increasing effort by both companies to strengthen the association between their brands and themselves as manufacturer, the connection remains tenuous at best.

So how do you measure this link and understand what the brand brings to the corporation and vice versa? Read on for a simple process.

Following Brand & Corporate Reputations is a 3-step process

Step 1: Measure your brands’ images

Hopefully you are already doing this on a regular basis. If not please start immediately since you cannot manage brands without knowing where you are today, even if you have a clear idea planned for where you want to go. The post linked above gives you a start on getting this done.

The one addition that you may have to incorporate in your current questionnaire is to ensure that you clearly identify whether the respondent knows who makes each of the brands. This will be essential for the analysis later on.

Step 2: Measure your corporate image

Again you should already be doing this, but I am always amazed how few companies collect such metrics on a regular basis. The prompt for doing so is often a crisis or a change of management and vision, but by then it is actually too late. Whatever you measure in such circumstances will be difficult to analyse since you don’t know what the figures looked like before the event happened. This is why it is essential to measure it at least annually and perhaps even more regularly when a lot is happening in the marketplace.

As was also the case for your brand equity metrics, you will need to include a measurement of brand attribution for each of the companies you measure. This will again be used in the analytical phase.

Step 3: Analyse and cross-reference the information gathered

The third step of the process is to first review the images of each brand by the knowledge and awareness of the consumers about its parent company. Then review the corporate images based upon whether each is attributed or not to each of its brands, or maybe even to competitive brands. Then by crossing these two sets of relational information, you will get a clear picture of what the brand brings in terms of reputation to the company and what the corporate reputation adds to or detracts from each brand. Once you understand the relationship between your brands and your business, you can start to lay out a plan to boost your consumers’ knowledge and trust with appropriate PR and advertising.

Some organisations, including those mentioned above, find ways to associate their company name within their brand advertising. For instance Nestlé and Purina both end their ads with a company link and logo. Unilever and SCJohnson are a little more creative in showing  a fold up / down corner with their logo and name and in the case of the latter, even their corporate slogan. This is far less intrusive and leaves the brand to shine as hero in the ad.

If you already run your own brand equity or corporate reputation studies, why not combine them as suggested above, for improved actionability? If you do a different type of analysis I would love to hear about it; just add a comment below or write to me in person at denysedd@c3centricity.com. It would be great to hear your thoughts on this essential element of tracking.

The future of information and insight

8 Marketing Essentials for 2014

Over the past few weeks I’ve been in the US catching up with a few C³Centricity partners about marketing priorities for 2014. The meetings were as inspirational as the new products being presented at the Las Vegas CES (Global Consumer Electronics & Consumer Technology Tradeshow)!

We discussed some of the most important challenges marketing will be facing in 2014 and brainstormed some possible solutions. If you are having any of these difficulties then I’m sure you will find the following ideas useful:

Social Media Metrics

Email is a popular customer service connection pointAs many companies transfer budget from traditional to online advertising, it is essential to also shift some of your funds to measuring its impact, even if some people do question the validity of such metrics. However, the most important thing to do is to link the metrics to what is happening in your business. Your CEO isn’t interested in how many Facebook Likes you’ve managed to get, but he is interested in knowing that you gained x% in awareness. Some standard numbers often followed are mentioned in “10 Social Media Measurement Best Practices” but remember that engagement and listening for better customer understanding are also (more?) important, as mentioned in this Business Insider post. What everyone does agree, is that every campaign must have objectives and metrics to gauge their efficacy; do yours?

Storytelling

There is so much (too much?) information flowing into organisations today, but it is not being sufficiently accessed because most of it is not being integrated and analysed. Even when it is, sharing the insights is often a challenge because of the complexity of the process. Turning knowledge and understanding into stories and then visualising or videoing them is a better way for both sharing and getting participation in actioning them. Why not review both your insight development and your knowledge sharing processes this year? If you’re comfortable with where you are, perhaps now is a good time to start storing your information and insights in easily-accessible libraries?

Showrooming & Virtual Reality

Virtual realityIt has been suggested that showrooming will be the end of retail outlets, but I believe there will be an integrated, rather than an either / or future. Virtual reality enables shoppers to see how products could be used, or how they would look in their homes, office or even on themselves. It also allows both retailers and manufacturers to improve their offer by identifying any pain points, and enables them to hold less stock and still offer maximum choice to customers. How about going online with 3D catalogues or providing in-store areas to offer your customers product trial and experience?

 

New Communication Opportunities

According to Jay Walker-Smith of Yankelovich

“We’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970s to as many as 5,000 a day today.”

Whether that second number should be 5,000 or 20,000 as I’ve also heard mentioned, it suggests that little can or is being retained our customers. Since this is unlikely to change in the future, as attention spans shorten even more, finding new messaging opportunities that resonate with our customers is vital. Why not use social media to track your target audience’s expressed wants and needs, and then compare them to what your key competitors are communicating. This will help you to uncover hidden communications’ gaps which you can then use to connect with your customers.

Adapting Communications to Personas

Don't alienate your business from its customersAre you dissatisfied with your current segmentation efforts? Creating personas can already add interest and thus actionability, by visualising their similarities and differences. Have you thought of taking the same approach to your communications too? By crafting personas built from your existing data on media habits and going beyond traditional segmentation, you can focus your attention on how to actually communicate with these different groups.

Channel Management

Mapping your brand’s story as told by the brand across channels can provide a “mosaic” of its communications and quickly highlight areas which need attention.Successful campaigns work across multiple channels but it is important to examine the contribution of each to avoid overlaps and gaps. Why not make 2014 your year of brand building through improved channel management?

Better Communications for Organisational Strategy

Following on from the above point, people’s attention spans are diminishing and we are all skimming rather than reading today. This means that companies need shorter, more impactful copy, for advertising and websites, but also for internal newsletters and communications. Analysing the content of communications can be very informative in understanding the messages our customers, employees or consumers are receiving. We can no longer be satisfied with knowing just what we are sending out. Make this year the one in which all your communications resonate and provide the right messages to your targets.

Disruptive Innovation

Trends around the worldCustomers are becoming more and more demanding – no news there! They don’t stay satisfied or surprised for long. What was novel yesterday is normal today and boring tomorrow. I suppose that’s why shows such as CES get so much air-time on local, national and even international media. We all love to dream and imagine a better life just around the corner. The same goes for our customers, who are always open to new and better propositions.   What are you doing to meet these increasing demands? Is your innovation linear, exponential or disruptive? If it’s not the second and hopefully the third, you are probably missing out. Why not make 2014 the year you disrupt your innovation process?

These were eight of the tens of ideas that I discussed with my partners to help companies identify their marketing priorities. Have a look at your plans and see whether you are still playing it safe by just repeating what you did last year? The same number of campaigns, the same promotions, even the same type of innovations. There’s still time to make 2014 the year of exponential growth and change for your company. 

Getting R&D excited about innovation

Best Marketing Quotes to Inspire Essential Actions

Last week I referred to one of the C³Centricity year-end traditions of drawing up a Top 10 list of the most popular posts of the year. Another tradition is our love of inspirational quotes – you only have to look at our homepage to see that!

We have a whole section on quotes in the Library, to which we are constantly adding when we find new ones or get proposals from our friends and followers. In addition, we occasionally like to share some of our favourite ones of the moment and propose actions that are inspired by each of them. Here is our selection for 2013.

 

#1. “Strategy and timing are the Himalayas of marketing. Everything else is the Catskills.”  Al Ries, marketing professional & author who coined the term “positioning”

Whilst I’m not sure I agree that the other challenges of marketing are just “Catskills” (small hills), getting our strategy and timing right are definitely vital. With things moving ever faster today and customers constantly changing their focus and upping their expectations and demands, timing has become even more important to get right today. How often do you review your plans, especially for the timing of actions? It is no longer sufficient to fix them annually and then just forget them. Why not make quarterly reviews and monthly evaluations of whether or not your plans need adjustment?

 

#2. “In marketing I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss – and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last.”  John Romero, designer, programmer & developer of video games

Boss expects you to know your customerThis is a great quote that reminds us to not only target effectively but to be ruthless in doing it. Don’t just take all customers that fit your identified criteria of demographics and habits, but also check their lifetime value too. The better you identify your target customers the more likely it will be that you really satisfy and hopefully delight too. Read “13 Things your boss expects you to know about your customers” for more on targeting.

 

#3. “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation” Milan Kundera, Czech writer best known for “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”

Another of my favourite marketing quotes, as it is about marketing’s importance to business and reminds us to review ROI in the light of business impact. It also highlights the importance of innovation in today’s world of demanding customers who rarely stay satisfied for long. Read more on this at “What’s keeping marketers up at night and solutions to help them sleep“.

 

#4. “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department” David Packard, co-founder of HP

The new marketing manThis quote may surprise you, but for me it’s a reminder that marketing, as mentioned above, should involve everyone in the company. Although marketing may be the experts, all employees have a role to play in supporting the company and its brands; they speak with family and friends and even act as a walking advertisement for them. Success in making a company more customer centric comes from every employee thinking customer first. Read “Why marketing will never be replaced but what every CMO must change” for more on this,

 

#5. “Starbucks is not an advertiser; people think we are a great marketing company, but in fact we spend very little money on marketing and more money on training our people than advertising” Howard Schultz, Chairman & CEO of Starbucks

Mr Schultz has clearly understood the importance of customer centricity. As mentioned above, everyone in the company needs to understand the importance of the customer to the success of the business. Front-end employees – and these are not just in retail outlets, but sales, merchandising, call centre and social media experts – are vital to business and are rarely seen at their true value. Of these I believe call centre employees are amongst the least valued despite their rise in importance in today’s connected world where customers expect answers where, when and how they want them. Read “Clues to a great brand story” for more on this.

 

#6. “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions”  Claude Levi-Strauss, French anthropologist & ethnologist, sometimes called the “father of modern anthropology”.

Hindsight, Eyesight or Foresight

Market Researchers are probably the experts in questionnaire design but sometimes there are better ways to understand your customers than just asking questions. With easy access to your customers through social media and the internet, why not spend time listening and watching your customers and not (just) asking questions? Read “Out of sight, out of mind” for more ways to better understand your customer.

 

#7. “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be” May Sarton, pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton, an American poet, novelist & memoirist.

Successful companies are consistent in showing what they stand for; the same applies to brands. Do you you know what you stand for, rationally, emotionally AND relationally? These are the three essential elements of a strong brand. Read more about brand image definition and measurement at “What does your brand stand for? Ten steps to perfect image following“.

 

#8. “We see things as we are, not as they are” Leo Rosten, teacher, humorist, journalist & scriptwriter.

three people quotesThis is a difficult habit to break on both a personal and professional level. When we are responsible for a brand, it is sometimes necessary to accept that we may not be the ideal customer and thus we have to make choices that will fit them but which we ourselves like less. Understanding your customers’ needs can be helped by spending more time with them. Why not add it to the annual objectives of your team to regularly shop or use your products and services? In the meantime read “Ten things your customers won’t tell you” for some immediate ideas.

 

#9. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination” Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician & philanthropist who served as President of South Africa

It would be impossible not to include a quote from the formidable and recently departed Nelson Mandela. Every business needs to have a heart and their customers at the heart of the business. “Improving customer centricity in hospitality” has some great ideas for the industry, that others could also implement.

 

#10. “Fortune favors the prepared mind” Louis Pasteur, French chemist & microbiologist who discovered the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation & pasteurization. 

Future landscape

Being prepared is what scouts are famous for, but businesses too need to be prepared for all eventualities. Unfortunately so many organisations think that this can be achieved by following trends, but this will only tell them at best where society might be going. It doesn’t prepare the business for all possible future events both positive and negative. Building scenarios on the other hand will enable both opportunities and possible risks to be identified before they happen and provide sufficient time to develop appropriate plans. Read “Turning trends into future scenarios and the ten step process you need to do it” for more ideas for preparing your own business.

Those are my top ten marketing quotes of the moment. I hope they inspired you to try some new actions. If you have your own favourite quotes to inspire action and change, why not share them below. We’ll publish the best on our website too.

Need help in bringing action and change to your own marketing? C³Centricity runs 1-Day Catalyst Training sessions on numerous topics. Check out our website for more information or contact us for an informal discussion.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

 

Most popular customer centric posts of 2013

Top 10 Customer Centric Posts of 2013

As is the tradition in C³Centricity, one of the last posts of the year is a review of the most popular articles published over the past twelve months. Is your favourite amongst them? If not let me know, as I’m always trying to improve the quality of my posts, so it really helps to hear what you have liked.

#1. INNOVATION

SOURCE: Martin Brim

SOURCE: Martin Brim

What Martin Luther King & Apple have in Common: Inspiration and Excitement. With so many new product failures today – I have heard anything from 80% to 95% – consumers have become blasé about them. They demand more and better and rarely stay satisfied for long. This is why innovation has become a major part of business planning and success – or failure – and probably explains the interest in this post, which hints at how to improve your own innovation.

#2. MARKET RESEARCH

Business meetingDoes your Organisation Really Need a Market Research Department? This post caused a flood of comments on many LinkedIn groups when it was published. The discussion continues even today; why not join it?

 

#3. INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES

Customer centricity means watching & listening to customers13 Marketing Quotes to Inspire Customer Centricity. Another tradition at C³Centricity is to review the latest and greatest inspirational quotes on customer centricity. This selection, together with suggested actions inspired from each, make useful additions to reports and presentations. Many more can be found in the C³Centricity Library.

 

#4. CUSTOMER SERVICE

Sucess factors of scenario planning

What the Hospitality Industry can Teach us about Customer Service. One of the industries most sensitive to customer service errors is hospitality. If they get something wrong their clients will tell them immediately. This is a great opportunity for them to quickly get things right, which is not the case in other industries. We can all learn a lot from how they get it right the first time.

 

#5. INFOGRAPHICS

business-branding-characterization-profiling-infographic110 Great Infographics on Customer Centricity. We all love visualisation and what better way to share the latest information and statistics than through infographics? These are packed with all the latest on digital marketing, customer service, relationships and much, much more.

 

 

#6. DIFFERENTIATION

Customer centricity includes Luxury mens watch

Importance of Differentiation in Luxury. Following the successful webinar on best practices in luxury watch communications, this post shared the main findings of the research. It contains some useful reminders for developing communications whatever your industry.

 

 

#7. RESPECT

Customer centric businesses respect their customersding relationships with strangers6 Ways to Respect your Customers. More and more consumers are blocking the cookies and tracking systems that come with so many websites today. They don’t want to be automatically segmented and followed as they go about the web, viewing different sites. This useful post reviews the major points to keep in mind, when a business wants to collect information about its customers in order to offer products and services that better meet their wants and desires.

 

#8. REPUTATION & TRUST

Customer centricity includes checking your Brand reputation footprint

How to Build Brand Reputation and Consumer Trust. It takes more than just great products to build a great reputation. It takes local citizenship, leadership and workplace fairness to drive people’s admiration and trust. It is therefore important to measure these different aspects in any brand image and equity work you undertake. This post shows you how.

 

#9. CUSTOMER CENTRICITY

Customer centricity puts customers at the heart of businessThe Consumer is No Longer the Boss. It was P&G’s Lafley who first coined the phrase “The Consumer is Boss” but today, putting the customer at the heart of the business is essentail for all industries, not just CPG. This post offers seven useful and sometimes under-utilised ways to improve your customer centricity.

 

 

 

#10. CUSTOMER LOYALTY

Customer centricity makes customers jump for joyGreat Customer Service leads to Great Customer Loyalty. Everyone is looking to increase customer loyalty but customers today are less and less loyal as choice and the the search for novelty continues to grow. This post covers the three essentials to guarantee continuing customer loyalty.

These were the ten most popular posts in 2013; is your favourite one there? If not, why not tell us and say why it was your most preferred post on C³Centricity this year.

In comparing this list to that of 2012, I notice that some topics remain popular: Innovation and Market Research, customer service and infographics. However, interest has moved from basic best practices in social media, segmentation, presentations or trends, to the deeper issues of gaining customer respect and trust by building brand reputation. This suggests to me, as the last post above highlights, that business is struggling to gain and maintain customer loyalty.

Next year I will be covering more areas of brand building and reputation, but if there are other topics you would like included here, then please drop me a line and let me know.

Next week will be this year’s last post and I will be sharing another list, this time of the best marketing quotes that have inspired me, together with the usual implications and suggested actions. Don’t miss it – why not sign up to receive posts directly to your inbox? Just complete the form below.

Are you struggling with your own brand building and customer loyalty? Then why not contact me for an informal chat, I know we can help?

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

Grow your business using customer understanding

Why Customers are your Secret Ingredient to Growth

If you are like most businesses, you manage your factories, products and brands with precision, efficiency and care. You develop new products, you renovate your packs, define new communication concepts and expand your distribution. However, if you are like most businesses, you also sometimes forget that the secret ingredient to growth, is not (only) your products or the services you offer; it is your customers. Understand them, surprise and delight them and your business will remain healthy.

I recently spoke to a company with exactly this dilemma, how to grow their very successful business even further. Having thought about possible solutions for them, I decided to share some of the ideas I came up with, as I’m sure that you too will find them useful.

The 5 ways to grow

The customer journey to growing your businessAll businesses want to grow market share and profit. Unfortunately there are only a finite number of ways to do this:

  • Get more customers
  • Get current customers to buy more
  • Get current customers to spend more
  • Reduce costs
  • Increase margins

Notice that three of these are directly linked to the customer, so that is why I refer to them as the secret ingredient to growth. I’m not discounting the other two, but arguably they take longer to action and see results, so for quicker impact, let’s concentrate on the customer.

Get more customers

Getting more customers for more businessIn order to get more customers you first need to learn who buys and why, as well as who doesn’t and why. In the latter group we also need to separate those who buy from a competitor and those who don’t buy the category at all. To understand these three groups, you will need to gather information on the customers, as much and as deeply as you can. For more on this, please check out a recent post on the topic “13 things your boss expects you to know about your customer

The other essential to understanding how to get more customers, is to know what your brand stands for, its image and equity. By comparing these between the three groups, you will get clear indications of what needs to be changed and how to influence them. You will see why one group buys and the other doesn’t buy your brand, and perhaps also a better understanding of why some don’t buy the category at all and that’s not always as easy as just a lack of the relevant need.

 

Get current customers to buy more

There are several ways to get your current customers to buy more; they could buy bigger quantities when they do buy, or just buy the same quantity but more frequently. In some industries there are a finite number of occasions or quantities that can be bought, but I have found that these limitations are often not as strict as many businesses think they are:

  • Whilst a person can only be on one plane at a time, they could fly with friends or family, or use the airline for more trips
  • A person can only eat one lunch or dinner, but your product could be served more than once a week / month
  • Someone may only have one car to insure, but would also need insurance for themselves, their family, pets, house or apartment
  • A housewife only needs a few pots and pans, or one food mixer, but she could be interested in buying specialised plates, serving dishes or equipment for particular meals or ethnic food preparation

When you understand your customers better, these alternative product offerings become much more easily identifiable. In addition, since they are already customers, you should also have hopefully gained their trust, which makes them more open to purchasing again from you. And don’t forget the 80/20 Rule or Pareto’s principle, which often applies to business:

“80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers”

Concentrate on those 20% and ensure you satisfy their current needs and endeavour to identify their future needs too – which brings me nicely to the next solution.

 

Get current customers to spend more

Customers are happy to spend more if they trust youGetting your customers to spend more can be as simple as mentioned above, through them simply buying more quantity, or by upgrading what they buy to a more expensive product or service. There is, however,  both good and bad news for you in this.

Stairway to brand heaven or hell!The good news is that perhaps surprisingly, ever since the recession, customers are willing to spend more on certain categories than they did in the past. Whilst they struggle to make ordinary day-to-day purchases, they correspondingly splash out occasionally and treat themselves with better quality products and services from time to time. If you understand this, then you can be there where and when the urge hits them.

The bad news is that in reaction to declining sales, even before the recession, many companies started promoting more or dropping their prices. Once you have conditioned your customers to expect these lower prices, you are on the slippery slope to brand hell, as described in “Are you on the way to brand heaven or hell?

So there it is. Customers are the secret ingredient to brand and business success. Think customer first and market share and profit will follow.

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Need help in growing your own market share or profits? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here and check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/understand

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com, Microsoft and Kozzi.com

 

Dog story

Clues to a Great Brand Story

Storytelling exists in all cultures; it is used to convey learning and history, as well as to entertain children and adults alike. Stories were developed down through the ages as a means of transferring knowledge, long before books and now the web enabled their storage.

Storytelling has risen in importance in business over the last decade to become one of the essential skills of CEOs and CMOs alike. And with the introduction of websites and Fan pages, for brands as well.

Brand stories are perhaps one of the easiest ways to resonate with customers, which hopefully then leads to those highly sought-after but ever-diminishing rewards of loyalty and advocacy. Of course I say “easiest” with caution, since great storytelling is an art that is often learned but rarely truly mastered. (and I knowingly accept that I’m too often in that group!)

One of the best places to find great storytellers, and stories in general, is on TED. One of the most popular talks on the topic “The Clue to a great story” was given in February 2012 by Andrew Stanton. Stanton is the Pixar writer and director behind both Toy Story and WALL-E, both incredible stories, I’m sure you’d agree. I was reminded of this fascinating talk recently, because it was turned into a beautiful infographic on the TED Blog. We all love infographics almost as much as stories, so I was inspired to take the five “clues” Stanton talked about and apply them to brand stories.

Make me Care

According to Stanton, a story needs to start by drawing sympathy from the audience. In the beginning, the hero is rejected or badly treated by family, friends, employers, circumstances, or the world; think Cinderella or the loveable WALL-E as typical examples. Their plight immediately sets the stage for building feelings of concern in the audience, especially when identified as unfair or outside the control of the hero, which is often the opening scene.

Plutchik's wheel of emotionsIn the case of brands I believe the emotions most sought are on the opposite side of Plutchiks’ Wheel of Emotions (above); those of trust, admiration or anticipation. People spend money on brands because the believe they will provide pleasure and / or solve a problem. Our job is to not only satisfy this need, but to go even further by turning that expectation into surprise and delight (more on that later).

Take me with you

In storytelling there is a promise of a journey, a mystery or of a problem solved; something that entices the reader or listener to stay and learn more.

StorytimeA brand wants its customers to stay and become loyal, so it too makes promises, whether real or imagined. When I first started working at Philip Morris International, there was a rumour amongst consumers that Marlboro was financing the Ku Klux Klan in the US, because its packaging had three red rooftops or “K’s” on it. Management obviously didn’t want this imagined, so one of the K’s was removed by making the bottom of the pack solid red.

However, consumers’ desire for mystery was so strong that another quickly emerged, that of Marlboro hating Blacks, Asians and Indians. This second story came about because a consumer had found the printer reference line of coloured dots on the inside of the pack when it had been dismantled. This time there was little management could do, other than to deny it, which appeared to have the opposite affect of further confirming the rumour.

Customers love to tell stories about “their” brands. There are many myths about the greatest brands around, often starting from their packaging or communications. Toblerone has the “Bear of Berne” and the Matterhorn, exemplifying its Swiss origin, on its pack and the chocolate itself is shaped like a mountain. Camel has the “Manneken Pis from Brussels” on the back leg of the camel. Whereas the former was intentional, I don’t think JTI planned that into their design; consumers just imagined and then shared their fidning, turning it into reality.

Other brands have developed stories through their communications, that are also shared and repeated into reality by their customers. Examples of these include Columbia outdoor wear’s “Tough Mother” campaign, Harley Davidson’s enabling “middle aged” men to become bikers at the weekend, or Dove’s campaign for real women to name just a few. All these stories confirm and further support the connection their customers have with them, making these brands almost a part of their families.

Be Intentional

In a story, the hero has an inner motivation driving them to a goal. They will encounter problems and challenges along the way but their motivation remains strong to reach their goal.

4-quadrantsFor a brand this motivation is what it stands for, its equity. What is the brand’s image, its personality, what benefits can the customer expect? Not only is it important to identify these, but perhaps even more importantly is to consistently portray them in everything a brand does. From its product, to packaging, communications to sponsorships, the motivation for the customer can only remain strong if consistently and continuously reenforced.

 

Let me like you

A story depends on a hero with whom the audience can empathise; someone worthy of their respect, even love.

This is exactly the same for brands, which is why problems and crises need to be handled quickly, fairly and respectfully. In today’s world of global connection, everything a brand says or does, anywhere in the world, is shared and commented upon globally. Whereas in the past disappointed customers may have told ten others, today it is estimated to be more like ten million thanks to social media!

In a great article entitled “What an angry customer costs” by Fred Reichheld it is said that the cost to companies of haters or detractors is enormous. “Successful companies take detractors seriously. They get to the root cause of customers’ anger by listening to complaints, taking them seriously and fixing problems that might be more pervasive” But it’s not merely a question of preventing the spread of negative word of mouth. As Reichheld himself says “For many customers … (resolving complaints) …is where true loyalty begins“.

(Surprise and) Delight me

Stanton says that stories should charm and fascinate the audience; for brands we should aim for surprise and delight, as previously mentioned. The surprise of learning something new about the product or company that made it; delight at getting unexpected gifts or attention from the brand.

This is where limited editions and seasonal offers first started but over the last few years, thanks to today’s connected world, brands are going much further:

  • In 2010 SpanAir delivered an Unexpected Luggage Surprise for its customers flying over Christmas Eve
  • Also in 2010, another airline KLM, had staff members prepare gifts for a select few passengers who tweeted about their pending departure on a KLM flight at the airport
  • Tropicana  brought “Artic Sun” to the remote Canadian town of Inuvik, where residents live in darkness for weeks each winter
  • Zappos are known for their excellent customer service, but they often go the extra mile, upgrading customer shipping to expedited service for free. The surprise of the speed and delight at their accompanying hand-written mail, hits home every time
  • Kleenex surprised sick people with their Feel Good campaign that targeted people Tweeting about going down with the ‘flu
  • Google, who are known for their creative and timely illustrations on their homepage, started showing a birthday cake as the image above the search box on people’s birthday

The last example actually happened to me a couple of months ago and I have to say I was so excited I actually Tweeted about it. Am I the only one who was touched by this gesture, because I haven’t heard anyone else mentioning it?

So those are Stanton’s five clues to a great story, adapted for brands. Do they work? What stories are told about your own brands? Or do you have other great examples to share?

For more on brands please check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/ or contact us here for an informal chat about how we could support your own brand building efforts.

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, CopyPress.com, Dreamstime.com in this post

Boss expects you to know your customer

13 Things your Boss Expects you to Know about your Customers

Everyone speaks about customer centricity and the importance of the customer, but just how well do you know yours – really?

The following is a list of 13 facts you need to know about your customers. How do you score? Or if you are the boss, how many do you think your team would be able to answer?

#1. Who is your customer?

The 4 Ws of customer targeting

The 4 Ws of customer targeting

OK I’m starting off slowly, but do you know who your customers are? Not who uses your category, but who the people are that actually buy your product or service today? How much do you know about them?

Their age, gender and location are the basics, but there’s a lot more you need to know about them. Check out “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for more on what you need to know to be able to describe them in the depth your boss expects.

#2.Who are your major competitors?

Again another slow starter, but what market are you competing in and who are your competitors? Do you know as much about your competitors’ customers as you do about your own? Run a SWOT to know where you stand with them – probably best to do this when you’ve read the next eleven points though.

#3. What business are you in?

Innovate better than Apple

Although this refers more to the category than the customer, it is important to ensure you are looking at it through the eyes of your customer. Are you in the food business or the pleasure business, beverages or relaxation? See “How to Innovate better than Apple“for more on this topic.

#4. What do they buy?

What and where your customers buy your product should have been covered in #1. Now you should look at how much does your customer spends on your product or service and how much he has available? How does what he spends compares with the amount he spends on your competitors? Is your share of category and wallet growing? If not, why not?

#5. What does your customer need?

I’m not speaking about what he says he needs, but what he actually needs; what would surprise and delight him? What does he need that he doesn’t even know he needs until he sees it? Apple again is one company that seems to be very good at getting at peoples’ unarticulated needs.

They have people queuing up to buy one of their new products even when they already have a perfectly functioning older model. Do they really need this new version? No. Do they want it? No! They desire it, they crave it!

#6. What do they think of your price?

Balancing customer cost and valueHere consider not just the price they pay, but also the cost to them of the actual purchase. Do they buy online with packing and shipping costs extra? Do they have to drive out-of-town or even further to be able to purchase? What is the total cost to them of buying your offer? And how does the price compare to the total value they place on it?

#7. What do they think of your packaging?

Packaging today goes far beyond protecting the product inside and making its on-shelf presence impactful. It is a further medium for communications and also for showcasing your value and USP (unique selling point). Read “Is your packaging product or promotion” for more on this.

#8. What do they think of your product?

The ideal product sells itselfProduct testing is an often overlooked essential of concept development. Even if a product is tested before launch, and supposingly does well (or it wouldn’t have been launched, I hope) competition is constantly changing so you need to keep an eye on performance over time. Annual measurement at the very least and preferably also of your major competitors is the minimum, to keep your finger on the pulse.

#9. What do they think of your advertising?

Communicating your value through advertisingAs with product testing, this is an on-going need for performance metrics. In addition, the earlier you start testing within the development process, the less money you will waste on multiple advertising concepts.

I have known companies who develop three or more ads to almost airing quality before making the final choice. Your ad agency will never complain about you working in this way, but couldn’t the money be better spent elsewhere? I highly recommend you check out PhaseOne‘s unique tool for early stage, confidential communications testing.

#10. What do they think of your online presence?

It’s not so much what they think here, but more do they even notice. Unless you know your customers’ habits online, you are unlikely to be where and when they are ready to receive your message.

Red Bull LogoInstead of choosing and using just the most popular online websites like everyone else, from your work completing #1. you should now know which are the most popular with your customers. For some brands an online presence is of minimal importance, whereas for others it actually replaces more traditional forms of advertising. Think of RedBull as just one example of this.

#11. What do they think of your SM personality?

You can’t hide your personality on social media. The words you choose for a Tweet, the ideas and information you share on FaceBook, all build to a picture in the minds of your customer. What image do you think the following Tweet built in the minds of people?

Nestle customer service on Twitter

Treat your online communications in the same way as you would any other form of communications and use the same tone and spirit. Just because it’s new media doesn’t mean it is less important or serious. As the above example shows mismanagement of customer connections on such platforms cannot be removed – even if as Nestlé, you take it off your own website – it will always be there to haunt you.

#12. Why do they buy?

There are many “why” questions I could have added here, but this is fundamentally the most important. If you know why people buy and how you are satisfying their needs, the more likely you are to satisfy them.

In addition, if you continue to monitor their changing needs and desires, the more likely you are to continue doing it. And don’t stop at trend following alone; develop the trends into plausible future scenarios and you’ll be years ahead of possible changes in customer desires – not that’s a true competitive advantage! Read “Turning trends into future scenarios and the 10-step process you need to do it” for more on this topic.

#13. Why do you sell?

I’ve saved the best for last. Why are you in the business you are in? Are you looking to grow the products’ sales, increase distribution for your other products, make a different product more attractive, or are you just milking profits? All of these are valid reasons, but you need to be very clear on why, in order to know how to answer all the other questions. So why don’t you start again at the first one, when you’ve answered this one? Your thoughts might just have changed or at least been modified as a result of this new perspective.

Well these are my 13 questions you need to be able to answer to your boss, should he ever inquire. And if you happen to be the boss, why not ask your subordinates how many they can answer? Let my know your score below; can anyone answer all 13?

Need help in knowing and understanding your current or future category customers? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime.comKozzi.com, Red Bull and Apple

Services and sourcing matter

HELP! Your Customers don’t Value you as much as you do!

Have you noticed how extra “freebies” are always suggested to have an extremely high value, sometimes close to the level of the product you’re thinking of buying? Last week I spoke about the best 10-step process for following and developing your brand / corporate image. This week I want to speak primarily about value, an important area of any image.

I have just returned from another trip to the US; the Americans are, amongst many other things, the champions of exaggeration (apologies to all my American friends, but it’s true!) Here are a few examples I saw during my recent trip – thanks to my jetlag and my late night TV binges – of valuations of extras offered for free with the sale of various products:

  • Three additional CD’s are valued at $59.99, when the proposed product’s asking price is 3X $39.99 or almost $120
  • A set of plastic measuring cups valued at $39.99 and a recipe book valued at $79.99 are offered free when you purchase a $129.99 express cooker
  • Mini samples of other products when you buy a “starter kit” of cosmetics, valued at twice (!) the price of the product you are buying – which is incidentally already grossly overpriced.

Do the companies making these offers really believe that people will purchase the product they are advertising because of the value of the “free” extras? Or is it me that doesn’t understand their motivations? We have all become used to the exaggerated claims of the products offered on TV in these infomercials, but have you noticed how they are now creeping into online offers too?

This post was in fact prompted by a recent email I received from what until then I had judged to be a serious resource for tips on social media best practices. If I signed up for a bi-weekly newsletter service, I was offered two “free” eBooks totalling 130 pages between them and valued at $157! Come on, be serious! How many books do you know that are worth almost $80 each? Even those filled with lots of glossy colour photos are usually on sale for less than that. And to make matters worse, with the explosion of self-publishing, many excellent books are being offered at below the Kindle royalty threshold of $9.99 these days.

My reaction was to immediately cancel my subscription to the person’s newsletters; if he can claim such prices for his eBooks, perhaps his tips were just hot air claims too. I do get upset by companies which are stupid enough to think they can fool their potential or even current customers into buying something because of an over-valued freebie. So let’s talk value and look a little more closely at what customers think about the value of your own products / services.

Setting the Price

Setting your price to reflect customer valueWhilst you can put a price on your offer – in fact you will certainly do this before launch, with or without the help of your customers – it is only once it is on the market that customers will confirm its true value. If you over-price your offer, your product will either fail or will have to be sold at a constant discount. I wrote about the danger of continual discounts in my post “Are you on the way to brand heaven or hell?” which concluded with the thought that the slippery slope of price-cutting ends in turning your brand into a commodity bought on price alone.

 

 

Understanding your Value

The journey to customer valueThere is a big difference between price and value. Hopefully you are (no longer?) pricing your product based upon its cost and then adding your margin. If you have correctly identified your customers’ need and have produced a product that meets or hopefully surpasses these needs, then the price your customer is willing to pay can be higher than its actual cost. This is why it is essential to start new product development by observing and listening to your customers.

Communicating your Value

Communicating your value through dvertisingIn contrast, from C3Centricity’s recent work on luxury watch communications, Terry Villines of our partner PhaseOne wrote a guest post about the essentials of value which can be applied to any category. It is called “Is your brand worth paying more for?”.

In it Terry speaks about the six specific types of benefits found among brand messages wanting to imply premiumness. These were:

 

  1. Product innovation – your brand brings a new or enhanced benefit to the category.
  2. Human Worth – by tapping into the target’s self-esteem, a brand communicates how they are worthy of the more costly brand
  3. Unique Production Process – the way in which the product is made results in the delivery of a more significant benefit
  4. Premium imagery – associating the brand with other things that are premium in nature
  5. Higher performance than competing brands
  6. Endorsement by a credible authority

These six elements will indeed suggest added value or premiumness, but if your product does not live up to your customers’ expectations they won’t be happy – and in today’s world your sales will be immediately impacted, thanks to social media. Therefore it makes sense to make a good estimation of the value of your product and then if necessary see how you can substantiate it with additional communication elements as detailed above.

Is your product correctly priced or are you forced into a price war to maintain sales? If so then you are already on the “stairway to hell”. If you aren’t (yet?) then you should ensure that your communications and product quality are always in line with your customers’ ever increasing demands. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the market will maintain your brand at the forefront of changing market conditions and demands and will enable you to defend your pricing without the need for price cuts. That way you can use discounts to attract new customers rather than to keep your current ones alone.

What do you do to guarantee your brand is priced correctly? I’d love to hear your own ideas. Need help in knowing more about pricing and value identification? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com