Posts Tagged ‘brand management’
Back before fruit received much marketing treatment, no one much cared that plums somehow morphed into prunes when dried. The same relabeling happens to grapes, which become raisins. Most dried fruits don’t have this issue. Apricots, when dried, stay “apricots,” for instance.
This wouldn’t be an issue if “prunes” had not accumulated a reputation for being the most effective dried fruit to take when you had a need to “regulate your digestive system.” All dried fruit shares the property of being helpful in regulating digestion, but apparently prunes are the king in this department. (Raisins don’t seem to have this reputational issue.)
“If you go back to the 1940s and ’50s some of the brands were advertising the medicinal properties of prunes,” Richard Peterson, executive director of the California Dried Plum Board, quoted in Failure Magzine a while back. The CDPB is an agricultural marketing association that works to expand demand for dried plums.
Even in the 1980′s, the benefits of lots of fiber (and prunes are loaded with fiber) sold lots of prunes. Times change, however, and prunes are not trendy. Which creates a marketing problem for prune sellers: Most people don’t have to regulate their digestion! And they are therefore leery of what eating prunes may do to their currently regular digestion.
Rebranding is Hard – And Takes Money
In order to sell more prunes to folks who don’t need a laxative, prune sellers came up with what looks like the best solution: Take a page from the apricot book and sell “Dried Plums.”
It seems to be working, as dried plum sales to younger people have improved since all this started five years ago. The issue remains complex, however:
Young people will eat dried plums, but not prunes.
- Older folks still seek their prunes, and want that name on the package.
Sunsweet solved this by still promoting “pitted prunes” on packaging, and jazzing up their dried plums in separate packages for the younger set.
Rebranding Takes a Long Time – Are You Going to Tough It Out?
The Dried Plum movement still has a ways to go, however. Take a look at this review of the plumAmazins product, found on SheSpeaks Reviews:
“Prunes are something I associate with my elders and I’ve never knowingly bought dried prunes before and frankly, never even considered them. Figured I’d pack them in my day pack for a quick snack on my commute as I could just trash them. Well, not only did I not trash them, but I ate the entire pack. Then, the next day, I did it again. … They did not seem to be disruptive to my constitution. These singlehandedly helped my move past my prune stereotypes.”
As you can see, the consumer bought dried plums, and in the review kept calling them “prunes,” even using the mixed up term “dried prunes.”! It is clear that he or she pushed past the labeling to develop an opinion of the fruit, but that only happens of the marketing can successfully induce trial. That must remain the driving force of the marketing for a while to come!
Do you eat prunes, or dried plums? Do you allow a brand reputation to drive your decisions, or do you push past the branding to consider the product?
Too many small businesspeople get the relationship backwards between creative design (logos and other “identity” graphics, for instance) and “brand.”
I wrote about this on Forbes.com recently, but let’s review the proper relationship:
Brand ≠ Logo
Brand = Reputation
If you successfully build a reputation for delivering top consumer value for the dollars they spend with you, you will build a strong brand. And you can slap just about any logo on it you want (tastefully), and that logo will become representative of the value you deliver.
I am being a bit flip here: “Just about any logo” is certainly hyperbole, as everything you do has to reflect well on your business. But as a small businessperson, you must create a basic, enduring creative look for your business, and stick with it. Distracting yourself (and siphoning scare money) into a constant overhaul of your “look” is wasteful, and actually confuses your target audience.
Most consumers care little about logo design, and a lot about the quality of your product and service. So, if you had to spend one extra dollar on something, which should it be?
The next time any marketing guy tries to sell you on the idea that you need to “rebrand yourself” with a “new look” to “relaunch” your business, politely show them to the door. That is the last step in a “relaunch,” not the first, and may prove unnecessary at all if you fix the problems that may be hindering your value delivery!
Let me know in the comments if you disagree with me on this!
Here is another link to that Forbes article. Follow me there if you like it! (Share it, too.)
One of the great ironies of marketing is that the part that is the most fun – graphic design – is the least important in terms of making your marketing more effective.
This is true in spades for logos. Rejiggering or redesigning a logo that is serving its purpose has to be one of the biggest time-wasters in business. In fact, constantly tinkering with it is a BIG negative in what it communicates to the marketplace.
Logos are important as a representative for your brand promise. You should invest a basic amount to have a nice one designed. Here are some guidelines that small businesses should stick to:
- Keep it simple – Fancy frills don’t age well.
- Make it fit the product or industry se - Block letters, as an example, imply heft. Script letter less so. Script letters imply elegance, block letter less so.
- Make it clear – Include the company name or nickname. You are not going to spend enough money to make a pure design immediately recognizable. Note that IBM, FedEx, Xerox stick to their names as their logos. You should, too. It maximizes its value on a limited budget.
- Make it timeless – Don’t adopt trendy graphics, even if they make sense today for your market. You want to be in business for some time, and you want a logo that can go with you into the future.
No small business can afford to spend the millions of dollars needed to cement its logo in their marketplace as a short-cut to it brand promise. So spending time tinkering with the logo is a waste of precious time, energy and money.
Logos are the face of the company. They come to be a short-cut for consumers to your brand promise (think of what the sight of the Golden Arches automatically makes you do – Whether you salivate or curl your lip, those arches mean something because McDonalds spent billions making them an icon for predictable fast food.)
A Quick Case Study of a Company Overthinking its Logo.
A while back, Starbucks announced (unilaterally) that its logo was now iconic: It no longer needed the name “Starbucks” within it. Nor did it need the company name next to it. I disagreed. I felt Starbucks was deciding for the consumer that their logo had become as iconic as McDonald’s golden arches or American Express’ blue box, and pushing it onto their customers unnecessarily.
Now let’s examine one of the results of that decision:
In my own community of Castro Valley, there is a Safeway that has a Starbucks within it.
They just took “Starbucks” off the building and left the new Mermaid logo to fend for itself in attracting business. How attractive is this to you?
Now consider that a competitor, Peets, sits just thirty yards away in the same parking lot:
If you are pulling into this parking lot and thinking “I need a cuppa Joe,” which marquee is going to catch your eye? Where might you decide to buy your beverage and pastry?
Starbucks is going “cold turkey” on its move to a new logo, and I fear they are overestimating the business-drawing power of a logo with no connection to the brand name.
What do you think? Am I off-base?? Will Starbucks prove me wrong??? They certainly have the marketing budget to pull it off…
Any logo becomes iconic if presented often enough in a consistent manner (and the company delivers on its brand promise.) Which leads back to my original position: If any logo can come to represent you, why waste time and money creating more than a basic, servicable, classic logo?
We still have two months to go in this business year, yet we already have two candidates for brand disasters that will be hard to top.
First up, Netflix and the repricing/rebranding two-step stumble that occurred this Summer and Fall. What a mess! It is understandable that the company needed to rework its pricing to better match its business model, but it hard to believe the company did sufficient homework (customer research, that is) before making a big pricing increase from around $10 for the combo home delivery/streaming film service to $16. I saw poor marketing planning, too, almost as if Marketing had little say in the decision, and was handed a fait accomplis and a tight timetable:
- Where was the looooong telegraphing of the move before it took effect (let’s say at least six months) that would have given customers the chance to adjust to the news? (Full disclosure: My household is a customer.)
- Where was the justification for the shift, fully explained to us, the customers? Not the media, mind you, but directly to the customers? We customers received a letter after the whole thing blew up in Netflix’ face, but not before (at least not my house.)
- How about giving loyal customers an inside benefit by allowing them to keep the old price for a period of time (two months, say, for each year of being a customer.) That would have made the transition less painful. As it is, my family quickly canceled the home delivery and kept only the streaming service. We might have stuck with both for a loyalty discount.
And where Quikster came from is a real mystery. NetFlix is still a very strong brand, yet the old business that built the brand was being dropped down to a secondary brand like last year’s fashion designs. A needless and expensive solution for a customer service and communication problem, that was clearly not thought out. It may even have been the brainchild of one man (the CEO) in a desperate attempt to contain the damage from the pricing fiasco.
This led to a consumer revolt, and the whole mess has led to close to 1 million customers going out the door. Ouch.
Close on the heels of Netflix comes Bank of America with their debit card fee, announced at $5 per month for any month their debit card is used at a merchant point-of-sale (not at ATMs).
This was a financial decision, taken in response to the limits placed on debit card transaction fees by the Dodd-Frank financial industry regulation package. BofA stands to lose millions in foregone transaction fees (as will all other debit card issuers.) So, they decided to keep debit cards profitable by imposing a new fee for using them. Their biggest mistakes? Same as Netflix:
- Poor telegraphing of the move. Their competitors announced “tests” of the concept, and quickly drew in their horns when the “tests” produced poor customer reactions (a significant drop in POS debit card usage.) See a good summary here. Unlike airlines in the days of old, an announced round of price rises did not signal to competitors that it was OK to announce their own matching increase.
- Poor choice of price: $5 monthly is a huge fee. Why not $1? That might have been a bearable load for most consumers, and still have made up a bunch of revenue.
- Poor understanding of market sentiment. Consumers are very aware of prices and fees for service today, so this bald announcement generated an entirely predictable marketplace response.
These two companies did not do their homework, did not soften the blow with any nods to customer loyalty or possible competitive responses. They just bulled in the china shop and started knocking stuff over.
Perhaps they didn’t think so, but it sure came across that way to consumers! Whenever you face a need to raise prices (as all businesses should at some point), you need to actively structure it as a chance to reward good customers by “sharing” the needed price increase with them.
We have a new phrase in the marketing profession, courtesy of a digital marketing services company called HubSpot: Inbound Marketing.
It attempts to capture in a single category all the activities that leverage digital communication channels (read: the internet in all its mutations) to get you “known and found” by prospects who are actively searching for solutions.
Here is my most recent post on Forbes.com on this topic: Inbound Marketing
Inbound Marketing is placed in collaborative counterpoint to Outbound Marketing, which is the bucket into which all aggressive, intrusive old-fashioned marketing tactics like paid advertising, trade promotions, direct mail and even pay-per-click marketing go.
Inbound Marketing is earned rather than paid for, which makes it similar to public relations. Indeed, many marketers feel it should be treated more like public relations than traditional “outbound” marketing, especially as it should be tracked the same way. That can be debated, but the impulse is the same: Inbound Marketing is driven by content that has inherent value all by itself, whether or not the prospect does business with you. Contrast that to an ad, or a direct mail piece, that tantalises and promises a solution, but doesn’t quite reveal the secret sauce that is really going to solve the consumer’s problem. Content (white papers, blog posts, et al.) has to offer real value to attract attention and get viewers to linger over it, and be consistently delivered to retain potential customers as followers.
I could go on for pages on this topic. Check the Forbes post for more, and do internet research of your own. Many of the vendors in this space practice what they preach and provide lots of educational material that can get you up to speed without paying them a dime. Strangely, that leads them to do lots of business with the people who interact with their content! Welcome to 21st Century Marketing!
Good businesses plan ahead. They don’t simply react to events and hope that events go their way. They try to anticipate market moves, and refresh their approach to consumers actively rather than reactively.
That said, the process of planning should not drive the business, especially with marketing. Smaller companies don’t have the luxury of dedicating an employee to research and develop plans all day. Nor do most institute an annual “planning cycle” that sucks up time and energy that is better spent talking to consumers. But they do spend too much time running after lots of interesting ideas peddled by vendors without strategic focus. You need to know where you want to take your business, and the rigorous analysis and planning have value in keeping your eye on the prize, however you define it.
What planning approach should you take, though? Here I must give a tip of the cap to an advertising guy in Chicago named Bob Killian, who recently sent along a great thought piece about how better to structure a “marketing planning activity” (my words, not his) that keeps your thinking and planning about the future more strategic than tactical, and wastes less energy codifying tactical plans that never truly survive the firestorm of the marketplace anyway.
Here is the link to his article. In sum, dump marketing plans for brand equity plans, and constantly ask hard questions like:
- Does your brand truly still have value?
- What does it cost for the consumer to replace your solution? Is that cost dropping?
- If you started over today, would you focus on this brand/this solution?
- What “net present value” do your brand assets truly have, if you admitted the truth?
- If you have more than one brand asset, which one deserves the most energy and resources? Which one might best be sold to a competitor (yes, really ask that)?
As Mr. Killian wrote about 21st Century marketing:
“It’s no longer a linear process: the old Objective A> Strategy B> Tactics C gets replaced by a more complex cluster of options…The failure of consumers to take away a key benefit of a product, for example, could be caused by many different factors, and, similarly, could be cured by advertising … or promotion … or packaging redesign … or going door to door with baseball bats. Action options, like reality, won’t always be clearcut and unambiguous.”
You need to:
- Have strategic focus, and tactical flexibility.
- Take the blinders off that seem always to come with past success and mire you in old thinking.
- See your challenges for what they really are.
- Expect competitors to innovate around you.
- Expect consumers to be fickle.
- Consider all of this an exciting challenge that gets you up and out to work every day!
That last bit may seem flippant, but it is a critical success factor for any business. Take it to heart!
Saturday Night Live Producer Lorne Michaels has a well-earned reputation for staying relevant. He has kept his show on the air for close to 40 years by moving with his market. Staying “plugged in,” in effect.
So it makes complete sense that he currently keeps it “up to date” by going back in time: Boomer celebrities feature heavily in his line-up, and it is clear that Boomers are the viewers he seeks, now that you don’t have to stay up past midnight to watch, with shows available 24/7 in various ways.
It’s a good media play, as many of these Boomer icons (Elton John, Steve Tyler, even SNL graduates like Dana Carvey) also have contemporary or retro appeal to younger generations who actually stay up to watch it live. The focus, though, is clearly on getting Boomers back to watching the show, because that is where the money is for advertisers.
Michaels isn’t alone, either. The entire marketing profession is waking up to the fact that their rote system of focusing attention and budgets on the 18-45 age bracket is out of date. It was built by Boomers to talk to themselves (something they still do, but that’s another story.) Now the Boomers have moved out of that bracket, and have taken their money with them.
It took a while, because the marketing business is filled with young people, but the payers of the bills (their clients) have finally pushed enough to break the young, hip, tech-savvy focus back to “who has the money?”
That would be Boomers. Still our largest generation. Still our richest generation, and still not saving any of that money for retirement. Which is good for people who try to sell them stuff, if not the Boomers themselves!
Find more at the Engage: Boomers blog on MediaPost.
I am on record as being ambivilent about calling a paid celebrity an “endorser.” They shill for a fee, and most consumers know it. But, celebrities are magnets for attention, and if your product or service fits within the aura of their public persona (make-up and Kim Kardashian, or a NASCAR driver for oil products, say) you can bask in their glow and gain by association.
To support this, Nielsen measured the viewership of the top ten ads in last month’s Oscar telecast, and found that celebrity appearances performed well for Stella Artois, Venus, Best Buy and the American Cancer Society.
Now, Nielsen has also found that those who follow celebrities through social media are measurably more active in both purchasing and passing on recommendations online.
“Celebrities can be valuable to advertisers,” wrote Nielsen, ”but so too can the people who follow them on social media websites.”
- 64 percent of adult U.S. Internet users who follow a celebrity also follow a brand – this means the celebrity follower is four times more likely to follow a brand than the average U.S. adult online.
- Such fans are also more likely to offer advice and opinion to fellow online consumers.
- 32 percent of celebrity fans online provide advice on movies (making them 44% more likely than the average online user to do so)
- 28 percent provide guidance on music (56% more likely) and television programs (34% more likely).
Join the crowd: Connect with these active “onliners!”
If this is your target audience, get creative about how to interact with these people online, because there is a better than average chance they will send your stuff viral if you can engage them.
Here is a great article that shares good research on the role of creative strategy and execution in setting price expectations among your target audience. This is key to understand, because within your competitive niche, good creative can burnish your image and allow the brand to carry a price premium. Over time that premium should more than cover the cost of the investment in better creative.
Here is the link to the article.
Here, too, is a link to my Forbes.com blog post, that goes on at greater length about how to act on this research within your own business.
Of course, you cannot let creative become the tail wagging the dog:
- The message and positioning still come first
- The focus on your most lucrative target audience makes a close second
- Managing to a budget is still important
- Tracking is indispensible
But, a well-executed creative strategy can significantly enhance the ROI of your campaiging.
The moral of this little story remains: You can never drop your guard. Each aspect of your marketing supports the others, and if one area is neglected the sum of the parts becomes less effective.
This is not a marketing video, but it is a nice topline look at how seemingly irrational decisions in business are critical to a business’ long-term success. I am not keen on the part where “revenge” as a useful business impulse is discussed, but I understand what the speaker was driving at.
Click here to view the video in question.
On the other hand, I disagree with the idea that giving up personal gain is irrational (as he defines it.) It makes complete sense when you take the long view, because you create good will with the collaborative party. This will be cashed in at a later date if you manage the relationship properly.
Please note that “rational” in this context is defined as when a person acts solely in their own best interest when making a decision. This reaps an immediate economic gain to the decision-maker. However, most thinking people assess the long-term impact of decisions on their relationships with collaborators or customers. This is a core value of the “engagement” movement, with both employees and customers.
The seemingly philanthropic act of giving up current advantage usually is tied to gaining a collaborative future advantage, so “self interest” is still part of the decision-making process, but is consciously deferred.
This is why you empower customer service representatives to give value to customers with which they interact, and don’t put them in policy straightjackets that limit their ability to build positive long-term relationships that benefit both parties!