How To Use Brand Ambassadors To Open New Revenue Channels

A brand ambassador or brand champion is like a marketing ninja: subtle and enigmatic, moving within your target customer base inconspicuously but constantly working in your favour. When used effectively, brand ambassadors can be one of the most valuable and profitable parts of your brand strategy, connecting you with new fans, going to bat in your favour and opening lucrative new revenue streams.

 

Frequently, their recommendation is as effective as a referral from a trusted friend. In a study on brand ambassadors’ social media presence, 31% of social media users said a brand ambassador’s post had persuaded them to make a purchase1. Their reach has a grassroots-like effect, too; 24% of respondents in the same survey said they had made recommendations to others based on influencer posts.

 

5 Brand Ambassador Strategies to Grow Your Brand And Increase Sales

In this post, we’ll discuss five tactics for using brand ambassadors to strengthen your brand, further your brand strategy and open new revenue streams.

 

1. Use Brand Ambassadors To Reinforce Your Brand Essence, Personality and Message

 

Your brand essence or DNA  is the fundamental nature of your brand. It’s your brand’s heart and soul–what makes it distinct, gives it meaning in the minds of your ideal customers and sets it apart from the rest. Brand ambassadors are a real-world extension of your brand and can be used very effectively to communicate and reinforce your brand message.

 

Brand Ambassadors

Image via Bikini Luxe

 

A case study in using brand ambassadors as a living, breathing representation of the brand is women’s swimwear and lifestyle line Bikini Luxe. The company’s essence goes much deeper than pretty bathing suits; its brand DNA lies in turning fashion into a positive lifestyle choice2.

 

 

The company works with a network of ambassadors who contribute positive, female-empowering images that capture the brand essence on social media while simultaneously promoting their line of sustainable apparel. Which brings us to a key bottom-line benefit of working with brand ambassadors: it’s a low-cost way to reach thousands or even millions of new customers. According to Bikini Luxe, the brand has used brand ambassadors to secure traditionally costly collaborations for only the cost of a free product3, and influencers have become a primary channel for driving revenue.

 

Related: What’s a Cult Lifestyle Brand, and How do You Create One?

 

How do brand ambassadors fit within your brand strategy? When was the last time you evaluated the effectiveness of your branding? If your answer to either of these questions is uncertain then you’re a great fit for the Persona Brand Building Blueprint Mastermind.

 

Persona Brand Building Blueprint Workshop

Build your standout brand at the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind with Lorraine Carter

 

In this intensive two-day workshop, we guide you in analyzing your brand in a business context. We lead you through the complete process of building your brand strategy, as you work on your brand under our tutelage, so when you leave you’re ready to implement the right brand building steps to become highly visible and more profitable. Discover more and reserve your place in the mastermind here.

 

2. Leverage People Who Already Know And Love Your Brand to Become Great Brand Ambassadors

 

Some of your most effective brand ambassadors are right under your nose: your happy customers. Not only are they familiar with your brand personality, chances are they also know and embrace your brand mission, which is one of the most powerful profit-driving brand components. Chances are these people are already working for your brand by spreading positive recommendations to family and friends; leverage them in a strategic way by turning them into brand ambassadors.

 

Brand Ambassadors

Image via Lululemon

 

Athletic retailer Lululemon is a standout example of using satisfied customers as ambassadors for the brand. The company has carefully crafted a Lululemon lifestyle which encourages wearers that a healthy life is a happy one; it’s a belief system lived each day by a tribe of loyal ambassadors (who, of course, regularly sport the company’s clothing and recommend it to others)4.

 

Brand Ambassadors

Image via Lululemon

 

One of Lululemon’s strongest ambassador groups, though, is on the opposite side of the cash register: its employees. Through mediums like online videos, in-person events and social media posts, team members act as brand ambassadors to show real women the fit and functionality of various products as well as how to style them for various sports and activities.

 

 

 

Related: Brand Sponsorships: The Best Brand Ambassadors Are Already On Your Payroll

 

This works because it mirrors a personal referral, which is the number one type of referral in terms of purchasing payoff. A whopping 83% of people say they take action after receiving a positive referral at least some of the time5.

 

3. Establish And Build A Long-term Relationship By Treating Brand Ambassadors Like Royalty

 

An effective brand ambassador relationship isn’t a one-time transaction. It should be a long-lasting or even a lifelong one. To make it so, focus first on bringing value to the ambassador rather than extracting value from them. It’s an interesting concept that, when practised, can actually result in greater long-term gains on your behalf. Gary Vaynerchuk delves into the “give, give, give, then ask” philosophy here:

 

 

Review platform Yelp puts the “give more than you receive” philosophy into practice with its ‘Elite’ users, an exclusive group of Yelpers that are heavily involved and act as champions for the platform. Yelp regularly treats Elite users to lavish events like galas and private dining experiences that aren’t open to the general public, which keeps the highly engaged group coming back year after year6. This, in turn, has a ripple effect, as regular users see the benefits of being an Elite user and strive to achieve the same status. You guessed it–that means engagement on the platform stays high and longtime users remain loyal.

 

 

Related: The Age Of Internal Branding And Selling It From The Inside Out

 

Pinpoint more new opportunities to increase profits and strengthen your brand with the Auditing Analysis Accelerator™ Programme. This self-guided e-course enables you to identify areas of weakness and strength so you can build your brand to be more recognizable, memorable, loved by customers and profitable. Check out the Auditing Analysis Accelerator™ Programme and enrol here.

 

Brand Audit

Give your brand a health check here using our brand audit programme

 

4. Choose Brand Ambassadors That Are A Natural Fit For Your Brand

 

Simply having brand ambassadors isn’t enough; choosing and working with the right brand ambassadors is key. It’s an important part of your brand strategy that, like other aspects of your branding, should be planned thoughtfully and executed with intention.

 

For maximum impact, choose brand ambassadors who are a natural extension of your brand personality, personifying the characteristics, ideals and beliefs you uphold as a company. This is what resonates with customers and helps turn them into repeat buyers.

 

Not all brand ambassadors are celebrities. In fact, just because someone is publicly known does not mean that having them endorse your brand will drive profits. If it’s not the right fit, the campaign will feel disingenuous. However, a celebrity who meets the right criteria can make a highly effective ambassador. One such example is American football star Rob Gronkowski for Oberto Beef Jerky7.

 

Brand Ambassadors

Image via Forbes

 

Gronkowski is a natural fit because he shares the brand’s key personality traits: fun, quirky and never too serious. The brand uses Gronkowski to communicate these traits in a series of lighthearted videos (fast forward to 1:22 for some epic dance moves). While Gronkowski–and, in turn, the brand–comes off as likeable and goofy, it’s easy to see how the wrong ambassador used in the role could easily fall flat.

 

 

Choosing an ambassador who’s well known in his or her niche while also being complementary to your brand can bring new and highly-targeted customers your way.

 

5. Set Goals And Measure Them To Get The Best Return on Your Brand Ambassador Strategy

 

As we touched on above, brand ambassadors aren’t just nice to have, leveraged effectively they can be a profitable and very cost-effective marketing channel. But, like any other aspect of your branding, their impact must be carefully tracked, measured and improved over time to ensure return on your investment.

 

Brand Ambassadors

Image via ShortyAwards

 

Hallmark and Walgreens demonstrate how to track and quantify the results of working with brand ambassadors with their #HallmarkAtWallgreens campaign. During the 2016 campaign, the companies partnered together with a group of ambassadors to capture sentimental moments spent shopping for Hallmark products at the drugstore chain.

 

 

They tracked and measured the results of the campaign in three key areas: content production (social posts, shares, etc.), layered syndication (reach and engagement across various networks) and social activation (brand mentions, campaign participation, etc.). In total, the campaign resulted in a more than 500 percent increase in brand mentions and a content value of over $100K without any additional budget spent on marketing. You can view the full breakdown of the #HallmarkAtWalgreens ambassador campaign results here.

 

Brand Ambassadors

Image via ShortyAwards

 

Related: How to Use Brand Activism to Mobilize Your Customers

 

As we’ve demonstrated, brand ambassadors can take many forms, from celebrities to employees to satisfied customers. The common thread among them is that when used strategically, they can be a powerful driver of revenue and positive referrals for your brand. To maximize brand ambassador effectiveness, strive for long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships that can be measured and quantified.

 

 

If you prefer a done-for-you approach to analyzing and strengthening your brand, a brand audit from Persona Design may be in order. This strategic analysis will give you valuable insights into your brand’s performance and position within the marketplace while identifying areas for improvement and innovation. Contact us today at +353 1 8322724 (GMT 9:00 – 17:00) or brand@personadesign.ie to learn more. 

 

Questions To Consider

  1. Are you using brand ambassadors in a way that aligns with your brand strategy and drives revenue?
  2. Think about some of the segments of people that already know and love your brand, like employees and top customers. How can you activate them as brand ambassadors?
  3. What are your brand’s key personality traits? Who are some well-known individuals that also capture these traits?
  4. How might you reward brand ambassadors for their loyal support? Discounts? Exclusive perks? Something else?
  5. What are the most important indicators of success you’re hoping to achieve by working with brand ambassadors? How will you measure and track these performance indicators?

 

Persona Brand Building Blueprint Workshop

Build your standout brand at the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind with Lorraine Carter

 

Sources

  1. http://www.businessinsider.com/these-are-the-keys-to-a-successful-influencer-partnership-2017-12
  2. https://www.bikiniluxe.com/pages/about-bikiniluxe
  3. https://ninjaoutreach.com/8-influencer-marketing-campaign-case-study/
  4. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/03/19/lululemon-yoga-exercise-retail-running/1917659/
  5. http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/press-room/2015/recommendations-from-friends-remain-most-credible-form-of-advertising.html
  6. http://www.latimes.com/food/la-fo-0502-yelp-20150502-story.html
  7. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristidosh/2017/10/13/rob-gronkowski-shines-as-brand-ambassador-for-oberto-beef-jerky-in-new-campaign/#3be241892b43

The Age Of Internal Branding And Selling It From The Inside Out

Did you know that internal branding is the best way to get employees to develop a powerful emotional connection to your products or services so they become your top performing brand advocates because effective internal branding increases sales?

 

That emotional connection with the brand and its culture is what drives more than 2 million[1] people annually to apply to Google for a job.

 

 

Google is an unparalleled example of a brand which cultivates cult-like desire to work for them because candidates know that while Google only selects the creme-de-la-creme, the most elite top performers, the company also values their staff as their most important asset and looks after them accordingly. In short, Google understands the power of internal branding strategy, and selling the company from the inside out.

 

When staff are emotionally vested in the brand, they’re more loyal, motivated, productive, innovative, fulfilled and inspired by a unified sense of purpose.

 

Related: What’s a Cult Lifestyle Brand, and How do You Create One?

 

By applying branding principles from the inside first, employees glean a fuller knowledge of the brand and what’s important to it. Employees begin to “live” the vision of the company in their day-to-day tasks. And when employees live that vision in their roles the brand comes alive so your customers experience your brand’s promises to the full.

 

Related: Top 10 Brands for Customer Experience and What You Can Learn From Them

 

This article shares with you how to sell your brand from the inside out. But first, to make it more relatable so the theory is transformed into practical application take a look at this video which talks about the concept of internal branding.

 

 

The Link Between Employees and Internal Branding

Think about it for a moment, 60% of branding is about perception and only 40% about your product or service so one of the most significant factors influencing customers choices is how they perceive, think and feel about your brand through their interactions with it.

 

Contrary to what many think, branding is not just a logo or the aesthetics of a company’s website. Branding is the core DNA of your company – what makes it tick, the driving purpose behind everything you do and how you express your stand out brand personality at every touchpoint to engage your customers emotionally.

 

Because it’s only when you touch the heart that you move the mind so transforming your customers into committed fans, enthusiastic referral partners, word-of-mouth advertisers and repeat purchasers.

 

Anthony Robbins explains how emotions influence and drive all purchasing decisions masterfully here.

 

 

Related: Personality Matters: Bringing Your Brand to Life to Grow Profits

 

If you want some direction developing your brand and your internal branding then take a look at our brand building programme called the Personality Profile Performer™. This online course takes you through all the key steps you need to implement in building your brand. You can watch a free course preview here.

 

How to Build Your Brand

Build Your Profitable Brand Using The Personality Profile Performer™ Programme with Lorraine Carter

 

 

Alternatively, if you want in-person professional direction with expert input to develop your brand and internal branding and would like to discuss working with us then give us a call T: +353 1 8322724 (GMT hours 9:00-17:00) or drop us a line to brand@personadesign.ie. We’d be delighted to talk with you.

Employees Are Your Internal Brand

 

The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer confirms that people trust what employees say about the company more than they trust what the company says about itself. Trust is central to every brand because, without it, people will not buy from you.

 

Internal Branding

Image via Edelman Insights

 

When do employees represent, express, becoming living evidence of and talk about your brand? Front-facing staff represent your brand through their interactions with your customers. Non-front facing staff represent your brand when they discuss your company with friends and family and chat about their day on social media. Employees chat amongst themselves about your company — the good, bad and ugly.

 

Consider this, most of your employees are on social media and are either phenomenal ambassadors for your brand, indifferent workers clocking in time or worse still major detractors undermining your brand reputation.

 

Related: Top 10 Tips For Managing Your Brand Reputation

 

The ripple effect and network of influence per employee is extraordinary. It’s up to you to harness this for the greater good with strong internal branding or, through negligence, be at the mercy of come what may. At the very least make brand induction and training integral to what you do so you ensure your team are empowered, feeling and talking positively about your brand. In order for this to occur, your staff need to:

  • Express your brand and what it stands for, or aims to stand for — a traditional mission statement won’t cut it because it lacks real-world application
  • Identify how their behaviour supports or detracts from the brand
  • Synthesise and consequently feel highly motivated to choose the right behaviour for the positive growth of the brand

 

At its most basic, this is how employees are integral to the internal branding of your company, which sells from the inside and extends to the outside.

 

Related: Socially Empowered Employees: Are They Key to Building Your Brand Online?

 

A Common Problem With Internal Branding

The problem is that few leaders understand the need or know how to convince employees of the brand’s “goodness”. Dangerous assumptions including thinking that employees are naturally attached to the brand. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

Related: CEO Brand Leadership: How Vision Drives Brand Growth

 

Leaders often operate with the mindset that staff are getting paid to do a job and that should be motivation enough. The truth is, if you want a higher performing company, a culture of innovation and growth with increased sales, you have to promote your brand to your employees first through an internal branding strategy, because they are an extension of your brand and take your brand to the outside world.

 

Related: The Case for Brand Disruption: Be the Disruptor or Be Defeated

 

The How Of Selling Your Brand From The Inside Out

Going Deeper Than Traditional Vision, Mission and Values

 

Internal branding is far more than wall hanging statements with the vision, mission and values expostulated on them. If you really want to impact behaviour favourably, you need to develop a culture around your brand vision, mission and values in a relatable, actionable sense so it’s a living expression, on a daily basis, of what you stand for.

 

Because when a company desires a specific culture that nurtures the positive behaviour of both leadership and employees, it must be carefully developed through brand profiling and brand strategy development. Otherwise, the vision, mission and values end up being superficial nonsense which a best delivers no meaningful or measurable results or worst still undermines the business.

 

 

When employees truly buy into your brand vision, mission and values, it drives their behaviour, commitment, performance and sense of fulfilment. In order to achieve this, they need to understand and value how their role in the company fits into and contributes to the overall goals of the business.

 

Related: Brand Sponsorships, The Best Brand Ambassadors Are Already On Your Payroll

 

An example of going deeper than a mere superficial listing the company’s vision, mission and values is Teva Pharmaceuticals.

 

In 1901, three gentlemen started a small wholesale drug distribution centre in Jerusalem.

 

Internal Branding

The beginning of what would become Teva Pharmaceuticals in 1901. Image via Teva

 

Eventually, they moved into drug manufacturing, and between 1980 and 2000, they grew internationally. Today, they are the largest generics pharmaceutical company in the world.

 

In 2016, with more than 43 000 employees, Teva Pharmaceuticals embarked on a new brand identity strategy[2].

 

Beck Codner, Group EVP, Corporate Marketing and Communications, said, “Only when we are confident that all our employees are aligned around a shared purpose and how that should be reflected in how we think and how we act, will we be ready to externalise our new brand”.

 

As part of the new brand strategy, the Teva brand style guide and code of conduct was developed, so that employees would be well informed, empowered and armed with transparent standards to work with and represent the brand.

 

Internal Branding

A screenshot of a section of Teva’s new code of conduct, based on their new internal brand strategy. Image Via Teva Pharmaceuticals

 

Watch Teva’s historical progress:

 

 

Focus On Marketing Your Brand Internally First

Whatever brand strategy, marketing or advertising you plan to activate externally, sell it to the inside first, and whatever communication is planned for your external market, customers and stakeholders alike, ensure you inform and induct your leadership team and employees first.

 

Why bother? Here’s one B2B example for the sake of clarity:

 

“Before you can do anything to gain success in your business, you’re going to need the buy-in and support of your team. A team is what grows the business. It’s not the technology; it’s not the computers.”

according to Yaniv Masjedi, Vice President of Marketing, Nextiva, a cloud based communication company.[3]

 

Internal Branding

Image via Nextiva

 

In 2008, when Nextiva just opened its doors with a handful of staff, it was easy to keep people emotionally bonded to each other and the company. As it expanded to 300, with employees situated in other locations and many not knowing the names of fellow colleagues, it became necessary in 2012 to find a way to communicate company news more effectively, without resorting to the old fashioned newsletter.

 

“NexTV”, a weekly, internal video series was launched. They started small; each week, different employees would gather around a laptop camera to make announcements collected from all departments. Just 2 minutes long, it was uploaded onto YouTube – edit-free – for internal viewing. This killed two birds with one stone, so to speak because people in various locations could see the faces of fellow colleagues, some of whom they had never met, and get the news at the same time.

 

On average, 74% of Nextiva’s employees watch the series each week, with a 96% engagement rate.

 

The concept generates office fun and excitement, especially when employees know they’re being featured in the next episode.

 

Related: The Impact of Company Brand Culture On Driving Performance and Increasing Sales

 

In 2013, Nextiva started using more sophisticated means of internal communication, but the no-frills laptop camera method certainly achieved its purpose and has become a cornerstone of the company’s brand culture.

 

 

 

An example of one of the NexTV episodes.

 

Now logically, you’d think to sell change or marketing internally first, is a natural course of action, but for the majority of businesses, it’s not, because its importance is overlooked or forgotten. This is fatal for organisational goals, bottom line performance and sales growth.

 

Ensure management teams and staff are highly informed, fully engaged and relate to what’s happening before executing strategy externally, and if you make changes, be sure to sell it to them first.

 

Related: From Zero to Hero; How To Become a Must-Have Brand

 

 

Making Your Brand Come Alive for Staff Through Internal Branding

The point of branding – externally as well as internally – is to form an emotional connection with your ideal primary customer. This is why it’s no good simply documenting a dry vision, mission and values statement and filing it away or allowing it to become a wall dust-catcher because that accomplishes nothing. The vision, mission and values have to come alive for every staff member in order to increase performance and sales.

 

Related: Brand CSR: The Business Case for Successful Branding and Social Good

 

Staff have to live your brand and feel an emotional connection with it in order to sell it to your ideal customers whether in a formal work capacity or informally through their external life interactions.

 

Easier said than done; this section alone requires strategic thought: how do you make the brand come alive for your employees?

 

Firstly, the primary message needs to be introduced and the rationale behind it shared. This must be carefully developed because people are naturally resistant to change. When certain key factors are in place though, it makes the internal brand launch more readily received.

 

Secondly, the newly refreshed or revitalised brand message needs to be reinforced throughout employee touch points in daily activities. This needs to be strategically planned, just as you would plan a full-on customer marketing strategy.

 

Questions the brand strategy team needs to consider and plan around are:

  • What do employees think of the brand and company?
  • What do we want them to think?
  • What will convince them of this?
  • Why should they believe us?

 

Once these questions are evaluated and answered, the creation of internal branding collateral can be initiated. You don’t want to convey information, you want to persuade, emotionally engage and motivate. Make it actionable, fun, engaging and interesting.

 

Related: Brand Renaming: Name and Tagline Change Considerations

The Role of Communication In Internal Branding Strategy

It is often the HR department who execute internal communications when it should be the role of the marketing department who have the skill to market the brand not only to customers but to employees alike.

 

Communication is key internally, and yet the majority of businesses fail dismally at it.

 

In the 1980’s, HSBC, one of the largest financial organisations in the world, experienced rapid growth, and as a result, their employees became disconnected amongst themselves, the organisation and its leaders. In addition, the organisation had a traditional top-down approach, which made it just about impossible to obtain feedback from those on the ground. In today’s world, it’s not always an ideal model for a highly innovative, rapidly growing more progressive company which builds with high employee engagement.

 

The challenge was, how to get 250 000 people in one organisation, to be heard and feel their feedback mattered, and to change the traditional hierarchy?[4]

 

Enter Exchange Forum; the objective of which was to change the role of management.

 

Related: Brand Audits – How to Use One to Grow Your Profits

 

Internally known as the “shut up and listen” project, the forum was kicked off by holding meetings where management needed to “shut up” and listen to what their staff were saying, while saying nothing in return, so that the information would come from the bottom up instead of from the top down, recognizing that employees have opinions and knowledge that would be important to management decisions, especially for strategic changes.

 

The long term goal is that every employee should attend and participate in at least four “shut up and listen” exchanges each year.

 

Has the project worked? Take a look at this next video by HSBC titled, “through the eyes of our people”, and then answer this: from this video, does it appear as if employees feel connected now instead of disconnected?

 

 

 

 

Today, at HSBC, employees feel heard and leaders have learned the value of listening to what their team has to say.

 

Questions to consider with your internal branding

Is it time to sell your brand more strongly from the inside out? Consider these questions to improve clarity:

  1. Does your business sell its vision, mission and values to your employees first?
  2. Is your HR or Marketing department responsible for internal communications and are they integrated — working as a cohesive team?
  3. Can your staff and leadership articulate what your brand stands for and what makes you different to your competitors?
  4. Is your brand a living entity with a clear vision underlying at the heart of everything you do? Do your staff know how to incorporate the vision into their daily tasks?

 

Want to develop your internal branding strategy so you can build your team into your high performing brand champions but you’re not sure where to start to get a successful return on your investment?

 

Just drop us a line to brand@personadesign.ie or give us a call T: +353 1 8322724 (GMT 9:00 – 17:00) — we’re here to help.

 

If you want direction and support transforming your internal branding strategy so it empowers your team and increases sales then the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind is the perfect fit for you.

 

This is a two-day brand building intensive shared with a small group of like-minded peers where you work on your brand with our leadership. In fact, over the two days, you reevaluate your brand, codify it and create your brand strategy from the ground up whether you’re revitalising an existing brand or creating a new one.

 

This is a highly empowering workshop where we take a deep dive, step-by-step into how to build a brand. You discover and apply the systems and methodologies used by some of the world’s greatest brands as you work on your brand under Lorraine Carter’s direction and tutelage so you can grow your own brand and business.

 

This is not a theory based program but a highly interactive fast-track course where you work intensively on your brand throughout the programme duration using our ten step system to:

 

  1. Completely re-evaluate your brand to make it much stronger so it’s highly visible enabling you to increase your profits

 

  1. Map out your brand in full so it’s codified and comprehensively documented to grow your business faster

 

  1. You leave with your total brand road map or GPS of your brand empowering you to manage your brand, stand out and attract your ideal customers so you multiply your sales

 

Outcome:

Your brand transformed so you can increase sales.

 

At the end of the two-day Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind you leave with your fully documented brand strategy ready for implementation in your business or organisation.

If your team is larger and you’d like to include everyone’s’ participation in the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind then we also run in-house private client brand building intensive programmes too.

 

The Persona Brand Building Blueprint Workshop

 

Ring us to discuss your brand building preferences

Just drop us a line to brand@personadesign.ie or give us a call T: +353 1 8322724 (GMT 9:00 – 17:00) to discuss your preferences and we’ll develop your brand building intensive bespoke to your particular brand requirements so that you’re empowered to develop and lead your internal brand building team.

 

 

[1] https://www.brazen.com/blog/archive/uncategorized/2-million-people-apply-work-google-year-heres/

[2] http://www.tevapharm.com/news/teva_pharmaceuticals_embarks_on_strategic_corporate_identity_program_to_build_a_global_brand_02_16.aspx

[3] https://www.marketingsherpa.com/article/case-study/internal-marketing-b2b-video

[4] http://www.gatehouse.co.uk/the-employee-communication-revolution-ripping-up-the-rule-book-at-hsbc/

 

Brand Flops: 5 Lessons Brand Managers Can Learn From Epic Brand Failures

Successful branding is not easy. That’s why Coca-Cola, Sony, Microsoft, Ford, Colgate-Palmolive, McDonald’s and more — a few of the world’s biggest brands — have been responsible for some giant-sized branding flops.

 

In 1957, the introduction of the Edsel by Ford Motor Company was such a big failure that the name “Edsel” has become synonymous with “huge marketing failure.” In fact, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has singled out this example as one of his favorite case studies in what not to do.[1]

 

In each of the following cases there are numerous reasons for each of these famous brands falling short. In quite few a thorough brand audit would have flagged up some of the risks before they became text book flops.

  AAA-eProduct-Promo-800x700px

 

Let’s take a look at how Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola, Apple, and other famous names have taught us that even the best brands can perform some of the biggest belly flops ever, providing us with a look at pitfalls to avoid and lessons to be learned.

 

 

Lesson #1: Brands Must Understand Customers Needs, Wants and Behaviours

 

Edsel

In 1955, in America’s motor city of Detroit, Ford’s gas-guzzling Edsel automobile was on the drawing boards. Meant to be the full-sized answer to fill every American suburban dream, they named the car posthumously after Henry Ford’s son.

 

However, by the time this full-sized automobile was launched in 1957, consumer preference had shifted toward compact cars — a shift that was cemented by a stock market dive. Positioned as the car of the future, Edsel was overpriced, over-hyped and entirely the wrong car at the wrong time. Production was ceased within two years in the costliest mistake American industry had ever known.

 

 

Henry_Ford_Museum_August_2012_33_(1958_Edsel_Citation)700px

1958 Edsel – Henry Ford Museum, Credit: Michael Barera, Wikimedia Commons 2.5

 

 

Coca Cola

In the 1980s, nobody considered the branding of fast-moving consumer goods under the category of apparel, other than as corporate giveaways or inexpensive T-shirts and baseball caps. Yet, Coca-Cola agreed a merchandising deal to create an upmarket fashion line of Coca-Cola Clothing designed by a young, unknown Tommy Hilfiger.

 

First sold at an Upper West Side New York City store called Fizzazz, the in-store marketing revolved around a soda counter shopping experience, an interactive video screens, and hole-in-the-wall credit card machines called Eric that didn’t appeal to consumers.[2] Instead of print catalogues for its mail order distribution, Coca-Cola Clothing distributed free CDs bearing a message that tried hard to connect the soft drink and the clothing. It read: “Pop this cassette open for a sparkling, carbonated fashion video.”

 

coca-cola-rugbys-print-advert

Coca Cola print ad from the 80s (Credit: 237, eBay Store)

 

The concept was ahead of its time, even for trendy Manhattan audiences; only five of the 650 planned stores ever opened. The Hong Kong-made clothing felt cheap to the touch, featured a poorly designed fit, and the whole thing fizzled out fast.

Apple

Apple, too, once had a momentous flop in 1993. In those days, business cards and a Filofax diary were the tools of networking and time management. Apple tried to change all that by introducing a bulky Apple Newton handheld PC device which debuted at the Computerworld convention.

 

Apple_Newton_700px

Apple Newton (Credit: Ralf Pfeifer, Wikimedia Commons 3.0)

 

The world wasn’t ready and the product wasn’t right. Starting at $700, some said it was too expensive, others said too chunky, and everyone agreed it was very poor at reading the handwriting that people made using its stylus. Later versions of personal digital assistants (PDAs) by Apple competitors were enhanced, more broadly accepted by consumers, and sold far better.

 

 

Lesson #2: Brand Purpose Must Stay On Point

Brand extensions can be a tricky business. Colgate, Cosmopolitan magazine and Harley Davidson have clearly demonstrated what not to do. It’s difficult to imagine how some of these rather odd multi-million dollar spin-offs made it out of the boardroom, but they did.

 

Colgate

Colgate is a toothpaste; it promises pearly whites and fresh breath. Yet, in 1982, the toothpaste brand launched Colgate Kitchen Entrées, looking to capture the market in frozen ready-to-eat meals.

 

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Colgate Kitchen Entrees (via Marketing Directo, Madrid)

 

Why? Minty toothpaste and frozen peas? This mind-blowing branding concept was as unappealing as its packaging and promptly headed straight for the consumer graveyard, but not before hurting sales of Colgate toothpaste.

Cosmopolitan

In 1999 there was another weird marketing leap by the leading international women’s fashion magazine. Cosmopolitan introduced a line of yogurt on the already crowded refrigerated supermarket shelves.

 

cosmopolitan-yogurt
Cosmopolitan yogurt (Credit: Marketing Week)

 

Pricing it above the competition and calling it “sophisticated and aspirational,” this misguided off-message product line included Cosmopolitan Light Soft Cheese and Cosmopolitan Fromage Frais. If the brand strategy was, “Cosmo can sell anything,” consumer reaction said that they got that wrong.[3]

Harley Davidson

In 2000, Harley Davidson famously crashed into a wall when it went too far off centre with its drive into branded cologne and aftershave. In hindsight, critics point out that customer audience research and some well developed purchaser personas would have indicated that Harley rider brand values are not focused on smelling divine.

 

 harley-davidson-cologne-700px

Image via aazperfumes.com.br

 

Obvious? It’s hardly a surprise that these brand values include: freedom, authenticity, masculinity, toughness…and have absolutely zero to do with wanting to smell charming.[4]

 

 

 

Lesson #3: Brands Must Not Get Lost in Translation

American companies in particular have a long and checkered history of making blunders beyond their ethno-centric shores. General Motors, Pepsi, General Mills and Revlon are among the brands to have messed up on the world branding stage.

 

Even in the increasingly global marketplace, regional and national differences in traditions, cultural norms and taboos still matter greatly. Well-known translation examples fill the pages of business school case studies.

 

General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in Mexico, which translates as “It doesn’t go.” Coors Beer messed up the translation of the tagline, “Keep It Loose” into Spanish as “Suffer from Diarrhea.” In Taiwan, “Come Alive With Pepsi” was interpreted as “Pepsi Brings Back Your Ancestors From the Dead.”[5] Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux launched an American ad campaign with, “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

Kellogg’s

Occasionally, deeper cultural gulfs are breached at great expense. In 1994, Kellogg’s invested $65 million introducing its Corn Flakes breakfast cereal to the massive consumer market in India. However, a light breakfast is not the way Indians prefer to start their day.

 

Cornflakes_with_milk_pouring_in_700px

Cornflakes (Credit: fir0002/Flagstaffotos, Wikimedia Commons)

 

Furthermore, hot milk on cornflakes (using cold milk was unthinkable to the Indian consumer) turned the product instantly soggy.[6] Pursuing cold drinks, Nestlé fared no better with the idea of iced tea in India.

Revlon

In Brazil, Revlon launched its top-selling Charlie perfume featuring the floral scent of camellias. Since camellias are that nation’s funeral flower, Revlon’s effort was obviously wasted. Money wasted, reputation damaged, the LA Times reported in 1999 that Revlon unsuccessfully sought a buyer for their struggling Latin American businesses.[7]

Lesson #4: Brands Must Evolve With the Times and Stay Relevant

 

Eastman Kodak

Kodak is a prime example of a legacy brand and market leader which did not keep pace with emerging technology.

 

In this case, it was the move from film to digital that outdid the brand. Founded in Rochester, NY in 1888, Eastman Kodak Company sent cameras to the moon, encouraged loyal consumers to capture personal “Kodak Moments” for decades, and employed an extended family of 70,000.

 

Ironically, filmless photography was invented by Steve Sasson, a Kodak engineer, in the mid-1970’s. “It could have been Kodak’s second act,” reported The Street in its article “Kodak: From Blue Chip to Bankrupt.” Instead, Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Lesson #5: Choose Your Brand Ambassadors Carefully

Putting your money where someone else’s mouth is can lead to trouble, as demonstrated by brand after brand, including market leaders like Hertz and Nike. Leveraging a CEO, an employee, or a celebrity ambassador as the face of a the brand is a risky business strategy due to the unpleasant surprises that can — and do — crop up.

Hertz

As the very prominent longtime spokesperson for Hertz Car Rental, National Football League hero O.J. Simpson, known as “The Superstar,” had a locktight association with the brand.

The handsome, popular football running back was featured in a TV commercial dashing through airports to get to the Hertz rental counter. A decade as the face of the brand came to a screeching halt in 1994 when he was accused of the murder of his wife and a friend in an internationally publicized criminal trial.

Nike

In 2009, when pro golfing champion Tiger Woods was embroiled in a high-profile sex scandal, Nike suffered for having had him as their brand spokesperson. In a YouTube video aimed at damage control, Nike has Tiger’s father asking him what he was thinking.

 

The awkward video has had more than 4 million views but raises more questions than it answers. Nike’s bad luck continued with other disgraced sports figures: Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius.

 

According to an article from London’s Cass Business School, personal circumstances are impossible to predict and extremely difficult to mitigate risk. The lesson learned is “to cut the ties between the brand and the brand ambassador as quickly as possible.”[8]

 

In all cases perhaps one of the biggest learnings is you should most definitely conduct a brand audit to evaluate your brand’s weak spots and identify new areas for innovation and growth before rushing headlong into a new venture.

 

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Five Questions to Consider:

  • Do any other epic flops come to mind, and if so, do you think one of these five reasons accounted for the failure?
  • Can you think of other branding examples where a thorough brand audit and proper market research could have avoided a huge mistake at great cost?
  • In addition to Kodak, what other brands lost their way by failing to use brand audits, purchaser personas or keep up with rapidly changing consumer preferences in the 21st century?
  • Which do you think are the world’s top 10 most valuable brands in 2016…and why?

 

 

You may also like:

• Brand Management: Top 10 Tips for Managing Your Brand Reputation

• How Brand Purpose = Purchase = Increased Profitability

• Rebranding Strategy: Why Your Rebrand Must Embrace Storytelling

• Brand Profiling: How to Use Emotion to Make Your Brand More Profitable

• Rebranding Strategy: Using Premium Repositioning To Increase Profitability

• Brand Profiling: Top 6 Components to Creating a Strong Brand Personality

• Brand Audits: 10 Things Successful Brand Owners and Managers Must Know

• Brand Personality: Is Your Brand’s Character Big Enough to Compete?

 

 

[1] http://www.wsj.com/articles/bill-gatess-favorite-business-book-1405088228

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/1986/11/09/business/pushing-fashion-in-the-fast-lane.html?pagewanted=all

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-daily-meal/6-hilarious-food-and-drin_b_5055465.html

[4] http://www.casestudyinc.com/harley-davidson-brand-extension-failure

[5] http://www.namedevelopment.com/naming-faux-pas.html

[6] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/attempt-analyze-mistakes-corrections-kelloggs-made-india-utkarsh

[7] http://articles.latimes.com/1999/oct/02/business/fi-17749

[8] http://www.cassknowledge.com/research/article/beware-when-brand-ambassadors-go-astray

Brand Promises: How to Craft, Articulate and Live Them for Brand Success

According to a Gallup study of nearly 18 million people, most customers say brands don’t live up to what they promise. [1] Many are also disengaged with their respective brands, and consequently not loyal to them either. Here we take a look at how to create, develop, share and authentically live out and deliver on your brand promise to help you thrive in the marketplace and increase your profitability.

 

 

Gallup Research Staff Brand Ambassadors

Image via www.gallup.com

 

 

 

What is a Brand Promise?

 

Your brand promise is an extension of your brand’s positioning, and can be explicitly spelled out, or manifested in more subtle ways. A compelling brand promise contains tangible emotional benefits, which in turn stimulates desire amongst its target audience.

 

Furthermore, a strong brand promise establishes expectations by informing customers on what the brand stands for and what it represents. [2] Sometimes the brand name in itself conveys the promise. Consider that most people hear the word “Cadillac” and instantly think of an upscale car.

 

Brand promises can also be communicated through symbolism such as the signature aqua blue associated with Tiffany’s jewelry. Before even opening the box, recipients anticipate that the item inside will be luxurious. The colour has been given meaning by what the brand stands for and the promise it consistently delivers.

 

Tiffany Blue Box 600px

Image via www.tiffany.com

 

 

Familiarity is also a major aspect of the brand promise.[3] When people see the golden arches of a McDonald’s restaurant sign, they expect the brand to deliver on its promise of uncomplicated fun. This is underpinned by good service and convenient food — all of which is a consistent experience of simple, easy enjoyment regardless of McDonald’s location.

 

 

 

Making Your Brand Promise

 

Your brand promise should be easy for customers to understand, and very relatable. Most importantly it should be livable on a daily basis within your organization. As customers’ tastes and expectations change, your brand promise may need to evolve over time too. Your brand promise can transform as your brand adapts to the changing market but should remain true to your core brand DNA. [4] Ideally, customer expectations should be mirrored to whatever your brand promise consistently delivers.

 

Brand promises should be emotionally compelling, and exciting.[5] Consider the brand promise conveyed when families book trips to Disney World, often referred to as “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Travelers who are Disney World-bound expect a promise of stress-free, fun-filled happy adventures where memories are created and shared.

 

You must be able to succinctly describe the emotional benefit your brand fulfills when developing a brand promise. What can your brand deliver that’s perceived to be totally different to your competitors. Consider this in terms of your brand experience, personality, mission, values, brand story and so forth. This process, known as brand profiling, will help you evaluate which human needs or desires are most relevant to your purchaser personas or customer avatars so you can develop your product or service to really meet their needs. Some examples include:

 

  • Need to belong
  • Desire to do feel; good, healthier, beautiful, intelligent, worthy, smarter etc.
  • Desire to have; fun, adventure, excitement, relaxation, challenge
  • Need to get necessities without hassles
  • Need to get items at best price available
  • Desire to be admired by peers; status symbol, trend-setter etc.
  • Need to have a solution which solves a particular problem
  • Want to have something that intuitively works

 

The emotional rewards combined with rational benefits, all perceived to be delivered in a way which is incomparable to your competitors, are what contribute to a compelling brand promise. However, you also need to ponder factors such as your commitment to customers, your customer service and the customer journey and which elements contribute most to customer loyalty and ultimately the creation of brand advocates.

 

 

Articulating Your Brand Promise

 

Your brand promise may be communicated through a snappy tagline that emphasizes what people can expect.[6]  In the 1980s, Federal Express set expectations about delivery speed with the tagline, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” That’s an example of a very bold brand promise. However, you also may find it advantageous to utilize a more ambiguous approach. Apple did that with their “Think Different” tagline that was open to various interpretations.

 

A brand promise and a tagline are not the same thing. However, a tagline can be useful for communicating what your brand promise says in a distilled way that’s easy for customers to understand, remember and refer.

 

Although it is important for a brand promise to be communicated to customers, it must first be internalize amongst your team because staff members are your best brand advocates. Most importantly if your staff and stakeholders don’t fully understand and live your brand promise, your external market — your customers won’t either, which leaves you at risk of being just another generic commodity and failing to meet expectations. [7]

 

Conduct a brand audit health check to evaluate how well aligned (or not) your internal team are with the external market.  If you uncover weak points in your brand culture and misconceptions about your brand promise, you’ll be empowered to implement internal changes with brand induction and training.

 

In addition to educating employees about your brand promise, you also need to make them feel invested in it as an important part of the whole entity where their contributions are key to the greater good and brand success, so they care about the emotional needs your brand promise fulfills.

 

It’s essential to create an emotional brand attachment with your customers, as well as with your employees otherwise they won’t be effective brand ambassadors or properly represent your brand. They are in effect the living embodiment of your brand so their understanding, internalization and commitment to living what it stands for and delivering on your promise is critical to your brand success and long term business growth.

 

Remember, fundamentally people buy products or services with emotion first and justify with rationale afterwards, regardless of gender or cultural background, so you must touch the heart to move the mind.

 

When being communicated to customers, the brand promise should have a genre that can be expressed through audible and visual cues.[8] For example, the grocery store Trader Joe’s has the unusual genre of a trading post, and promises it has a team of people who search the globe for high-quality products backed by an impressive guarantee.

 

Your brand promise should also have a unique voice that defines and expresses the brand’s character or personality. When the brand promise is associated with a strong voice, it becomes more relatable and memorable.

 

Communicating your brand’s promise effectively means being consistent when attracting customers’ attention, educating them, stimulating desire and converting them into paying individuals. If your ideal audience are effectively engaged at each stage, it’s easier to communicate your brand promise in a worthwhile and profitable way.

 

Finally, your brand promise should be communicated consistently and congruently across all brand touch-points.[9]  You may choose to share it through social media, direct mail brand collateral or your website amongst others. Most importantly it should be a ‘tangible experience’ throughout your whole customer journey, particularly where physical connecting occurs such as over the phone or face-to-face. It should be an emphatic part of your brand experience, be that in the office, on the show room floor or in your physical outlet or store.

 

 

 

Living Your Brand Promise

 

When evolving or discussing your brand promise with your team, always aim to do so face-to-face and provide opportunities for engagement and feedback.[10]  Also, provide direction and suggestions on how staff can personify your brand promise at work amongst themselves and when interacting with customers, through your training and brand induction programmes. Explain and demonstrate that living your brand promise is not a one-off activity, but an integral part of how you do things. When the brand promise is lived out internally, it naturally gets far more effectively expressed to and experienced by external customers simultaneously. [11]

 

Be intentional about showcasing your brand promise to customers through your company brand culture. Rather than leaving things to chance, keep channels of communication open, and accept that your brand promise may evolve over time. If you discover your brand is not living up to its promise, considering engaging external professional assistance to help you re-evaluate your whole brand offering using tools and systems like a brand audit health check and brand profile development with a system like the Personality Profile Performer™ to improve matters.

 

Now that you’re aware of what a brand promise is, and how to create and authentically live it, let’s look at brands that have succeeded in developing compelling brand promises and delivering on them consistently and successfully.

 

 

CASE STUDY: Saba Restaurant, Dublin

 

Saba is widely regarded as being the best authentic Thai and Vietnamese Restaurant in Ireland with an impressive and very extensive array of national and international awards — which are constantly being added to.

 

Saba means, ‘happy meeting place’, so the brand’s primary aim and promise is to provide really happy experiences for its customers, the kind that mellow into happy memories. This is at the heart of the Saba brand promise and an integral part of the brand culture, which can be tangibly experienced at every stage of the customer journey from initial booking to front line staff interactions at their multiple locations. And the Saba staff are very congruent in the experience they provide to their customers.

 

The Saba Promise 600px

Image via www.sabadublin.com

 

 

With a very strong commitment to developing his team, Paul Cadden, founder and owner, ensures his team are really well trained throughout the business. The fact that Saba has some of the highest retention rates in the industry is a testament not only to Paul’s remarkable vision but to the genuine commitment of all his team.

 

The Saba Way 600px

Image via www.sabadublin.com

 

 

Every team member knows what the brand stands for, their brand promise and genuinely live it internally amongst themselves and proudly ensure its central to all their customers interactions and experiences with them — all of which is evidenced not only in the countless awards received but in the hundreds of customer reviews and testimonials given.

 

 

 

 

 

CASE STUDY: Big Blue Whale Toys and Curiosities

 

This Houston, Texas-based small business delivers the brand promise through the descriptor, “A Magical Place to Find Classic, Hard-To-Find, and Handmade Toys in Houston, TX”. Although its website is basic, it offers a photo gallery that clearly depicts the inviting shop.

 

 

 

 

 

Bursting with items for the young and young-at-heart, the photos demonstrate shoppers do indeed have a very good chance of locating toys they couldn’t find elsewhere. The ocean-themed windows also help entice people to come and indulge their curiosities by wandering around this “magical place” that lives up to expectations. The shop has even been recognized by Business Insider as one of Houston’s coolest businesses. [12]

 

 

Big Blue Whale 600px

Image via www.houstoniamag.com

 

 

CASE STUDY: Ace Hardware

 

Ace Hardware’s brand promise is as follows: Deliver helpful, neighbourly service to every customer—every time. Although the brand has always prided itself on excellent service, it has more recently begun expanding on the “neighbourly” aspect.

 

 

 

 

 

The brand now offers same-day service to homes that are within 15 miles of local stores when orders are placed by 13:00p.m. That perk is very attractive and compelling for customers embroiled in home improvement projects, or can’t fit bulky items into their vehicles.

 

Ace Hardware 600px

Image via www.mesquitelocalnews.com

 

 

CASE STUDY: Tourism Vancouver

 

The brand promise of this tourism board is “The Vancouver experience will exceed visitors’ expectations. We will deliver superior value in a spectacular destination that is safe, exciting and welcoming to everyone.”

 

 

 

 

 

This organization has created a “brand toolkit” to help other businesses live the brand promise, and thereby promote Vancouver as a great place to visit. The company also holds an award ceremony to recognize outside parties that are delivering on the brand promise with excellence. The brand promise is emphasized through an extensive collection of media clips, including some that show how Vancouver can be exciting even if people are visiting for business reasons and not only pleasure.

 

Tourism Vancouver 600px

Image via www.discovervancouver.ca

 

 

Now that you have a better understanding of what a brand promise is, how to create one, and why it’s essential to your brand success, hopefully you’re on track to not only make promises, but keep them and indeed deliver them in an unforgettably way. If you can do that, customers will thank you not only with their loyalty but also through referring and sharing your brand too.

 

 

Key Takeaways:

 

  • Your brand promise can be explicit or subtle, and may change as customers’ needs evolve.

 

  • Brand promises most effectively relate to emotional needs customers want fulfilling.

 

  • Your brand promise, customer experiences and expectations should be fully integrated and congruent.

 

  • Consistency is essential throughout every touch-point and communication when fulfilling your brand promise.

 

  • Employee commitment, brand induction and training are critical for effectively communicating and upholding your brand promise successfully.

 

 

Questions to Consider:

 

• What’s at least one emotional need your brand meets better than you’re your competitors? Have you developed your brand promise fully using the brand profiling process?

 

• How are you ensuring your employees’ perceptions of your brand promise are fully understood, congruent, authentically lived and effectively delivered throughout your organisation?

 

• Which channels are the most effective to communicate your brand promise to your customers and enhance their experience with your brand?

 

• Consider an occasion when a brand you love did not live up to its promise, how are you going to ensure your brand never falls foul with the same kind of disappointment?

 

• How are you connecting your brand promise to your existing company brand values, as Ace Hardware did? Have you considered or recently conducted a brand audit health check to evaluate how well your brand is performing, where it could do better and where new opportunities lie?

 

 

You may also like:

 

Brand Profiling: How Brand Performance and Purpose are Inextricably Linked

 

Rebranding Strategy: Why Your Rebrand Must Embrace Storytelling  

 

Brand Profiling: How to Use Emotion to Make Your Brand More Profitable

 

Brand Audits: 10 Things Successful Brand Owners and Managers Must Know  

 

Brand Revitalisation and Relaunch: The do’s and don’ts of doing it successfully!

 

Brand CSR: The Business Case for Successful Branding and Social Good

 

Top 10 Brands for Customer Experience and What You Can Learn From Them

 

Co-Branding: 13 Tips for Growing Your Brand Through Strategic Partnerships

 

The Power of Disruptor and Challenger Brands

 

[1] Ed O’Boyle and Amy Adkins, http://www.gallup.com/ “Companies Only Deliver on Their Brand Promises Half the Time,” May 2015.

[2] Susan Gunelius, http://www.aytm.com, “Brand Promise – How to Make It and Keep It”

[3] Lee Frederiksen, “http://www.hingemarketing.com, “Elements of a Successful Brand 4: Brand Promise”

[4] Sree Hameed, http://www.forbes.com, “Your Brand Promise Can Create or Destroy Customer Loyalty,” June 2013.

[5] Sue Kirchner, http://www.theworkathomewoman.com, “How to Write a Killer Brand Promise That Helps You Stand Out from the Crowd”

[6] http://www.creativemporium.co.uk, “Branding Series (Part 2): Creating a Brand Promise,” July 2014.

[7] Susan Guneilus, http://www.womenonbusiness.com, “The Importance of Integrating Your Brand Promise Into Your Company Culture,” August 2013.

[8] Laurence Vincent, http://www.inc.com, “How to Bind Customers to Your Brand”

[9] John Oechsle, http://www.business2community.com, “How & When: Using Communication to Deliver on Brand Promise,” August 2015.

[10] Ashley Freeman, http://www.allthingsic.com “Nine Golden Rules to Help Live Your Brand Internally” April 2015.

[11] Chris Cancialosi, http://www.forbes.com, “The Secret to Faithfully Delivering On Your Brand Promise,” March 2015.

[12] Emmie Martin, http://www.businessinsider.com, “The 18 Coolest New Businesses in Houston., ” April 2015.

[13]  Natasha D. Smith, http://www.dmmnews.com, “Ace Hardware’s Brand Promise is Its Strongest Marketing Tool” March 2015.

Top 10 Brands for Customer Experience and What You Can Learn From Them

If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” (Jeff Bezos) – CEO Amazon.

 

89 percent of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience in 2016 according to a recent Gartner survey, compared to only 36 percent four years ago. If your customers don’t like the customer experience they have with you, there’s a high probability they won’t buy again and they’re highly likely to share their poor brand experience with everyone they know — online!

 

Steve Jobs Quote Customer Experience 600px

 

 

Here we’ll take a look at who has been delivering a great customer brand experience and how they’re doing it really well, contrasted with others on the opposite end of the scale — with actionable learnings for you to take away from both.

 

The latest reports on customer brand performance are eye-openers and worth reflecting on when you review your own brand or give it a customer performance brand health check.

 

 

Common Brand Experience Traits for Top Brands

One factor that definitely stands out is steadfast perseverance. What has attracted customers before, and will attract them in the future, is perceived value. The brands that have continued to deliver highly regarded perceived brand value, from a customer perspective, and continued to unwaveringly improve upon it, are ruling the day.

 

This perceived brand value has nothing to do with affordability but everything to do with user experience, a unique experience that creates strong brand loyalty and engenders long lasting customer brand champions.

 

Amazon 600px

Image via http://i.huffpost.com

 

  

Who’s Got Exemplary Customer Service Really Covered?

  • 1.         Amazon
  • 2.         Apple
  • 3.         Nordstrom
  • 4.         Lush
  • 5.         First Direct
  • 6.         LL Bean
  • 7.         Air Asia
  • 8.         Uber
  • 9.         Net-A-Porter
  • 10.      Worldwide Stereo

 

Let’s take a closer look to see how these brands have a made real difference to their customers’ lives, and consequently massively grown their profits too.

 

 

Case Study #1 AmazonLet the Customer Rule

How Amazon created a brand around its customers?

When it comes to perceived value and web-based customer service, Amazon wins hands down. It has repeatedly demonstrated to the world that, when done correctly, with meticulous attention to detail and tireless focus, they are the byword for customer service. In reality, despite many detractors and ever-growing competition, the retail, or rather the e-tail giant, has proved that customer service is a fine art. It’s no wonder than many fail, despite best intentions.

  

The core vision

One of the reasons Amazon excels at customer service is because their core vision blends in with their founder’s original mission seamlessly — make customers the primary focus and deliver unflagging perceived value. They’ve built their entire customer service brand strategy, and in extension, their brand around this mission.

 

 

 

 

 

USPs:

What stands out first is their incredible returns policy, which is the first thing to reassure the buyer that they will be taken care of, even if they dislike their purchase. In other words, their money is safe, if in doubt.

 

Another outstanding feature is the Amazon fast response times. Unlike many other instances where a customer might hold for an eternity on their phone, waiting for customer service with other brands, with Amazon you connect swiftly.

 

With the recent additions to their call service centers, thorough follow-ups, and thoughtful tips for buyers, Amazon has consistently continued to prove that it is the guru of customer service. [1]

 

Lesson Learned:

Consistent reliability, every time

 

 

Case Study #2 AppleIs this an iPhone 6s?

How the brand inspires pride and ownership?

Technology companies in general have delivered an overall great customer service experience, which when you think of their reach, is not an easy task.

 

In the collaborative survey conducted by 24/7 Wall St. and research survey group Zogby Analytics, Apple had 40% of its customers vouching for its customer service. [2] For a company that has reinvented the word innovation, this figure is important.

 

How the brand functions?

First comes the customer, followed by the technology. Jobs said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology.”

 

Powerful words that still define the way the company works. It is a brand that stands for exclusivity and innovation. Today it is also a brand that stands for its customers. [3]

 

USPs:

Its customer satisfaction rating has improved by nearly 5 percent from 2014, helping it move its way closer to the top spot in the customer service Hall of Fame. Apple’s increased sales figures, a 30 percent increase in 2015 from the year before, also suggest a satisfied customer base.

 

Apple Store San Francisco

Image via www.msn.com, © AP Photo/Eric Risberg

 

 

What’s more, it has also ranked exceptionally high, a 4 out of 5, for employee satisfaction. Employees not only take pride in working here but they also identify with the brand and are active champions of the brand, a fact that reflects in their customer service and in the way customers identify with the brand.

 

In order to excel you have to innovate. You also have to identify a need and fulfill it and then ensure that the service you provide is truly exemplary. From the product design to the unique Genius bar, Apple has ensured that customer experience is not just good, but unique every time.

 

Lesson Learned:

How Apple does it? They innovate. Every time.

 

 

Hugh Mac Leod Gapingvoid Creativity Is The Fuel

Image via www.gapingvoid.com, © Hugh MacLeod

 

 

Case Study #3 NordstromLuxury is Approachable

How the brand has been reinvented?

The luxury brand has become the absolute role model for customer service with their seamless returns policy. The atmosphere is still that much loved and wonderful blend of convivial warmth together with subdued luxury tones, that makes shopping there a really enjoyable experience.

 

Their customer service agents are helpful, well trained and knowledgeable. While their recent policies have included more frequent promotions, their teams have been simultaneously trained to deal with the increased foot-fall and expanded customer mix.

 

Nordstorm 600px

Image via http://i.cbc.ca

 

 

USPs:

According to experts, what stands out however is their incredible price-matching policy across the country, similar to John Lewis in the UK. If an item has a price-drop anywhere else, no matter which store it is, they’ll match that price right away for their customer. [4]

 

Online shoppers can even get benefits like free shipping on every order and paid return shipping. The brand message has slowly evolved from classic to timeless and secure with customers made to feel important and cared for.

 

Lesson Learned:

Feel good luxury

 

 

Case Study #4 LushBeauty is Naturally Indulgent

What should be the brand focus?

Putting a definite smile on their customer faces is the focus for natural cosmetics firm Lush, with the help of their welcoming and very knowledgeable staff. The ‘happy atmosphere’ of the store enfolds customers like a welcome balm, who typically leave with or without buying, feeling in a better mood and good about themselves.

 

They garnered a whopping 89 percent of the votes and came out as the winner among UK’s top brands. According to the leading industry surveys from KPMG Nunwood and Which?, retail brands like Lush have made significant impact with their customers and consequently increased sales, simply by creating the right environment for their customers consistently. [5]

 

USPs:

Most people would think that a brand like Lush has been built on the premise that they are offering an exemplary range of products. Actually, when you look closely you will see that their entire brand strategy is focused on making their customers feel good and confident through their exemplary natural products, coupled with their proactive CSR strategy and giving back for greater social good. A fine difference but difference nevertheless.

 

Lesson Learned:

Create a brand personality associated with a warm and happy feeling, together with giving back for the greater good. People buy with emotion first and justify with rational afterwards — regardless of gender or cultural background, so you must win the heart first if you want to move the mind.

 

Lush 600px

Image via www.thisismoney.co.uk, ©Alamy

  

  

Case Study #5 First Direct – Your Money is Safe

First Direct was a close second with 86 percent of the votes, no doubt ruing its fall from the winning position that they held the year before. But it has nevertheless carried on its tradition of great customer service, which has been reflected in the surveys.

 

Much praise was heaped on it for its high-profile switching deals, as well as making the change process really easy for customers too.

 

Lesson Learned:

Making money management easy

 

 

Case Study #6 – LL Bean – You are the Heritage

Across the Atlantic it is LL Bean which came out on top. The heritage retailer has received five stars for its outstanding customer service and courtesy that left customers feeling positively happy, a word that is often not often associated with customer service today. Worth noting when you consider that according to another study, nearly one third of all consumers would rather clean a toilet than talk to most companys’ customer service agents! All LL Bean customers are responded to and quickly, one can even speak to an LL Bean representative in close to 30 seconds and get email responses within an hour.

 

Lesson Learned:

So what makes LL Bean so popular? They have made their brand easily identifiable for each and every customer by being so approachable. One just doesn’t take pride in the product but spreads the word for others.

 

Ll Bean Boots 600px

Image via http://www.businessinsider.com, Flickr/jimshooz7

  

  

Case Study #7 AirAsiaConnecting Anywhere, Anytime

How to overcome existing barriers?

We live in the age of constant connection and social media and this list would be incomplete with at least one brand that rules that space. The winner surprisingly is an airline, a category that has been historically notorious about customer service.

 

 

 Air Asia Airline 600px

Image via www.tommyooi.com

 

 

In an age where news, especially bad news, spreads faster than we can blink, keeping up with great customer service is a definite challenge. AirAsia, with JetBlue a close second, has changed our perceptions about customer service and interaction in the airline industry.

 

How have they succeeded?

 

Mastering the emerging technologies

With an outstanding Facebook presence, easy to navigate and helpful web pages, fast customer response time across all social and online platforms, AirAsia is rocking the virtual space.

They have over 3 million likes on their Facebook page which is not just a content sharing space but one where they have actively engaged their customers and readers.

They respond.

 

They make it a point to respond to all queries and comments and fast. Their representatives are always friendly and personable and available 24×7.

Fun promotions like “Free Seats Challenge,” one that offers 12 winning customers a year’s worth of free seats on flights doesn’t hurt either.

 

Lessons Learned:

You can reinvent around perceived barriers.

 

They have reinvented their brand by reinventing the way we look at airlines today. Instead of expecting hassles and hold-ups, one can experience instant connection and responses.

 

It immediately changes brand perceptions as it simultaneously engenders customer confidence and goodwill, before they potentially become irate — which is particularly important in a sector where unscheduled delays or unpredictable problems can make travelling more arduous.

 

 

Case Study #8 Uber – Customer Service Redefined

How a new brand becomes a giant?

Expert reports have revealed one brand that has been touching the thousand to million mark, in terms of customer service, and across the world it’s Uber. [6]

 

What started as simply easing of commute worries has now transformed into a whole new concept of transportation. With its ingenious and virtually seamless innovations it has now integrated itself into our daily lives together with a very robust customer following. Very soon, we will see it as a one-stop travel planner too.

 

Lessons Learned:

Identify a need, even in a crowded marketplace.

Innovate a service by adopting the latest technologies.

 

Uber 600px

Image via www.sfexaminer.com

 

 

Small and New Can Win Too

 

Case Study #9 Net-A-Porter – Be a Relaxed Shopper

The online retailer came next for its best phone-based customer service, an aspect of business very few brands can testify to.

 

Their outstanding one-to-one communication, in this era of mass communiqués have touched hearts and moved minds.

 

It is still a growing brand but it has effortlessly managed to hold its own against the goliaths by virtue of its incredible customer service.

 

Lessons Learned:

This focus on customer has indeed paid off with spreading word-of-mouth referrals.

Word-of-mouth, after all, is still the strongest brand strategy when leveraged for the right reasons.

 

 

Case Study #10 Worldwide Stereo – Customer is King

 

It’s not always the giants that rule either. In the world of behemoths, one small company that has made its mark in sales and customer service is the World Wide Stereo.

 

 

 

 

 

This electronics and audio store not only offers an amazing (and ever-increasing) array of innovative products, but has also garnered a reputation for its stellar customer service.

 

It’s fast becoming the place-to-go when you want an out of the box product that no one else has — and which often has sizable discounts too.

How they do it?

 

They hold their own against the big retail brands with their expedited two day delivery, and even a free next day delivery in some cases.

 

 

 Worldwide Stereo

Image via http://membrane.com

 

 

They stand by their products and are known to quietly upgrade orders and deliver a faster and better service. They even boast a custom home installation team, something many of us have never even heard of in this twenty-first century. [7]

 

Lesson Learned:

They have created a brand that stands for the customer, all the way.

 

 

Building a Brand with Customers at its Heart

According to the StellaService report, the brands that measured well are accessible to their customers via multiple channels: phone, email, online live chats, and have outstanding shipping and return policies too. [8]

 

 

Delivering Value

When we look at all the brands that have made it to the top positions for customer service, we see one thing in common – perceived brand value.

 

When you analyze performance more closely these brands have taken that concept to a completely new level. This is not the value for money concept in terms of the cheapest solution but rather the complete brand experience and the perceived increased brand value that engenders with its customers.

 

A great case in point is a premium brand like Apple with a premium pricing strategy – it is considered a top brand that offers value because of its outstanding product quality and great service. Every customer interaction is focused at making customers feel important while ensuring the product is accessible so it enhances peoples’ lives.

 

Customers need to be able to count on their favoured brands and the brands in turn have to focus on meeting and exceeding their customers’ expectations, and work their deliverables around those expectations.

 

Amazon delivered innovative support through their May Day button on the new kindle, where customers get support at the click of a button from a live person. No calls, no hold times, no chats and no waiting for email responses. This close attention to detail is what creates a sustainable brand. This is the value all brands should strive for.

 

Brands working on reinventing themselves or on their way to create a distinctive brand presence should focus not just on their products and sales, but also on their after sales service because word-of-mouth is still the strongest sales voice in the field.

 

A quick look at preferred customer service attributes:

  • Time Saver
  • Fast Turnaround
  • Price Match
  • Great Positive Emotive Feelings
  • Great service

 

 

Monopoly is so Last Year

There is also much to learn from the brands that did not do so well in the surveys and consequently what not to do! Interestingly, cable, satellite and wireless service providers reportedly fared quite badly on both sides of the Atlantic. Their long-running problems with low customer satisfaction are unfortunately very much a part of negative customer experiences according to the latest industry surveys.

 

 

What not to do

According to customer ranking research and survey results, despite the continued poor performance they still appear to suffer from a lack of urgency to improve the quality of their customer interactions. This could explain the continued customer complaints and dissatisfaction. [9]

 

One reason for this apathy could be the limited competition these companies face which somehow undermines the need for appeasing the customer faster, but hardly anything can explain this sectors indifferent attitudes reportedly experienced a little too frequently. The moment there is a new kid on the block, a challenger, disruptor and innovator, no matter how small, customers will switch.

 

 

Key Learnings to Consider:

•  A brand is built through its service – both sales and customer service

• If customer experience isn’t one of your top priorities long term, you’ll lose

•  Be reachable, always, anytime on multiple platforms

•  Expect what the customer expects, exceed their needs and design your service to meet those demands

• Innovation is the key to keeping customers engaged

•  Never be too complacent for the next big thing is always round the corner

•  Engage the customer on social media

•  Customer service is must and core to your successful brand strategy

•  Value is not low price, it is a great consistent brand experience

•  Offer true value, every time

 

 

Questions to Consider:

• Do you know what your customers really want? When did you last conduct a brand audit health check?

 

• Have you made your customers central to your long-term goals, or is it still revenue? It’s never about just the money.

 

• Do you have a robust team in place to deliver world-class customer service, 24×7? Are they also well-trained and fully inducted brand champions?

 

• Is your brand strategy totally sales based or is it customer service focused as well?

 

• Are you creating a sustainable brand through your customer support network?

 

• Are your customers talking about your brand beyond their brand interactions? Have you integrated a CSR strategy into your brand strategy?

 

• Do you offer true brand value in terms of a complete brand experience?

 

 

You may also like:

 

Brand Profiling: How Brand Performance and Purpose are Inextricably Linked

 

Rebranding Strategy: Why Your Rebrand Must Embrace Storytelling  

 

The Profit Power of Cult Brands, Why and How to Create One

 

Brand Profiling: How to Use Emotion to Make Your Brand More Profitable

 

Brand Audits: 10 Things Successful Brand Owners and Managers Must Know  

 

Brand Revitalisation and Relaunch: The do’s and don’ts of doing it successfully!

 

Brand CSR: The Business Case for Successful Branding and Social Good

 

Co-Branding: 13 Tips for Growing Your Brand Through Strategic Partnerships

  

 

[1] Matt Granite, Money Expert, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20QoVsWsD58 ‘The top 5 companies for customer service’. April 2015

[2] 24/7 Wall Street, http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/generalmoney/the-2015-customer-service-hall-of-shame-and-fame/ar-AAdiO5T, ‘ Companies with the best customer service’, July 2015

[3] Shep Hyken, customer service and experience expert, 24/7 Wall St.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2015/07/24/24-7-wall-st-customer-service-hall-fame/30599943/, August 2015

[4] Matt Granite, Money Expert, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/04/22/save-of-the-week-best-customer-service/26180985/, ‘The top 5 companies for customer service’. April 2015

[5] Which? Survey, http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/shopping-grooming-and-wellbeing/reviews-ns/best-and-worst-brands-for-customer-service/100-big-brands-rated-for-customer-service/, ‘Best and worst brands for customer service: 100 big brands rated for customer service’, May 2015

[6] Brittney Helmrich, Business News Daily, http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7578-social-media-customer-service.html#sthash.pFzb6Eu5.dpuf, 10 Companies That Totally Rock Customer Service on Social Media’, December 2014

[7] Matt Granite, Money Expert, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20QoVsWsD58 ‘The top 5 companies for customer service’. April 2015

[8] STELLA BENCHMARKS, https://stellaservice.com/benchmarks/, 2015

[9]   24/7 Wall Street, http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/generalmoney/the-2015-customer-service-hall-of-shame-and-fame/ar-AAdiO5T, ‘ Companies with the best customer service’, July 2015 

 

 

Brand CSR: The Business Case for Successful Branding and Social Good

According to a Nielsen poll of consumers in 60 countries, 55 percent of purchasers are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that do their part to encourage positive social and environmental impacts.[1]

 

Clearly, corporate social responsibility influences buying preferences, but how else is it important? We’ll examine the answer to that question below.

 

  Corporate Social Responsibility 600px

Image via www.huffpost.com

 

 

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

 

Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, occurs when companies take into account the sociological, financial and environmental impacts its actions have in the world and decides to ensure its actions make a positive impact. [2].

  

Some business experts have simplified the definition of CSR even further to suggest it encompasses everything a company actively does to have a positive impact on society.

 

There are numerous types of CSR, such as:

 

  • Philanthropy
  • Production Improvements
  • Better Conditions for Workers
  • Sustainability
  • Community Enrichment
  • Diversity in Hiring Practices
  • Supporting Companies with Similar Values

 

Typically, the manner in which a company engages in CSR is closely aligned with its brand strategy, brand values, positioning, primary audience and industry sector. For example, a clothing manufacturer might iron out a CSR plan that improves working conditions in factories located in developing countries, while an establishment that makes paper products might commit to CSR that ensures the world’s most at-risk forests are protected and regenerated.

 

 

Why is CSR Good for Business?

 

Although many corporate leaders are encouraged by the aforementioned statistic that shows a company’s involvement in CSR may mean a customer is willing to pay more for its services, they usually require stronger beneficial commercial evidence before taking further action.

 

However, they don’t need to look very far before uncovering some of the numerous other benefits linked to CSR, including: [3]

 

 

  • Happier Staff: Employees take pride in working for a company that supports the greater good through worthy actions and happier staff are more productive and better brand ambassadors

 

  • More Informed Customers: If your company announces a CSR strategy, the associated plans could potentially result in a more transparent organization which in turn typically results in more loyal customers.

 

Research shows customers want to know more about the things they buy, product or service, than ever before. For example, a study published by IBM noted 59 percent of American consumers and 57 percent of consumers from the United Kingdom have become more informed about the foods they buy and eat over the two years prior to the study’s publication.[4] 

 

In other words, customers’ predisposition to buy, product or service, is becoming increasingly influenced by an organization’s authenticity, openness and commitment to the greater good.

 

  • Reduced Costs: CSR can cut costs by helping companies become aware of and minimize risks, plus improve the efficiency of their supply chains.

 

  • Improved Competitiveness: In a challenging marketplace, a worthwhile CSR plan could carve out a more solid place with a unique positioning for a company to thrive.

 

  • Better Public Relations and Reputation Management: A CSR plan gives a company a platform through which to promote good things like community involvement, donations to charities and other big-hearted gestures.

 

 

 

Developing an Effective Corporate Responsibility Plan for Your Brand

 

In order to launch a CSR plan that’s good for business and engages genuinely with your stakeholders, it must be carefully crafted. The key is to strike a balance between benefiting society at large, and benefitting the business. [5] Doing that means:

 

  Business Idea Action Plan 600px

 

 

  • Evaluating how and where the business can have the greatest societal impact without taxing the company’s leadership and resources. This frequently involves scrutinizing the company’s existing competencies. Those strengths can provide clues to possible CSR strategies that are revealed after tapping into existing skillsets.

  

  • Cultivating a deep understanding of how certain actions could help the business while simultaneously supporting the chosen causes. This often also necessitates having an open heart and mind while listening to feedback from stakeholders.

  

  • Aligning with partners can propel your desired efforts and help bring goals to fruition. Ideally, adopting a long-term mindset when forming collaborative CSR relationships is best for all concerned.

  

  • Ensure business objectives and CSR goals match up. If there is a disconnect between these two components, your CSR activities risk being time-consuming and lacking the power needed to make lasting changes.

  

  

Examples of Brand CSR Strategies That Have Worked Well, and Why

 

Now you have a deeper understanding of what corporate social responsibility is and how to start formulating your own plan, let’s look at the characteristics of some successful CSR programs with companies that are excelling in their CSR endeavors [6]. You can then use these actionable tips to drive your own brand CSR inspiration.

 

CSR experts agree all successful CSR programmes typically have:

  • clear objectives
  • measurable outcomes
  • well-developed theories for how to achieve the desired goals
  • sufficient information for stakeholders about why causes are worth pursuing
  • dedicated and highly focused efforts from the entire company
  • a willingness to partner with credible experts.

 

 

Let’s look at a few case studies that detail some stellar CSR successes.

 

APS Group

This UK-based SME spent years ironing out its CSR strategy. Lacking the resources to hire a dedicated CSR team, the company found employees who were willing to champion the company’s CSR causes, which include education and supplier sustainability.

 

  

  

  

  

Media clips from the company place a strong emphasis on making things possible for clients that they would not be able to achieve alone, as does the company’s published document about its CSR initiatives. Through CSR efforts, it can also be strongly argued the company is living out its “Make More Possible” slogan by enabling the people and organizations affected by the causes it supports. APS Group is a great example of how even if a company thinks creating a CSR plan is a daunting task, success is still within reach. [8]

 

 

Method

This brand of cleaning products uses natural ingredients such as coconut oil and soy. Furthermore, the products’ packaging is environmentally responsible and biodegradable. Since the company boasts over $100 million in revenue annually, that is proof “green” products can be commercially viable.

  

   Method Cleaning 600px

Image via www.methodhome.com

 

 

Furthermore, Method demonstrates CSR focuses do not have to be separate from the products you make. Some media clips from the company that details its CSR focuses specifically highlight input from industry experts to make a bigger impact.

 

  

 

  

  

LUSH Cosmetics

This company sells bathing and beauty products filled with natural ‘Fair Trade’ ingredients. The brand’s Charity Pot is sold to benefit a rotating assortment of non-profit organizations. All proceeds from the Charity Pot go directly to the chosen groups, resulting in millions of dollars raised. [10]

 

The packaging is just one indicator of how easy it is for people to support good causes by purchasing these black, lotion-filled containers. LUSH uses the labels on the top of pots to inform consumers who the recipients are by clearly stating the designated charity concerned.

  

   Lush Pot Lids 600px

Image via www.lush.co.uk

  

  

The brand also has a fund that supports communities which produce fairly traded goods. It was launched in 2010 and borne from a desire the company had to do something more than just use fair-trade ingredients in their products whenever possible. [11]

   

 

  

   

 

Charting the Results of Your CSR Strategy

 

It can sometimes appear somewhat difficult to determine with certainty whether your CSR strategies have achieved the desired outcomes. One of the more effective ways you can answer that question is by engaging an independent research firm, with specialist expertise, to rank certain aspects of a company’s CSR performance, from human rights to the environment and community. [12]

 

Additionally, you can check effectiveness through various metrics [13] such as:

 

  • Environmental indices for pollution or air/water/soil quality
  • Quality and quantity of mentions in media outlets
  • Measurements for the quality of life within a society, such as literacy rates, life expectancy and incidences of disease, plus mental, physical and emotional heath. The latter could be gauged through feedback surveys given to workers
  • Indicators of the company’s economic health by way of profits, growth, and stability, before and after a CSR campaign launches

 

 

Statistics 600px

 

 

In conclusion, customers are becoming increasingly hyper-conscious of how and where they spend their money. Recent research also indicates this trend is strongest among Millennials, the largest consumer segment in terms of buying power. [14] Specifically, 91 percent of Millennials actively switch to brands that support a worthy cause, and abandon the brands that aren’t perceived to have an authentic contribution policy.

 

In addition to boosting your customer base and potential profits, a well-developed CSR plan could strengthen your relationship with suppliers, increase competitiveness in the marketplace and help you cut costs by becoming more aware of risks. Therefore, many business leaders have come to realize it’s short sighted to not be involved in corporate social responsibility.

    

Key Takeaways

 

  • Customers are typically willing to pay more for products from companies associated with strong CSR brand strategies
  • CSR goals vary depending on a company’s values and the composition of their stakeholders
  • A good CSR plan should both benefit the business and help society
  • The CSR plan must align with a company’s business objectives
  • Expert individuals or notable groups can help improve CSR strategy success
  • Metrics and independent research groups can evaluate whether a CSR plan is working well

 

Have you integrated a CSR strategy into your organization? If not, it might be a good idea to take a look at how CSR could benefit all concerned.

  

Questions to Consider

  

  • Does your company have well-defined core competencies that could translate into areas of CSR focus?

  

  • How motivated are your stakeholders to pursue a CSR plan?

 

  • Are there obstacles that might delay CSR-related brand strategy plans?

  

  • Have you thought about how to tackle negative responses from stakeholders that CSR is not currently worthwhile?

 

  • Which measurement methods will you consider using to verify your CSR brand strategy effectiveness?

 

 

You may also like:

 

• What Customers Want: Top 16 Branding Trends in 2016

  

• Rebranding Strategy: Why Your Rebrand Must Embrace Storytelling

    

• Brand Profiling: Top 6 Components to Creating a Strong Brand Personality

  

• Creating New Brands: Top 10 Tips for Brand Success  

 

• Brand Personality: Is Your Brand’s Character Big Enough to Compete?

  

• Millennial Branding: 6 Ways Your Brand Can Appeal to Millennial Customers 

 

• Co-Branding: 13 Tips for Growing Your Brand Through Strategic Partnerships 

 

Video Brand Strategy: Top 11 Tips for How and Why You Need to Use Video

     

[1] http://www.nielsen.com, “Global Consumers Are Willing to Put Their Money Where Their Heart Is When it Comes to Goods and Services from Companies Committed to Social Responsibility”, June 2014

[2] http://toolkit.smallbiz.nsw.gov.au, “What is Corporate Social Responsibility?”

[3] http://www.csrinpractice.com, “What is Corporate Social Responsibility?”

[4] George Pohle and Jeff Hittner, https://www-935.ibm.com, “Attaining Sustainable Growth Through Corporate Responsibility.”, 2008

[5] Tracey Keys, Thomas W. Malnight, and Kees van der Graaf, http://www.mckinsey.com, “Making the Most of Corporate Social Responsibility” June 2009

[6] Frederick E. Allen, http://www.forbes.com, “The Five Elements of the Best CSR Programs.” April 2011.

[7] http://www.theapsgroup.com/who-we-are/corporate-social-responsibility/

[8] Lisa Henshaw, http://www.theguardian.com, “How SMEs Can Engage in Social Responsibility Programmes,” December 2011.

[9] http://www.inc.com, “How Two Friends Built a $100 Million Company”

[10] Helaina Hovitz, http://www.forbes.com, “Following the Millions in LUSH’s ‘Charity Pot’. December 2014

[11] https://www.lush.co.uk/.  “Introducing the SLush Fund”

[12] Tima Bansal, Natalie Slawinski, Cara Maurer, Natalie Slawinski, Cara Maurer. http://www.iveybusinessjournal.com, “Beyond Good Intentions: Strategies for Managing Your CSR Performance” January/February 2008.

[13] Katherine N. Lemon, John H. Roberts, Priya Raghubir and Russell S. Winter, http://www.philoma.org. “A Stakeholder-Based Approach: Measuring the Effects of Corporate Social Responsibility”, 2011.

[14] www.conecomm.com, “New Cone Communications Research Confirms Millennials as America’s Most Ardent CSR Supporters,” September 2015.

  

Rebranding Strategy: Gems of Wisdom from 5 Successful Brand Revitalizations

Rebranding is a relatively broad term, as it encompasses both large and small-scale changes to an existing brand, which aim to resurrect a failing brand, reposition the brand and allow the company to reach out to a new target market, or simply help the brand keep up with the times.

  

While some brands adopt a “back to the drawing board” strategy and change everything from their logo and name to their brand values and product packaging design, a good brand revitalization strategy can sometimes be limited to a few low-key changes that enable the brand to stay relevant or differentiate itself from the competition.   

 

 

When Should a Company Invest in a Rebrand?

An impressive 61% of consumers stated that an exceptional customer experience was a major determining factor when choosing a brand, and 48% of consumers expect brands to understand their needs and assist them in finding the right product and services based on those needs.[1]

   

    

Digital Trends Target The Always On Consumer 600px 

Infographic via Cube.com [Digital Trends Target the Always-On Consumer]

  

  

Brands that have trouble understanding or catering to the customers’ needs are prime candidates for a brand relaunch, but a company can also have trouble with brand incongruence, a tarnished reputation or pressure from the competition.

 

However, the reasons for a rebrand can also be of a positive nature – a brand may experience rapid growth, as well as significant changes in the production process or the expansion of their product portfolio due technological innovations. Repositioning an economy brand as a high-end brand is another good reason for rebranding.

  

Since a successful rebrand involves performing a brand audit, market research, developing a detailed brand implementation strategy and effectively communicating the rebrand to customers and media, it is not recommended for young brands. You must have a well-established brand identity and a good level of brand awareness before you can embark on a brand revitalization journey.
 

 

Lessons Learned from 5 Successful Rebranding Strategies

1.   Harley-Davidson – Improve the Actual Product

The Harley-Davidson motorcycle company initially had many advantages over their competition. For one, the brand had a purebred American provenance, a long history – their motorcycles were used by the US army in both World Wars – and were associated with an image of a powerful, fearless and rebellious man and an adventurous lifestyle that was alluring to a fairly large percentage of men in their mid-twenties and mid-thirties.

  

The brand had a good story tell, but the company still had numerous problems over the years, and faced bankruptcy on more than one occasion. The main issues that the company faced were:

  • Their products were objectively less reliable than what their competition had to offer
  • They faced very aggressive competition from a number of quality Japanese brands
  • The brand had become associated with biker gangs, notably the Hells Angels
  • They were seen as old-fashioned and outdated

 

In other words, Harley-Davidson had to address their reputation issues or face extinction. However, this was not something that could be fixed by merely changing the logo – their products didn’t meet the quality standards that the customers were accustomed to and they didn’t appeal to the younger generation. The brand actually adopted an incredibly smart strategy – spend less money on marketing and focus on making the product better.

  

 

Harley Davidson Free Wheeler 600px

Image via www.harley-davidson.com

 

 

Once they worked out all the little problems that had plagued their motorcycles, the company experienced impressive growth – Harley-Davidson, a brand that was on the verge of bankruptcy twice before, is now worth around $1 billion.  

 

The company still faces a big problem, their average customer is a white American male pushing fifty, but they have shown that they are ready to reach out to a more ethnically diverse and younger target audience. The brand plans to shift its focus towards marketing in 2016. [2]

 

 

2. Massey Bros. – Leverage Your Premium Service, Tell Your Brand Story and Ensure Your Brand Identity Creates Distinction

Massey Bros. Funeral Directors is a successful family owned and managed business established in Dublin in the 1930s. They operate in a sector which is traditionally very conservative yet they’re industry leaders in terms of developing innovative solutions. They also have the added complication of having more than six competitors also operating legitimately under the ‘Massey’ name. In addition to this, they themselves also operated under two names before their rebrand!

  

  

Massey Bros Logo 2012 72dpi

 

 

Massey Bros. have always offered a very premium service but this five star, tailor made, message, their industry leadership coupled with their multiple first to market new innovative services solutions just wasn’t been properly represented in their brand profile, tone-of-voice or brand communications strategy. They also lacked a strong brand identity or consistency across their brand collateral.

  

  

Massey Bros Brand Guidelines Cover

 

 

We conducted research and a brand audit health check, re-evaluated their whole brand proposition and purpose, their positioning, signage, uniforms, brand collateral and brand strategy. The outputs and findings from this initial body of work then provided the direction for a complete brand overhaul resulting in absolute clarity over their brand proposition, a much stronger brand identity, a higher profile with distinction in the marketplace, consistency across all the brand collateral and most importantly strong staff brand custodians throughout the business that continue to pro-actively manage their brand in the marketplace. And of course, increased market share. You can read the full details of this rebranding case study here.

 

 

3. Target – Know Your Audience and Keep Things Simple

Target was initially envisioned as a brand that catered to a somewhat more sophisticated shopper, a person looking for a more sophisticated shopping experience than one would normally find in extremely low-priced stores like Walmart, but who also wanted that stay within a reasonable budget. The problem was that, over the years, the “deal-hunting” aspect became more prominent, which essentially lead to Target being equated with the very same economy shopping experience that they originally strived to distance themselves from.

 

This caused brand incongruence, with fashionable clothes on one end and cheap food items on the other, and they simply could not compete with well-established economy brands that ruled this segment of the market.

 

Target performed a brand audit health check, and found that they were neglecting a very important demographic. In the words of Brian Cornell, Target chief executive: “Our guest is going to be increasingly a Hispanic shopper.” [3] The brand, realizing that over 50% of Hispanic Millennials identified Target as their preferred shopping destination, even created several Spanish-language adverts, with a unique hashtag – #SinTraducción (without translation).

  

   

  

  

 

Another big step towards engaging their primary audience was the decision to unite their smaller “mini urban stores” under the Target brand logo. The company previously distinguished these smaller outlets as TargetExpress and CityTarget.

 

 

 Target Express Store 600px

Image via Target.com [Target express store]

 

  

The logo design for the mini urban stores proved confusing, the words “express” and “city” were simply placed next to the classic bull’s-eye Target logo, and will only feature the Target logo going forward. With these changes, the brand has revitalized its image. However they still apparently have a bit further to go according to USA Today as things like the infamous 2013 security breach, and their latest OCD sweater has reportedly put their customers’ loyalty somewhat to the test.   

 

 

Target Ocd Sweater

 

  

  

4. Hybrid Technology Partners – Don’t Pigeonhole Yourself with a Poorly Thought Out Brand Identity 

 

Formerly known as HybridIT, this Limerick-based company offer a wide range of services, including IT, software development and customer support. They even offer a product – a unique business management ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. However, anyone who saw the “IT” in their brand name immediately thought of them as just another IT company. [4]

 

This prevented the company from accessing a larger market share, and the fact that their logo didn’t communicate their core brand message effectively threatened to keep HybridIT in the shadows. Luckily, this “more than just an IT” company caught on and decided to revitalize their brand.

 

   Hybrid Technology Partners

 

 

When working on creating appropriate brand identities for our clients, we focus on ensuring all the brand foundations have been fully developed using our Personality Profile Performer™ system before we even look at the aesthetics or design. The outputs from this system provide the roadmap for ensuring the brand identity outputs together with brand messaging and tone of voice are market and target audience appropriate, unique and in keeping a brand’s core values.

 

At first glance the change was subtle, they became HybridTP, but that one little letter was a monumental step in the right direction. The new brand identity, Hybrid Technology Partners made two things very clear:

  • The brand offers diverse technological solutions for streamlining a business
  • The company views its clients as partners, and works with them to find the best solutions

The new brand identity, coupled with some light modifications to their website, allowed HybridTP to convey their brand values – honesty, cooperation and trust – and connect with a much larger audience more effectively.

  

 

5. Narragansett Beer – Learn How to Appeal to Millennial Consumers

 

Pabst Blue Light used to be the beer of choice for blue-collar workers and hipster Millennials, but in recent years an old New England beer has stolen their title as the number one “cheap and cool” US beer.

 

The Narragansett brand has a long history, it was established 125 years ago, but the company recently made a very wise business decision and revitalised the brand, targeting Millennials. They didn’t stray away from their roots, their New England provenance, and long history being the key elements that distinguished the brand from the competition, but they did make some notable changes to the product packaging and re-evaluated their branding strategy.  

  

  

 

  

The old slogan, “Made on Honor, Sold on Merit”, remained unchanged, but with fun and colourful commercials, local girls photographed in the traditional pinup style for their calendar and increased social media activity, Narragansett has successfully made a transition into the digital age.

  

   

Narragansett Beer 2015 

Image via www.narragansettbeer.com

  

  

We know from personal experience that the Millennial demographic can be a powerful driving force that launches a struggling brand to new levels of success. Understanding both what makes their brand unique and what appeals to a Millennial audience, has allowed this low-priced craft beer to secure its position on the market. Saying that the rebrand was a success would be an understatement – the brand brought in $12 million in revenue last year, 120 times more than in 2005.[5]

   

These five successful rebrand stories all carry an important lesson for any struggling brand. A brand audit can help you reveal your weaknesses be it a problem with the quality of the product itself like in Harley Davidson’s case, an issue of brand incongruence, a dissonance between the brand logo and core brand values and the services offered by the company or a lack of awareness of your primary audience’s needs and preferences.

  

A brand relaunch is not something to be taken lightly or done for the pure sake of change, but if a brand has fallen on tough times, lacks relevance or isn’t leveraging its full potential with its target market, implementing a carefully planned brand revitalisation strategy is a big move in the right direction.     

     

You might also like:

 

Rebranding Strategy: Why Your Rebrand Must Embrace Storytelling

   

• Rebranding Strategy: Using Premium Repositioning To Increase Profitability 

 

• Brand Personality: Is Your Brand’s Character Big Enough to Compete?

  

• Rebranding: How to Make It Through a Rebrand and Emerge Stronger 

 

• Brand Audit: Tips for Determining Your Brand’s Health – Can It Be Improved?

 

• Brand Naming: Top Ten Methods for Brand Name Creation    

 

• Humanizing Your Brand: Why It is Key to Commercial Success

 

• Brand Profiling: Top 6 Components to Creating a Strong Brand Personality

 

• Creating New Brands: Top 10 Tips for Brand Success

 

• Brand Profiling: How to Use Emotion to Make Your Brand More Profitable  

 

 

So, what do you think?

  

• Does your brand have trouble staying relevant?

  

• Did you perform a brand health check to determine if there are any weak points you could improve upon?

  

• Are you targeting the right audience, and do you really understand the needs of your primary audience in terms of their needs, wants, loves, hates and aspirations?

  

• Are your products and services up to standards, or are you having problems keeping up with the competition?

  

• Is your brand identity consistent with your core values, and the type of products and services you offer, or is it unnecessarily pigeonholing you into a single niche?

   

[1] Steve, Cubemc.com, Digital Trends: Understanding and Targeting the ‘Always-On’ Consumer, April 2015

[2] Mark Ritson, Branding Strategy Insider, “Can The Harley Davidson Brand Age Gracefully?”, October 2015

[3] Sarah Halzack, WashingtonPost.com, “Target’s new strategy: We need more than just minivan moms”, March 2015

[4] IrishExaminer.com, Small Business Q&A: Paul Brown, September 2014

[5] Kristina Monllos, Adweek.com, “How Narragansett Beer Rebuilt Its Brand With a Meager $100,000 Media Budget, Deep roots and word of mouth”, June 2015

  

Luxury Branding: How to Establish or Re-Position Your High-End Brand

The combined value of the various luxury goods markets in 2014 was an estimated 865 billion euros, with luxury cars, personal luxury goods and luxury hospitality taking the top three places, with values of 351 billion, 223 billion and 150 billion respectively. [1]

 

In order to understand the branding strategies developed and utilized by the top luxury brands, those who have maintained their reputation for over several decades, as well as those that have successfully re-positioned themselves as high-end brands, we must first look at the very definition of luxury.

 

There are four main characteristics by which the luxury customer defines a luxury brand:

  • Quality
  • Craftsmanship
  • Exclusivity
  • Elegance

 

However, the way in which someone perceives luxury will depend on factors ranging from their socio-economic status to their geographical location. According to latest Albatross Global Solutions and Numberly study, “The Journey of a Luxury Consumer”, people from different parts of the world prioritize the order of importance of these key factors differently when defining luxury goods. For example, an overwhelming majority of luxury consumers worldwide value quality above all else, however, UK luxury consumers place more importance on craftsmanship, while elegance plays a more vital role when it comes the global luxury market.

 

Since customer preferences and definitions can vary from one jurisdiction to another, luxury brands need to tailor their brand communications strategy for each of the relevant market segments they are targeting, while remaining true to their core brand values, brand DNA and brand story. It can be challenging but with the right brand strategy it can be hugely rewarding, as evidenced by Louis Vuitton and their distinctly different approach to marketing their luxury brand in Japan.

 

The brand collaborated with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami in the early 2000’s to create a more colourful version of their classic monogram, and even reduced prices slightly during the economic crisis, to retain its position on the Japanese luxury market. However, it performed best when focusing on the quality and craftsmanship aspects of luxury brand on the Japanese market, as opposed to the allure of exclusivity and elegance — that had a greater impact with their customers in Western countries.

   

    

Luxury is About Exclusivity

In order to thrive, a luxury brand needs to secure its own unique corner of the market. Premiumisation strategies or high price points are designed to attract a particular kind of customer while alienating others – the high quality, and the unique experience that a luxury brand provides will not be right for everyone, nor should it be. To quote the head of Lexus Europe, Alain Uyttenhoven: “Our cars won’t please everyone.”

 

The brand strategy developed and deployed in different jurisdictions often varies because the definition of luxury changes amongst consumers as we move around the world and up the socio-economic ladder. Also, some of the top luxury brands strategically choose to stay out of the most obvious limelight. Very subtle marketing and the fact that the general public isn’t necessarily aware of their existence creates a unique aura of mystique and exclusivity. It also alludes to the fact that high-quality craftsmanship and aesthetics are amongst luxury brands’ highest priorities, values which are not compromised by things such as price sensitivities.

 

The brands at the very top of the luxury spectrum are not necessarily bound by the same constrictions of the more mainstream ‘accessible’ luxury or premium sector. Indeed, more exceptionally wealthy clientele might perceive price tags or ostentatious displays of affluence as lacking in taste in certain markets. In fact, there is a wise old saying in the luxury yacht industry: “If you have to ask about the price, you probably can’t afford it.”

     

     Super Rich Shopping Habits Infographic 600px

Infographic via Raconteur.net

 

 

The French purveyor of personalized luggage, Goyard, is a fine example of a luxury fashion brand that has retained its high-end status for over a century, continually prospering without engaging in many of the strategies that are considered to be the cornerstones of effective mainstream marketing.

  

The brand favours direct sales and word of mouth marketing over media hype, large-scale advertising and online sales, even though Goyard has thousands of followers on several social media platforms, including the luxury brand’s newly launched YouTube channel.

 

   

   

  

This extreme level of exclusivity amongst long established luxury brands, e.g. specialising in a single product category to the point of elevating a brand to the level of art or supreme craftsmanship, can be used as one element of a brand strategy to create distinction and separate it from the rest of the market, but it can also be a more challenging route for newer entrants to the luxury market.

 

The luxury landscape is changing, and a brand can quickly become irrelevant if it lacks online exposure. Millennials are close to outspending Baby Boomers, according to a Berglass + Associates and Women’s Wear Daily study that explored the retail industry, which means that a brand has to account for the values that drive Millennials when developing their brand strategy.

 

For Millennials the bigger purpose of a brand, its big why, has a significant impact on their purchasing decisions which means that CSR and so forth has a bigger role to play in brand strategy than every before — for this growing audience.

  

The smartphone is an essential component of the Millennial lifestyle because it allows easy access to multiple online platforms and immediate connectivity – 85% of Millennials in the 18-25 age bracket and 86% of those in the 25-34 age bracket own a smartphone[2], while 88% of Millennials use Facebook as their primary news source.[3] For more traditional brands this means embracing new fully integrated brand strategies that wouldn’t have seemed relevant eight to ten years ago.

 

Even luxury brands that are primarily focused on in-store purchases, e.g. Goyard, are investing in social media and reaching out to affluent Millennials. The way that younger generations perceive luxury is markedly different from the way Baby Boomers perceive it, and luxury brands have a challenging task ahead of them – educating Millennials on luxury goods and adapting their brand strategy to fit the Millennial lifestyle.   

 

 

Develop Trademark Brand Symbols and Assets Beyond Just Your Brand Logo

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé has been virtually unchanged for years, and the silhouette itself is just as recognizable as the logo, brand name and the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot attached to the bonnet.

 

It’s the Rolls-Royce uncompromising commitment to quality craftsmanship and attention to detail that has the brand where it is today. When we work with clients to develop a distinct brand identity that reflects their core brand values, personality, story and communicates their brand message it requires a similar level of focus from everyone working on the project coupled with a deep understanding of the brand’s primary target audience in order to achieve successful results.

  

   

 

  

  

Burberry’s trademark black, tan and red check pattern and Channel No. 5 perfume’s simple, yet elegant bottle design are both instantly recognised by the average consumer. These are distinct, different and memorable brand assets that are as important as the brand names themselves.

  

Founded 150 years ago Burberry is a particularly interesting case study because not long ago it was struggling to maintain a consistent brand identity leading to the brand falling off its luxury positioning, despite its admirable provenance. Inconsistencies in product variants, pricing and communication strategies all combined to undermine the brand. In fact this brand, now worn by Emma Watson and Kate Moss to mention a few high profile names, was once at risk of being considered frumpy before its very successful luxury revitalization strategy was implemented so successfully.

 

It wasn’t until Angela Ahrendts took over as CEO that a long-overdue brand repositioning and brand relaunch was set in motion resulting in the iconic and much sought-after luxury brand we see today. The company was restructured and the sourcing of materials and production was centralised in the UK. Burberry stores were modernized and equipped with iPads, digital displays and audio equipment that enabled the brand to showcase its quality craftsmanship through video material, and to provide a more engaging customer experience.

 

However, the true stroke of genius was the decision to focus on a younger demographic, and utilize social media as a powerful promotional tool. To successfully target the affluent Millennial consumer, Burberry had to diversify its product line and make significant stylistic changes, while at the same time retaining the timeless aesthetic that the brand was once known for.

 

The results of the brand relaunch were astonishing – Burberry doubled their revenue and operating income within five years, and successfully repositioned their brand as a luxury brand. Their famous Burberry check is once again associated with premium quality British craftsmanship.

 

 

Provide a Memorable Brand Experience for Your Customers

With a luxury product, the brand packaging, presentation and shopping experience are just as important as the quality and exclusivity of the product itself. Luxury customers are far from average shoppers, they are wealthy and powerful people with refined tastes. A luxury brand has to engage these customers on multiple levels – spark curiosity, engage all the senses, stimulate the mind, and make an emotional connection.

 

The Gentleman Floris, a new line of luxury men’s grooming products launched by the Floris London, a nearly 300-year-old British family perfumers brand since 1730, uses understated heraldic symbolism on the embossed navy blue packaging to reference its noble origins and royal patronage coupled with its renowned to quality, craftsmanship and rich heritage. The brand story is used eloquently to draw its audience in and sell its brand proposition.

 

We have created many different packaging design solutions for clients over the years, both luxury and FMCG, and when you consider that on average you have less than 9 seconds to engage your customer through the impact your packaging design has on them, it is critical that your customer gets an immediate sense of your brand story, promise and values if you want to close the sale.

 

  Gentleman Floris Gift Set 600px

Image via www.florislondon.com

 

In luxury branding everything from the customer journey to the brand experience and customer service, not to mention the accessories, has to be carefully considered to ensure that it’s elevated to an exceptional level.

 

The brand experience has to be much more personal, which means that staff, your brand ambassadors, must be chosen to fit with your brand values and culture. They need to be fully inducted and trained in all the details of how your brand is lived and experienced, both internally and externally, and how that unique brand experienced is transferred and cultivated with each the individual customer.

 

Sometimes this training may also require the front line staff to make important judgement calls in the heat of the moment, in order to accommodate the customer’s specific needs. At the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, each employee is empowered and trained to anticipate and fulfil their guests needs with an exemplary level of service.[4]

  

 

Ritz Carlton Logo 600px

Image via www.Ritz-Carlton.com

 

 

The Ritz-Carlton is another good example of a luxury brand that successfully maintain its positioning for decades and in fact case studies have been built around its success. The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Centre is now the place where executives from other companies worldwide in many different sectors come to learn The Ritz-Carlton principles of service.

 

The Ritz-Carlton success is due to a number key factors such as they have:

  • A formulated a set of standardized hiring criteria
  • Empowered their front line staff and instituted a standardized brand language
  • A consistent high-end luxury brand experience regardless of location
  • Take note of user feedback, perform regular brand audit health checks
  • Constantly evolved to adapt with the times while staying true to their core brand values

  

The Ritz-Carlton has created an admirable balance between maintaining a consistent brand image and evolving to meet the needs of a new generation of patrons who prefer more authentic interactions with the staff. It’s their uncompromising commitment to excellence which has made them the only brand to win the much sought after US Presidential Baldrige Performance Excellence Award twice, firmly establishing Ritz-Carlton’s positioning as a luxury brand and setting the highest standards for customer service throughout the luxury hotel market.

  

  

Create an Aura of Exclusivity by Limiting Supply

Special limited edition items often become cherished collector’s pieces and dramatically increase in value over the years. In fact, the lack of product availability doesn’t negatively affect a luxury brand they way it might other mainstream brands. Its limited availability to the select few makes it even more appealing to its target customers.

 

Long waiting lists have never deterred Hermès fans, who often wait several months for the privilege of purchasing the brand’s signature Birkin bag. [5] Some of the most popular luxury car brands are the ones with both the highest prices and longest waiting lists. Only the most persistent and loyal customers gain access to these limited items, which enables you as a brand owner or manager to create an elite subgroup within your customer base.

 

The Rolls Royce SG50 Ghost Series II is a prime example of a brand offering a limited edition product to a particular segment of their target demographic, another example of the exclusivity strategy at work, and establish an emotional connection with its customers. In this particular example, Rolls Royce honours the fact that 2015 marks 50 years of Singapore’s independence, helping it increase individualised customer brand relevance and secure an increased market share in one of Asia’s most developed economies, second only to Hong Kong in terms of financial freedom.

 

 

 Rolls Royce Sg50 600px

Image via www.luxuriousmagazine.com   

 

 

The Apple Hermès brand collaboration helped connect the luxury fashion brand connect to a well-developed demographic of tech-savvy affluent Millennials while at the same time opening the horizons of the wealthy Apple users to the allure of a luxurious brand such as Hermès.

 

  

Apple Hermes 600px

Image via www.apple.com

 

 

High-end craftsmanship and a sense of exclusivity have already been associated with both brands, but the halo effect of this collaborative project, the super-luxurious Apple watch, has proved to be quite beneficial in terms of exposing previously unexplored segments of the market to each brand.

  

  

 

  

 

  

Luxury watch aficionados and loyal Hermès customers who are delighted with this new offering will be tempted to explore some of the other Apple devices. On the other hand, the more affluent Apple consumer may easily eschew their previous luxury favourite and make Hermès their alternative preferred choice instead.

 

  

  

 

     

Be Proud of Your Heritage, but Offer Customization to Build an Emotional Connection  

Giving consumers some decision-making power over the production process, even if their contributions are limited to the choice of colour or engraving, accomplishes several things:

  • It turns each product into a personalised more unique item that is to be cherished
  • It creates a more personal connection between the customer and the brand
  • It enhances the overall customer experience

 

Goyard doesn’t offer a diverse product range, but what it does offer is the ability choose from a wide range of colours and styles. A luxury customer can leave the Goyard store safe in the knowledge that the product they have purchased is truly unique, and tailored to their personal tastes.

   

      Goyard Paris 600px

Image via www.Goyard.com

  

  

Luxury brands can also use their geographical location to their advantage. A luxury brand is often associated with its country and region of origin – sparkling wines from the Champagne region have become a key component of many major celebrations, BMW and Mercedes are touted as the epitome of German engineering precision and so on. The brand thus takes on the qualities associated with the local culture. We can use Burberry as a good example once again – its British heritage has been a key component in successfully repositioning the brand as a high-end brand.[6]   

 

  

Create an Epic Brand Story that Mesmerizes Your Customers

A good brand story is instrumental in capturing the imagination of customers, but a luxury brand needs to go beyond mere storytelling and develop a veritable fairy-tale that fully immerses a customer, to the point where he or she wants to become a part of your luxurious world. The brand experience and how that is created lived and experienced is the penultimate test.

  

  

Coco Chanel 600px

  

  

The legend of Coco Chanel and the immense respect consumers still have for the Chanel brand matriarch is a prime example of how effective legends can be in promoting a luxury brand. Her humble beginnings, timeless style and daring persona are woven into a narrative that all ambitious, independent, fashionable and adventurous women around the world find inspiring.

  

    

  

  

  

On the other hand, we have brands with a proud and storied history, such as White’s Gentlemen’s Club in London, which has no intention of expanding or opening its doors to anyone but the most select clientele.

   

     Goyard Paris History 600px

Image via www.Goyard.com

 

 

Much like Goyard, White’s has no need for heavily resourced marketing campaigns, as it relies on its few elite “members” for word of mouth marketing. With patrons like Prince Charles and several British Prime Ministers gracing the bar and gaming rooms with their presence, being a member of White’s Gentlemen’s Club is considered a privilege. Even David Cameron’s vocal critique of men-only clubs and the fact that the British Prime Minister resigned from White’s did little to tarnish the reputation built on several centuries of myth and legend.   

    

Key Takeaways to Consider

In conclusion, here are some key points to keep front of mind when re-evaluating your luxury branding or premiumization brand strategy:

  • Ultra premium luxury brands often use understated branding strategies coupled with word of mouth, but offer unmatched top end quality and exclusivity   
  • Brands that have successfully repositioned themselves have invested in brand audit health checks and embraced the affluent Millennial demographic and use social media to spread brand awareness
  • Luxury brands that have successfully maintained their positioning for decades have used their provenance and leveraged near mythical brand stories to maintain brand distinction, but continued researching the market and changing trends regularly, and encouraged customer feedback to maintain relevance
  • Providing an exceptional customer experience in-store, through empowering frontline staff and developing a consistent brand language, is very important, as a majority of luxury consumers make their purchases in person
  • Involving customers in the production process enables a luxury brand to personalise its offering with a diversified range of unique variations, even if it doesn’t have an extensive reach across multiple categories
  • Collaborating with a brand that has a significantly different customer base and brand associations can produce a halo effect that is highly beneficial for both brands

 

You may also like:

  

• Co-Branding: 13 Tips for Growing Your Brand Through Strategic Partnerships 

 

• Brand Audit: Tips for Determining Your Brand’s Health – Can it be Improved?

 

• Rebranding Strategy: Why Your Rebrand Must Embrace Storytelling

 

• Rebranding Strategy: Using Premium Repositioning To Increase Profitability 

 

• Colour in Brand Strategy: Colour Psychology and How it Influences Branding

 

• Video Brand Strategy: Top 11 Tips for How and Why You Need to Use Video

     

• Creating New Brands: Top 10 Tips for Brand Success  

   

• Brand Profiling: Top 6 Components to Creating a Strong Brand Personality

 

• Millennial Branding: 6 Ways Your Brand Can Appeal to Millennial Customers 

   

So, what do you think?

• Have you performed a brand audit to identify the holes in your luxury branding strategy?

  

• Is your brand utilising social media to its fullest potential and reaching out to affluent Millennials?

 

• Are you using appropriate brand language?

 

• Have you created a consistent brand image?

 

• Have you considered how you can make your brand more profitable by changing your brand strategy with a premiumization approach to reposition your brand, create an aura of exclusivity and attract luxury consumers?

 

• Do you have an exceptionally engaging brand story that elevates the brand to legendary status and could be leveraged to better effect with a rebranding?

 

[1] Statista.com, Value of various global luxury markets in 2014, by market type (in billion euros)

[2] Nielsen, Mobile Millennials: Over 85% of Generation Y Owns Smartphones, September 2014

[3] Americanpressinstitute.org, How Millennials Use and Control Social Media, March 2015

[4] Forbes.com, Micah Solomon, Your Customer Service Is Your Branding: The Ritz-Carlton Case Study, September 2015

[5] Uché Okonkwo, Luxury Fashion Branding: Trends, Tactics, Techniques

[6] The Australian, “Paul Smith, Burberry and Mulberry Revive ‘Made in Britain’”, September 2014

  

Seasonal Branding: Tread Carefully with Christmas Themed Brand Strategies

Fourth quarter commercialism looms large. Sparkly red and green Christmas displays are simultaneously mounted as spooky orange and black Halloween decorations come down.

From Ireland to Illinois, consumers react in unpredictable ways to brand seasonal messages that creep in earlier and earlier every year. For retailers, that response can mean boom or bust for critical end-of year-sales figures.

  

 

Black Friday Launches the Season

 

Like a turkey sandwich in-between Halloween and Christmas, America has another huge national holiday. On the fourth Thursday of November, the weekend following Thanksgiving traditionally signaled the official start of Christmas during most of the 20th century. Dreamt up as a marketing concept in 2003, Black Friday is now the most frenzied shopping day of the year. It sees queues forming overnight for big sales, many beginning at dawn and some as early as midnight on Thanksgiving Day.

 

Black Friday is spreading. In recent years, Canada, Mexico and India have followed suit while giant American retailers like Disney and Apple introduce online sales in Australia, too. French shoppers are familiar with “Vendredi Noir.” In the U.K., Tesco and Argos 2014 Black Friday promotions prompted police action in Manchester, with Argos withdrawing from the event in 2015. 

 

Meantime, as early Christmas shop windows draw back the curtains on November installations, the 114-year-old U.S. retailer Nordstrom takes a different approach, making a statement about celebrating one holiday at a time, as seen in a window display. 

  

  

 Nordstrom Window Twitter

Image via www.twitter.com

 

  

In America, Hollywood goes nuts at the holidays over box office receipts for new film releases, but the small screen is tame on TV adverts compared to the U.K., where Christmas adverts are a national pastime. 

  

We look at a mixed bag of examples representing both large brands and smaller ones on both sides of the pond to see how campaigns are making the most of the season — while others have misfired and are quickly pronounced a failure. See what you think about these adverts.

  

 

Balancing Sales Strategies Intended as Charitable Endeavours

 

John Lewis is one of those nationwide UK brands that attracts considerable media attention with their annual Christmas message, usually a tear-jerker. This year’s advert tells the story of a little 6-year-old girl called Lily and an old man she spies with her telescope, who lives — all alone and lonely — on the moon. The advert is designed to raise awareness for the charity, Age UK, with its tagline: “Show someone they’re loved this Christmas.”

 

 

 

 

 

According to The Guardian, “Last year, the retailer also spent £7m on a campaign featuring a realistic animated penguin and a young boy playing together to the tune of John Lennon’s Real Love, sung by British singer-songwriter Tom Odell. It had drummed up 22m views on YouTube by the first week of January…” This year’s numbers are soaring ahead of last year’s. 

 

  

 

 

Rachel Swift, head of brand marketing at John Lewis, is quoted in The Telegraph saying there is a consistent style for the store’s seasonal adverts. “It is has become part of our handwriting as a brand. It’s about storytelling through music and emotion. The sentiment behind that hasn’t changed – and that is quite intentional. The strategy behind our campaigns is always about thoughtful gifting.”

  

The £1 million production for a six-week-long £7 million campaign, which includes more cost for shop floors kitted out to resemble a moonscape, has seen members of the public ask[1]: Why couldn’t John Lewis make a multi-million contribution to Age UK? In fact, the profits from three small ticket items sold at the department store – a mug, a gift tag and a card – will go to the charity supplemented by donations from the public, inspired by the advert’s message.   

 

 

John Lewis Consumer Reaction Twitter 

Image via www.twitter.com

 

 

Brands Play to Emotions to Drive Brand Loyalty 

 

Tugging at the heartstrings via hugs, cute penguins, a melting Mr. Snowman, and even World War I soldiers celebrating a Christmas truce in the trenches are among the emotional connections brands are working and spending hard to make happen.

 

 

 

 

 

Why? In a word, loyalty. As pointed out by a retail analyst[2], for modern consumers to change brands no longer involves driving to another village or shopping centre; swapping brands is as easy as the click of a mouse. All of which means your brand strategy needs to be a lot more sophisticated if you want to first attract and then hold onto your customers. Remember people buy with emotion first and justify with rational afterwards — regardless of gender or cultural background. Your brand must be rich with authentic personality, have a really big why — reasons beyond the money to buy, create emotionally compelling reasons to engage, and ensure it includes an advocacy strategy within your action plan if you want to increase your profitability and ensure long-term success.  

 

A MindMover opinion poll[3] indicates the following brands are most closely associated with Christmas adverts in the U.K.: Coca-Cola, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Argos, Cadbury, Asda, Toys R Us and Amazon. Not queried is the million pound question — that is, whether top-of-mind-awareness produces the all-important return on investment.

  

  

A Big Brand Blunder at Bloomingdale’s

 

Bloomingdale’s, U.S. luxury fashion chain stores owned by Macy’s, made such a spectacularly poor judgement in their 2015 Christmas advert that a week after the department store had apologized via Twitter, major editorials continued to call for a deeper response.

 

  

Bloomingdale's Advert Via Twitter 

Image via www.twitter.com

 

 

“Appearing to promote date rape,” says the Wall Street Journal[4], the “creepy” and “offensive” advert reads, “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.” Clearly, it went viral in the wrong way for the large retailer.

  

  

 Bloomingdale's Apology On Twitter

 Image via www.twitter.com

 

  

A Storm in a Teacup at Starbucks

 

At Starbucks, they knew what they were doing when the white snowflakes decorating the seasonal red cup design were removed. A seemingly simple change sent consumers in large numbers straight to social media, to sign a petition, and to boycott the brand, claiming that Starbucks was making an anti-Christ religious statement. “It’s just a red cup”, tweeted the voice of reason while Instagram lit up with Starbucks images and the nation’s top talk show hosts chimed in.

 

 

 Starbucks Red Christmas Cup 2015

Image via www.vox.com

 

 

Three lessons learned, says Entrepreneur[5], and small brands should pay especially close attention to number three on this list:

1) All PR is good PR. Starbucks marketing knew the response wouldn’t be universally positive, but they also knew this was not a crisis

2) The power of social media sharing is awesome — and free

3) Brands who react fast can newsjack a trend. “Other coffee brands got a boost from the issue, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, with its holiday cup release.

  

  

 Dunkin' Donuts Shout Out Twitter

Image via www.twitter.com

 

 

The subject has also created opportunities for smaller companies, YouTubers and creative types alike to ride the wave and get attention.”

 

 

Just Wine Starbucks Cup Twitter 

Image via www.twitter.com

 

 

That’s the same brand strategy employed by the many John Lewis parody adverts that follow immediately on the heels of the store’s annual commercial.

 

 

Smaller Brands & Seasonal Brand Strategies

 

Small brands can make a large impact in the community by scaling ideas such as co-branding in a lower key way, supporting a charity or club, adding removable seasonal details to products and packaging design, donating Christmas trees to community centers, hospitals and nonprofit organizations.

 

In London, independent, privately-owned residential estate agency Bective Leslie Marsh has supported West London Action for Children for over a decade. Estate agents and local residents partner to raise funds for the 98-year-old charity through year-round bridge and tennis tournaments, trivia quiz nights, barn dances, garden fetes and more.

 

To offset Black Friday’s emphasis on big box stores and chain stores, Small Business Saturday was launched in the USA in 2010. It focuses on the bricks and mortar local shops that are the fabric of the Ma & Pa character neighbourhoods with American Express is the main sponsor. Partnerships and promotion via Google street view, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook come up with initiatives to launch holiday shopping on the last Saturday of November too. 

 

Other successful ideas have included branded shirts and kits for a local sports club, providing staff to serve Christmas dinners at senior centres, running a toy drive or food hampers collection, singing Christmas carols to collect for the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul and similar. It’s important to make a small investment in well design brand collateral such as banners, posters, placards, T-shirts, caps and other branded items to decorate and to wear in order to properly associate the occasion with your own brand.

 

 

So, what do you think?

  

• Are you often caught short of time, or do you have a holiday marketing plan drawn up by Quarter 2? Do you need to include this as part of your brand audit health check or brand revitalization strategy?

 

• Does your brand have a charitable and/or community giving programme?

 

• Does your brand strategy include corporate social responsibility?

 

• Do you know what initiatives, outreach or volunteer activities your employees — your brand champions — would feel most supportive of on behalf of your brand?

 

• Do you feel confident about maximizing the potential impact on sales via volunteerism on behalf of your brand?

 

 

You might also like:

 

• Christmas Branding: Top 10 Tips to Infuse Your Brand with Seasonal Spirit

  

• Brand Personality: Is Your Brand’s Character Big Enough to Compete?

 

• Brand Voice: Differentiating Through Your Own Brand Language and Attitude

 

• Brand Sponsorships: The Best Brand Ambassadors Are Already On Your Payroll 

 

• Humanizing Your Brand: Why It is Key to Commercial Success

 

• Brand Differentiation: 30 Ways to Differentiate Your Brand

 

• Brand Profiling: Top 6 Components to Creating a Strong Brand Personality

 

• Creating New Brands: Top 10 Tips for Brand Success

 

• Brand Profiling: How to Use Emotion to Make Your Brand More Profitable  

 

[1] As seen on Twitter #johnlewischristmasadvert

[2] Bryan Roberts, Kantar Retail analyst, The Telegraph, 16/11/2015

[3] “Glad Tidings for John Lewis…”, The Guardian, 6/11/15

[4] “Bloomingdale’s Holiday Ad Draws Backlash…”, Wall St Journal, 12/11/2015

[5] “3 Lessons from Starbucks’ Red Cup ‘Controversy’”, Entrepreneur, 16/11/2015