How to Develop Your Brand Tone of Voice to Increase Sales

Bring to mind someone you love and know well. When they announce happy news, how do they do it?

 

It may be because of their personal brand type they give you the message as they bound into your home, all high-energy and dramatic, practically jumping up and down until you take the bait and ask them what they have to say. Or it could be they wait with calm, measured control until dinner is served, the family gathered at the table, before they quietly tell their news.

 

All people are different.

 

Each of us, according to our personality, convey messages differently. And it’s the same for brands and businesses. Each has it’s own personality and each delivers messages with a specific brand tone of voice.

 

The world’s best, most loved brands are those who have mastered brand tone of voice. The company’s personality shines through and it delivers messages in a tone that resonates with a specific group of people; their target audience.

 

In this article, we’ll take a look at what brand tone of voice is, how to develop it, and examples of companies who lead the way. A strong brand, with a strong tone of voice, will overtake its competitors and attract the right target audience. The result for the brand owner is increased sales.

What Is Brand Tone of Voice?

A brand’s voice is the personality it conveys, and which shines through in all it communicates. A brand’s tone of voice, is how the message is said. Online, brand tone of voice is the attitude of your content.

 

Right now, your brand already has a voice, as well as a tone of voice. The big question is this: what does your brand voice convey to your target audience?

 

For instance, does your brand say, “Thank you, Jeff!” or does it say, “Thanks, Jeff.”?

 

Things to consider for conveying tone of voice:

 

  • Is your brand more formal or casual?
  • On social media and in emails, do you use slang or emoticons?
  • Do you make up your own words, like “peeps” for “people”, or “delish” for “delicious”?
  • How does your brand use punctuation?
  • Do you use humour and if so, how?

 

Once you decide on the tone of voice you want to convey, through the brand profiling process, you need to do it consistently. If you have a team of people working with you, it can be especially difficult to keep your branding elements consistent.

 

 

In fact you will need to develop a brand style guide so you can manage and protect your valuable brand assets effectively. A comprehensive brand style guide will also help you avoid unintentional brand self sabotage or the dilution of your brand. In truth a brand can never have major impact or become very strong unless it is intentionally developed, managed and controlled using brand profiling and brand guidelines.

 

One company that does an exceptional job with their brand tone of voice is Mailchimp, an online email marketing and automation platform. To keep their brand consistent, they created a comprehensive style guide[1]:

 

Image via MailChimp

 

 

Have a look at a screenshot of their YouTube videos – you can see just by the video images on their channel page, that their brand style guide works beautifully to keep their branding consistent:

 

Image via MailChimp

 

Watch one of Mailchimp’s videos to get their full brand tone of voice experience:

 

 

 

What is your brand tone of voice telling people about who you are, and does it resonate with your target audience?

 

 

Related: Use Humour in Branding to Create Strong Emotional Bonds so You Increase Sales

Your Brand Tone of Voice Must Speak to Your Target Customer

Every business – including B2B’s – sell to people. It’s the people in companies who make decisions. The solutions you provide cater to a certain group of people or companies.

 

Before your business builds a branding strategy, it would need to create purchaser personas, fictional characters who embody and fully represent your ideal customer.

 

All branding should be built on the target customer at its core because you can’t effectively sell to people you don’t understand. You have to speak their language: what keeps them up at night? What are the problems they have that you can solve? What do they love? And so on.

 

Every business has a minimum of between two to twenty different ‘Purchase Personas’ so it’s essential you identify and map out each of your different customer types because you need to understand your target audience; their needs, wants, loves, hates and aspirations intimately, in order to maximize your brand strategy impact.

 

In fact, this exercise is one of the key elements in our brand building programme called the Personality Profile Performer™. As you map out each of your different customer types using the ‘Purchaser Personas’ system, the outputs provide the critical insights and direction for how your brand tone of voice is built to speak to your customers on their terms so they find your message compelling — winning their hearts and minds on their terms — so you can grow your business. The course also takes you through all the critical steps you need to build your brand tone of voice. You can watch a free course preview here.

 

 

 

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

 

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel[2] is a case in point. In 2015, they launched their new brand voice; their goal being to create a refreshed, relevant voice that firmly positioned the hotel in the luxury top tier.

 

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

 

To this effect, they used consumer insights on their target audience, getting feedback from more than 3000 “luxury” customers around the world.

 

 

Video via: Ritz-Carlton Hotel

 

Is your brand tone of voice resonating with your target audience?

 

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

Brand Tone of Voice and Word Style

Words impact your brand’s tone of voice, message style and personality in every single piece of communication, whether offline or online, whether it’s your HR department putting recruitment adverts in newspapers, the emails your employees send out, mobile text messages, frontline call centre language and phone scripts, social media responses, flyers, business cards, blog articles and so on.

 

Everything the public can see about your business is a message you’re sending out.

 

This message can either help or harm your reputation, so it has to be carefully crafted.

 

Related: Brand Crisis – How to Manage, Survive and Thrive

 

A brilliant example of brand word styles is provided by Donald Trump in his fight for presidency in 2016. In this next video, we take a look at the difference between the Donald Trump and the Russell Brand brands.

 

While Trump uses small, common, simple words, Brand uses uncommon, more complicated, sophisticated words. The way they speak is not by accident, but rather by design. Trump understands that shorter, simpler words are understood by a larger number of people while longer, less common words may carry more precision to a specific audience profile:

 

 

Video by Charisma on Command

 

Now unlike Donald Trump who made his billions long before he became the US president, Pat Flynn[3] is a well-known and respected online marketer who started his business ventures from nothing. In fact, in 2008 he was laid off from his job and forced to make a living doing something he knew nothing about: online marketing.

 

Related: What Brands Can Learn From Political Campaigns

 

In a world of sometimes less than honourable, online scams, Flynn brands himself as an ethical marketer. As such, he is open about his family and his life. To back up his “ethical-ity”, on the home page of his website, he’s given prominence to his monthly earnings. When the visitor clicks on it, they can choose to view monthly income reports.

 

Image via Smart Passive Income

 

Watch for the words and tone of voice Flynn uses in one of his videos:

 

 

Video by: Smart Passive Income

 

Flynn portrays himself as a humble, transparent family man who cares about his customers and visitors alike, whose principled and who can be trusted. This ultimately leads to increased sales; that’s the power of his brand’s tone of voice.

 

Whether your business is small, medium or a large conglomerate, your brand is sending out messages via the words it uses and how it behaves through its personality.

Brand Tone of Voice in Social Media

If your brand is participating on social media platforms, you are sending out messages to the public at large, and to potential prospects.

 

Unfortunately, because social media marketing is still in its relative infancy, many businesses just don’t get it right, and small to medium sized companies have a real struggle to understand and use social media to optimize their earnings.

 

But one small company has mastered social media tone of voice, and that is MOZ, an SEO consulting company with a staff complement of less than 150.

 

MOZ has a heavy online presence and is beloved by the SEO community. Why? The content they produce is clever, bright and fun. SEO being a very complex and sometimes technical topic, part of their brand standard is to make information simple to understand, even for the complete newbie.

 

In the MOZ style guide[4], they are specific about their brand tone of voice, and it is reflected in all the content they produce, whether published on their website, or uploaded to social media:

 

MOZ is clear about their brand tone of voice, and it is reflected in all their content.

 

Image via Moz

 

Related: Personality Matters, Bring Your Brand to Life to Grow Your Profits

 

In the next example, you can see the MOZ brand tone of voice in action on their Facebook page:

 

 

Each blog post they upload as a Facebook status, includes a helpful summary, and the images they create are customized, fun and eye catching:

 

Image via MOZ Facebook page

 

All the images MOZ uses for their content are specially designed and eye catching, like this one.

 

No matter how much interaction you currently create on social media, brand tone of voice is essential to convey the right message, to the specific group of people you are targeting — your ideal ‘Purchaser Personas’ — if you want to increase your sales.

 

Related: Social Branding: The New Rules for Brand Success on Social Media

Summary

Your brand’s tone of voice acts like a magnet to attract the right people, your ideal customers, so you can increase your sales.

 

To be effective, your brand voice needs to speak to your specific target audience, not to everybody. Words play a huge part in brand personality, and your word style needs to be carefully constructed using brand profiling and then rolled out through the company as part of your brand strategy with absolute consistency. Remember consistency engenders trust and people, customers, only buy from people — brands they know, like and trust.

 

Your brand tone style guide needs to include social media content and the formulation of responses to messages.

Questions To Consider in Your Brand Tone of Voice

  • What is your current tone of voice conveying to customers and prospects?
  • What does your tone of voice say about what you stand for and who you are?
  • Do you need to re-evaluate your brand tone of voice or perhaps give it a brand refresh?
  • Does your tone of voice resonate with the people who matter most; your ideal target customers?

 

Does your brand tone of voice need a health check? Start your brand audit here.

 

Related: Rebranding: 15 Do’s and Don’ts for Brand Success

 

 

[1] http://styleguide.mailchimp.com/voice-and-tone/

[2] http://www.ritzcarlton.com/

[3] https://www.smartpassiveincome.com/about/

[4] https://ux.moz.com/guides/voice-tone/

 

Brand Management: Top 10 Tips for Managing Your Brand Reputation

Got a brand? Just like a person, your brand has a reputation to establish and uphold. The identity of your brand, of course, begins with its name. Your product or service is your brand’s body and mind, and you must use all five senses to reach out in appealing ways to old and new friends (customers). Your brand lives, breathes and grows via its brand personality, which has simply got to be consistently appealing, authentic and dependable.

  

  

 

  

 

That’s all wrapped up in what brand marketers refer to as a brand’s tone of voice. It reveals a style reflected across everything your brand says and does online and offline, both written and visual.

 

  

Leverage Your ROI

 

Smaller businesses can punch above their weight without a string of zeroes in the budget when they get their branding basics right. Why? Because brand loyalty, sharing, peer recommendations, transparent feedback and brand ambassadorship are stronger than ever in the digital age. We’re passionate about working with brands every day, large and small, to make this happen, so they can leverage their ROI to the maximum.

  

 

Google For Business 

Image via www.google.com

 

 

See and Be Seen Where Your Brand Belongs

 

Even the most popular person can’t be — and shouldn’t try to be — everywhere at once. Decide where you want to be seen and heard depending upon who your customers are and where the circles of your brands’ look-alike audiences (as Facebook Ads have named this tool) are found. That’s why you don’t go to a convention for lovers of African violets to network with extreme adventure travelers and vice versa. Nor would anyone switch on a television shopping channel to buy heirloom Tiffany & Co. gems.

 

  

Online and On Brand

  

Apply traditional channel and networking logic to online platforms to determine where you belong. An anti-aging cream on Snapchat represents wasted effort in the same way that a traditional print advertisement for wrinkle cream would be absurd in the pages of Seventeen magazine. If you need some brand strategy support our team can steer you through your social media distribution decisions, specific to your brand, to get the most from your investment.

  

To see the big picture, AdWeek[1] has published infographics providing some insights about the expected growth in online audiences of 180 million by platform and age group worldwide through the end of 2016. We can take your brand on a deeper dive into your brand’s affinity groups and demographics to pin down your best placement.

 

 

Who's Really Using Facebook Twitter Pinterest Tumblr Instagram In 2015 

 Image via www.adweek.com

  

 

Lights On, Always Open for Business

 

Since your consumers (all consumers!) are online, let’s go there first to discuss building your brand’s online personality in sync with your offline one. Importantly, they require fine-tuned alignment.

 

The days of turning out the lights and locking up the shop for the night are over, as you’re open for business 24/7 online. In the hearts and minds of your primary audience, the digital brand is indistinguishable from the bricks and mortar brand. Your clients don’t separate the online and offline personality of your brand, and you shouldn’t either. 

 

 

Claim Your Free Real Estate

 

1. Claim your free real estate from these main social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr. Google+ and Google Places for Business are must-dos for everyone wanting to be found 24/7 by customers online. You can easily edit your contact information, business description, hours, website URL and photos. Not being on social media at all is not an option; you cannot manage your brand reputation if you’re invisible.

 

2. Add to your brand’s online presence by completing your business profile on free aggregate platforms pertaining to your business sector, such as TripAdvisor for travel and hospitality providers or Realtor.com for real estate. Your competitors are doing likewise.

  

3. Make sure your website is 100 percent mobile responsive; this is no longer optional. From April 2015, Google’s algorithms began penalizing search results for websites that don’t provide the best user experience on mobile devices.

  

According to Search Engine Watch[2], Google says that “near me” mobile searches have grown 34 times over since 2011. With 73 percent of the world’s population using mobile phones, we can be certain that mobile wallets are poised for exponential growth. In other words, brands that don’t optimize their online presence by paying attention to their appearance and brand tone of voice are leaving heaps of money on the table.

 

4. Develop the right tone of voice for your brand with brand profiling, using a system like our Personality Profile Performer™ and use it consistently across all content, all visuals and all devices (desktops, laptops, tablets and mobiles for all operating systems). You need to think of your brand as a humanized entity with a richly developed brand personality with key character attributes much like a real person e.g. likeable, friendly, sincere and genuine. Corporate-speak really doesn’t fly.

 

5. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. There’s no point in signing onto a social media platform other than to drive business to your website or to your door. So, once you create your online personality, brand reputation management has only just begun. As the old scouting song goes, “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”

 

Answer comments and questions promptly and sincerely. An honest response to a negative review sets you up for an even better review.[3] Remember, online you are speaking to two audiences — the person who make the comment and the rest of the world! Brand authenticity and honesty pays!

  

  

 

  

  

  

Visuals Are Vital

 

6. Upload original quality photos and videos. You simply cannot have too many. Visually appealing content needs the same attention as bricks and mortar appearances such as clean shop windows and display shelves free of dust.

 

The impact of visual is enormous. According to Social Media Today[4], 63 percent of social media is made up of images and 50 percent of users have shared online images and videos. On Instagram and Pinterest, you’ll inspire users and gain followers by creating hashtags and boards, translating in to more free real estate for your brand.

  

   Content With Relevant Images Gets 94  More Views

Image via www.socialmediatoday.com

 

  

Twitter indicates[5] that content with a relevant photo gets 313 percent higher engagement, good news for small and medium-sized businesses. Make sure your brand personality and brand tone of voice is consistently expressed through your chosen images as well. Are you a fashion shop showing dresses, a utility provider showing friendly staff, an animal shelter featuring pets for adoption? Have fun with who you are to drive engagement.

 

  

Get it Right From the Start

  

It cannot be over-emphasized that getting your brand tone of voice right for your online brand personality is essential. Once you’ve taken control of that voice, it’s all yours for as long as it works effectively. We can help you with everything from developing your brand personality through brand profiling, or auditing your brand to give it a health check to creating your brand name, to re-branding (if and when that becomes necessary) and developing your brand strategy. 

 

 

New and Improved Offline

  

7. Protect your brand’s reputation. One of the 10 commandments of effective leadership applies directly to brand reputation management, “Thou Shalt Not Over-Promise and Under-Deliver.”

 

Meeting and exceeding expectations is classic business strategy and the risks associated with getting it wrong fill volumes of business manuals. It comes straight back to the pillars of reputation management: authenticity and dependability. Your successful business has likely been handling this properly all along, or you wouldn’t be where you are today. However it’s always a good time to dust off and revitalize through refreshing, reminding, re-enthusing and re-training your staff — they are your brand ambassdors and consequently a really important part of your brand strategy.

  

8. Authenticity is everything…and the moment it’s lost, you’re damaged goods. Your strong and clear voice is required wherever your brand touches, in both your digital presence and offline, too. Always consider as a minimum the four ‘Ps’ of Marketing 101: Product, Promotion, Place, Price — which lead the way on the path to Profit.

 

9. Listening is good, conversation is even better. Wow, WOMMA! The Word of Mouth Marketing Association is a real thing…it has even has its own annual conference. Of course, before the internet, one-by-one sharing via word of mouth was the prevalent means of unpaid advertising. And it still works, more powerfully than ever. We can help you engage with customers in more dialogues for wider and deeper reach, always maintaining the critical overlay of brand authenticity.

 

10. Satisfy every customer from entry to exit. Imagine your brand once again as a real personality and recall these two tenets, “First impressions count” and “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” Both statements are true, but there’s more. We believe that the entire customer experience is integral to perceptions about your brand, from the moment your client walks in or first engages with your brand, until they depart, and your follow up in-between and later on. Your core brand values and what your brand stands for must shine through consistently in all your brand communications be they online or offline. Own it and win.

  

   

   

   

You may also like:

 

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

  

• 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 Differentiation: 30 Ways to Differentiate Your Brand

 

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

 

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

   

• Packaging Design: How to Make it into an Irresistible Customer Brand Magnet

  

  

Feel free to get in touch and let us know how you’d like us to help you with building your brand and establish a strong brand reputation online and offline:

T: +353 1 8322724

E: brand@personadesign.ie

 

 

• Is your current brand personality and tone of voice hitting all the right notes for your brand? Is it truly reflective of your core brand values and what your brand stands for?

 

• Do you know how to craft an authentic, humanized brand voice through brand profiling to get people raving about your brand to all of their friends?

 

• Has your brand strategically planned for the changing social media landscape? Are you thinking differently or are you winging it with occasional assistance from an intern?

 

• Is your brand in the right places at the right times and talking to the right people to realize the most bang for your buck?

 

• Do you know if you are getting more than your fair market share, and if not, what to do about it?

 

• How well do you know your customers? Have you developed your buyer personas? Have you organized channels for customer feedback for continual improvement?

  

  

 

 

  

[1] AdWeek, Jan. 12, 2015 http://bit.ly/1SRJM4D

[2] John Schepke, Search Engine Watch, June 25, 2015  http://bit.ly/1Stzlt1

[3] eTourism Summit interview with Andrew Wiens, TripAdvisor, Nov. 20, 2014 http://bit.ly/1KIsWU3

[4] David Hall, Social Media Today, April 6, 2015 http://bit.ly/1fTDxk7

[5] Jane Stecyk, TweetTip, Small Business Content Team, January 28, 2015 http://bit.ly/1JEq0ZL

Brand Honesty: Why and How It Pays to be Truthful

Openly, honestly admitting your brand’s flaws is a daunting prospect, but it just might save your bottom line or even help grow it!

   

Few companies willingly confess their problems, but most customers notice those problems. Whether it’s an unclear label on some packaging that makes it difficult to read the ingredients, a supply chain that’s less than green, or terrible Wi-Fi at your conference table, attempting to hide flaws often leads to unrealistic customer expectations. When assumed standards aren’t met customers have poor experiences. They can become a source of frustration, which in turn can potentially boil over into anger. You can avoid those brand disasters by managing customer expectations through a well developed brand strategy and proactive messaging aligned with your core brand values — and properly developed brand packaging where applicable.

  

The easiest way for you to manage your customers’ expectations, minimize unrealistic frustrations, and show that you care is by being honest. Share all of the information that customers need – the great and the not so good – and you’ll create a level of trust with each customer interaction.

   

After you’ve established trust, you can leverage it by showing customers how you’ve overcome challenges or limitations. Manage expectations and your customers will not only forgive the big problems, they may even completely ignore the small ones like Velocity marketing did when it took a chance on an honest restaurant.

  

One great thing about honesty is that it standouts as a strong part of your brand voice when it’s an integral part of your brand strategy, marketing, sales and service. Now, you have to decide if you want that benefit.

 

 

8 Ways Brand Honesty Pays

 

1. What Does an Honest Brand Voice Do?

 

If customers believe your brand is honest and authentic, they’re more likely to trust the claims that you make.

 

For example, let’s say you have a system that truly saves procurement professionals 3% on every bulk order. If you’ve previously made similar claims but customers haven’t been able to achieve those savings, your messaging will seem like just another pitch. But, if you limit or frame your guarantees to very specific usage applications that customers can achieve, they’re more likely to believe and trust what you say.

  

Part of remaining believable is explaining your promotions and promises. If that 3% saving requires a continuous monthly order of more than 1,000 units in OEM hardware, that is the truth whether or not the marketing says so.

 

For FMCG brands, honest branding makes your claims far more believable — even if it goes against previous experiences. This is well evidenced with a brand sold in India, in a category that is very busy in terms of competitors all claiming similar things and nothing really significantly differentiating them or having much brand impact.

Heat can cause significant skin irritation and itching in hot climates, with prickly heat being a common and very uncomfortable skin ailment, especially in places like India. Many products on the market in India claimed they would provide instant relief, but that’s a claim very few – if any – brands could actually deliver on. Instead of making the poor “instant” claim, Medimix’s Prickly Heat Powder promises relief in three days.

 

 Medimix Prickly Heat Powder

 

 Image via www.cholayil.com 

 

The brand was able to quickly climb to a top seller in this category with a series of honest adverts about its three-day window. The observations that kids scratch their prickly heat skin itch without any inhibitions, a bit like monkeys, became the inspiration for this brand’s honest story. One of the best is this “Monkey” spot that shows it actually taking three days to find that sweet relief. Even if you don’t speak the language, the message is clear and feels extremely genuine.

  

  

  

  

Take it out of the fine print and make it a clear part of your sales communications. This honesty ensures your audience knows what to validly expect and it makes you far more trustworthy. The important part is that this honesty and openness will improve your brand reputation, even among prospects that aren’t suitable for availing of your offer.

And your brand reputation is more important than price when it comes to online sales.

 

 

2. From Problem Selling to Problem Solving

 

Today branding is all about meeting your customers where they need help and making their life easier. Yes, you do this through selling goods and services, but today’s customers crave a relationship. That means they’re more likely to feel spurned when things go wrong and consequently voice their feelings freely, particularly online.

 

If you have dissatisfied customers who are active on social media, you’re more likely to see a complaint out in the wild. That’s a trend that’s been on the rise since 2012.

 

Building your brand as an honest operator can help reduce the amount of complaints you see online by focusing your branding on what you truly provide. Don’t conflate capabilities; offer true solutions to problems. This excites customers by showing that you’re able to view the world from their eyes and work on problems that matter most to them.

 

When our clients have shifted from sales approaches to a customer centric service focus, and integrated this into their branding and marketing strategy, their customers responded very positively. Get rid of overt sales tactics that push the “buy, buy buy!” message and replace it with an honest evaluation of how your goods and services solve problems, and you’ll see those digital complaints turn into digital thanks.

 

 

3. Keep The Customers You Really Want

 

Honesty can sometimes scare away customers, but that’s part of your brand filter too. Those are probably the customers who were pursuing products, services or support that did not necessarily relate to your core competencies or align with your brand values.

 

Being forthright about your strengths and capabilities will enable you to attract your ideal customers who need the solutions and products you offer. Those who your honesty deters are more than likely poor leads – they would probably need significant inputs in areas that may not be a good fit with your core business model and likely be less satisfied with your brand.

 

Honest communication allows you to focus on and attract customers with a high lifetime value, while reducing the time and effort your sales and service teams deal with low lifetime value customers. It’s not a loss, it’s separating the chaff from the wheat. A its most fundamental that’s what effect branding is all about, attracting your ideal customers and deterring those who are not a good fit.

 

We’ve found clients achieve more success when they focus on core, high-value customers and connect to them on an honest brand level, living their brand values through how they operate internally, their brand culture, and the positive experiences they create for their ideal customers.

 

 

4. Honesty Sells, No Matter How Bad It Is

 

Would you stay at the worst hotel in the world?

   

Hans Brinker Hotel

Image via www.hansbrinker.com 

 

 

Amsterdam’s Hans Brinker Budget Hotel thinks you will. And it also thinks you’ll love the experience so much you’ll tell everyone you know. Even if you never stay there, you’ll probably be inclined to share its adverts when you spot one.

  

 

  

  

 

The brand doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it can poke honest fun about the fact that its forks will be bent, heating is just another blanket, and “it can’t get any worse, but we’ll do our best.”

  

The Hans Brinker has been advertising itself as the worst for more than 10 years because it wants customers who aren’t looking for the best. It focuses on the typical hostel tourist, backpacking across Europe for adventure or at least a temporary escape from college. That means it has created a large amount of buzz with each advert and continues to attract new customers.

Even when it promotes the germs and bugs that live in its sheets!

   

       

 

  

 

5. Honesty Helps You Make A Successful Come Back

 

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) had a somewhat “unflattering” reputation, but it wasn’t a strong selling point for the brand. It hurt market share and provided opportunities for the rise of Google’s Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. For many Internet Explorer became the Web browser that people simply used to download other Web browsers.

 

When Microsoft wanted to unveil IE9, it had to acknowledge the problems of the old browser or customers simply wouldn’t have listened or believed them. So, Microsoft fessed up to its shortcomings and pushed honesty as the chief message for all the people who grew up with IE and its issues.

 

Microsoft began rebranding its browser with a pitch that harkened back to the nostalgia of the 1990s and it’s slower pace. It focused on the differences between the end of the analog era and what digital media has brought, noting that the brand grew up just like its core set of users. But, throughout all of its branding, Microsoft acknowledged the imperfections and showed how it changed – and only where it actually changed.

    

   

  

 

Our experience has shown that clients with brand challenges have been able to revitalize their brands more successfully when new brand messages are honest and open about past shortcomings, failures and successes. Saying the right Mea Culpa can improve your standing and help reconnect with customers who previously might have left through frustration and annoyance.

  

 

6. Honesty as a Competitive Advantage

 

Most brands aren’t at the top of their industry. We all want to be, but it’s a commercial reality that someone is going to come in second. If that’s you, being honest about it can garner a lot of attention.

   

 Avis We Try Harder 600px

 Image via www.avis.com

 

 

One of the biggest companies to embrace this has been Avis. The car rental service acknowledged competitors in its adverts for more than 50 years but consistently ran with the slogan: “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder” – later shortened to “We try harder.” They didn’t aim to win business by saying they were the best. Avis told you what its competitive advantage was – trying harder than the rest – and its adverts worked to show that for over 50 years.

   

   

 

 

   

Whether it’s a 1978 ad explaining what the brand does behind the scenes or another from more recent years that shares a true customer experience with someone going the extra mile, Avis lived its brand values and its promise, expressed through it slogan, and consequently was perceived to be an honest brand.

  

      


   

    

7. The B2B and B2C Honesty Commitment

 

Transparency is the order of the day for all brands be they B2C or B2B, from sourcing and logistics to software or the total cost of a product. Every customer wants to know as much about you, your values and your product or service costs as possible.

 

Transparency is simply the buzzword that means demonstrable honesty. A client who wants you to be more transparent is asking for you to provide honest claims and assessments, with tools, reports and other information to back up what you’re saying.

 

Transparency is also a key factor in making your other competitive advantages viable. If you’re trying to promote sustainability, two of the most important factors for your customers will be their awareness of a positive impact and the believability of your impact claims, according to a study from the United Nations Global Compact.

 

 

8. Make Your Brand Extraordinary with Honesty

 

An 80-year-old shirtless man running on a bridge kicked off one of the most well-known branding campaigns ever: Nike’s “Just Do It.” In just 32 seconds, Nike presented a simple, honest message that told a story everyone could relate to and was impressed by. It helped Nike jump from $800 million in sales to $9.2 billion in under 10 years.

  

  

 

 

  

Nike built its brand on an honest statement that didn’t promise anything it couldn’t provide: You do it, and Nike helps.

 

Your brand doesn’t have to come up with anything as minimalist or iconic as “Just Do It,” but you can take lessons from the approach of Nike, Avis, Microsoft and Hans Brinker. They show their flaws, highlight their strengths, don’t over-promise, and poke a little fun at themselves to show their human side — all of which gets us emotionally engaged. 

 

Remember, people buy with emotion and justify with rational, regardless of gender. If you want your brand to connect with your primary target audience you must engage them emotionally, in a positive way that’s relevant to them, and honesty is integral to that lasting connectivity.

 

We’ve seen clients significantly enhance the perception of their brand and consequently their bottom line when they implement these fundamental pillars as part of their brand values. Is it time to try your hand at all of them and integrate brand honesty as part of your brand strategy?

Honesty is not only the best policy, it’s among the most profitable ones too.

 

You may also like:

  

Brand Promises: Are You Consistently Delivering Yours?

 

Humanizing Your Brand: Why It’s Key to Commercial Success

 

Brand Voice: Differentiating Through Your Own Brand Language and Attitude

 

Destination Branding: The Key Essentials for Success

  

 

So, what do you think?

• Would customers consider your branding and packaging design honest?

 

• Do you need a rebranding strategy to find a candid, authentic brand voice?

 

• Are there limitations you can acknowledge as part of your brand strategy that would ease the burden on your customer service?

 

• Could any of your brand collateral create customer misconceptions about your products, service or even core brand values?

 

• Would you stay at the worst hostel just for bragging rights? What would a brand audit highlight as part of your brand’s bragging rights?

  

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you! 

 

 

Brand Scandal: What’s Your Response to Controversy?

The recent horsemeat crisis may be producing some of the most amusing jokes of the last few months, but the implication for brands on losing consumer trust is certainly no laughing matter.

 

This latest consumer scare is less about the ingredients themselves and more to do with the level of trust we place in the hands of our food providers. With reputations built upon customer’s trusting the information provided, it begs the question, can brands built on trust withstand this level of breach in customer confidence?

 

 Tesc Beef Lasagne 20

 

The horsemeat scandal may be affecting the food industry but it is a wake up call to all brands. In the case of the horsemeat crisis many of the brands under fire were not intentionally misleading their customers.

 

The food industry has become so highly concentrated and globalised in recent decades, and supply chains have become so long that there is an increase in the points at which the integrity of the chain can break. 

 

This is not to say that the brands were void of responsibility. With an industry based on the traceability of the product, the promise of transparency and accountability lies with the parent brand. 

  

 Horse Meat Burgers

  

Few businesses are in complete control of all elements in their supply chains. Out sourcing is common, and indeed necessary, in most industries. Companies can rarely control all elements affecting the reputation of their brand and this makes it is increasingly important for brand’s to have a response strategy in place, incase a crisis hits.

 

The real indication of a brand’s ability to bounce back and rebuild consumer trust lies in their response to the scandal.

 

  

Top 3 Tips to Mitigate Brand Crises

 

1. Crisis Reaction

Recovery from a scandal begins with a phase of greater accountability from the brand. Apologizing to your customers and acknowledging you have let them down is an important step in rebuilding the trust lost.

 

In the wake of the horsemeat scandal Tesco released an apology in all major national newspapers as well as online. Included in the full apology was the following:

 

‘We have immediately withdrawn from sale all products from the supplier in question, from all our stores and online. If you have any of these products at home, you can take them back to any of our stores at any time and get a full refund. You will not need a receipt and you can just bring back the packaging. We and our supplier have let you down and we apologise.’

 


 

 

2. Internal communication

It is not just customers who are affected by a break in trust following a scandal. Employees have a sense of ownership of the brand they represent. They are often the very people who feel the greatest sense of betrayal when something goes wrong.

 

Communicating with staff during a time of crisis is critical to brand survival. Employees are often customer facing and the main communication channel between the brand and angered customers.

 

Employees who have an understanding of the brand’s position, who have been kept informed of the actions been taken by the brand to react to the scandal are best poised to alleviate customer concerns and reinstate trust. Employees who believe in the integrity of the brand, and their commitment to doing the right thing can help to rebuild a brand to a position of strength.

 

 Lance Armstrong

   

Before Lance Armstrong’s public confession of guilt for doping offenses he met with staff at Livestrong, the charity he helped found, and apologized for letting the staff down and putting the Livestrong brand at risk. He said he would try to restore the foundation’s reputation, and urged the group to continue fighting for the charity’s mission of helping cancer patients and their families.

 

 Livestrong Wristband

  

Tesco have a website dedicated specifically to internal communication with their staff. As part of their crisis management the brand has kept their employees well informed as to the companies actions regarding the horsemeat scandal and how they are responding to customers in a piece called “What we found, What we are doing”.

 

 

3. Taking Action

An apology is meaningless unless swift, visible action is taken to right the wrong and acknowledge customer concerns.

 

In 1990 Perrier water voluntarily withdrew its product worldwide, some 160 million bottles, after an isolated incident in a plant in North Carolina found traces of Benzene, a carcinogen, in several bottles.

 

 Perrier Mineral Water 600px

 

Despite the incident being identified as a mistake in the filtering procedure and effecting only a small number of bottles, the brand’s worldwide response was instrumental in alleviating consumer concern and maintaining trust. Thirteen years later and the brand’s reputation has emerged stronger than ever.

 

Kevin Clash was the voice and puppeteer behind Sesame Street’s Elmo; a character deemed to be responsible for a significant portion of the company’s profits from merchandise and affiliate products. With over 23 years in the job, Clash was seen to be instrumental behind Elmo’s success. It was believed that Elmo’s mannerisms were a projection of Clash’s sensibilities and that it would be impossible to have one with out the other.

 

 Sesame Street Elmo

 

When allegation of Clash’s past sexual relations with minors emerged Clash was forced to resign in order to preserve the brand. The potential concern of parents was seen as a greater risk to the brand than the loss of Clash.

  

Safeguarding your brand from crisis starts by being proactive and doing your due diligence when it comes to managing suppliers, hiring employees, and choosing brand representatives.

Surviving a crisis is about accountability, transparency and positive action.

 

• Is your brand strong enough to stage a comeback if crisis hits?

 

• Do you have a robust and well thought out brand crisis management plan?

 

De-Branding to Differentiate; Is Your Brand Strong Enough?

Selfridges department store in London made waves recently with consumers and marketers alike with the launch of their “No Noise” branding project.

 

 

 

In an aim to address the increasingly cluttered world of 21st century marketing, Selfridges opened the Quite Shop in-store. Minimalist art and music, and a ban on mobiles and shoes set the scene for a tranquil consumer experience, but bucking the very core of consumerism, the store went beyond by launching brand-free retail.

 

 Selfridges Launches No Noise

 

Global brands such as Levi’s, Heinz, and Dr Dre Beats all produced products that were void of logo or product information for the project, leaving customers to experience the products without the usual assault of marketing design.

 

 Selfridges No Noise Project Quiet Store Products

 

Arguably a campaign for media publicity the project did highlight two important branding issues:

1.  How Strong Is Your Brand Without Its Logo? 

A truly strong brand transcends its logo, as was evident from the No Noise project. Not only were the brands instantly recognizable when void of logos but critically, consumers had developed such an affinity with the brand through the intangible intrinsic values that even the un-branded product still offered value.

 Levis Jeans Debranded

 

2.  With the Prevalence of Brand Clutter, Can De-Branding be a Valuable Differentiator in the Market? 

The de-branded products of the No Noise project also created exclusivity out of normal brands. Void of logos and product information suddenly made Heinz baked beans tins a desirable limited edition unique offering. In a world where branding information is bombarding the consumer, could the simple brand-free product be the one that makes the biggest impact?

 

 Starbucks Debranded

 

Starbucks might be one of the most recognizable brands in the world but it too has started to explore reducing its brand imagery in an effort to differentiate its business and extend its market catchment.

 

 Starbucks Cups

 

Starbucks global reach meant that the visibility of the brand worldwide was almost having a negative effect with consumers. Over saturation of the corporate logo was almost making it uncool with consumers, with a trend towards local coffee houses emerging.

 

 Starbucks Localised

 

Starbucks began removing their name from their cups, and even redesigned their newer stores to fit into the local environment. In the UK no two stores are the same and the brand is focusing on less corporate branding and offering a more personalized experience to their customer. In a high street with Costco chains blatantly visible, would the de-branded Starbucks coffee house offer a more welcoming personable experience to the consumer?

 

De-branding to gain attention was a strategy adopted by VO5 last year in an effort to target the teenage boy market. The brand’s strategy focused on building brand equity through a meaningful narrative in their advertising.  They wanted to be less pushy with their products and thought that un-branded advertising adds to their credibility with their target market.

 

  

An unbranded 30-second teaser on YouTube spearheaded its new integrated campaign ’Pageant’. The short trailer achieved 180,000 views in two weeks after its launch in October and was also voted one of the most popular videos on YouTube’s comedy channel. The trailer was followed by an online film and a TV spot as well as a YouTube channel and Facebook page.

 

The viral success of the campaign means that there might be credence to the claim that de-branding might just be the key to breaking through brand clutter and gaining the attention of the audience.

 

 Gucci Bag Debranded

 

Branding and logo saturation is something that is having an impact in the luxury brand industry, an industry that once thrived on the power of their logos. Recent years have seen brands like Gucci experimenting with logo-free products where they have achieved success targeting a more sophisticated customer.

 

The customer’s affinity with the product was defined by their interest in the quality of the product materials and design rather than perceived status attained from the visibility of the logo. 

 

With a logo-free product the brand has achieved enhanced positioning and exclusivity with their target consumer. By recapturing a more knowledgeable customer and developing an aspirational product, the brand was rewarded with a 25% increase in annual profit last year.

 

 Coutts Debranded

 

Eliminating the brand name from marketing activity is also evident in the professional services industry. While many brands strive to develop brand awareness in the market, sometimes negative brand connotations make it necessary to de-brand. Coutts private bank recently did just that, dropping the well known but unpopular RBS parent brand from their name in an effort to extend business. 

 

The common thread in the examples above it that, before the de-branding took place, each company had developed an offering that presented value to their customers that extended beyond that tangible product itself. The strength of customer’s brand loyalty enabled the brands to experiment with the de-branding process. For obvious reasons de-branding won’t work in every case.

 

Tesco explored removing their brand name from some products but research has shown that the products were more popular with the Tesco name included as the customer has a better understanding of perceived quality that the brand represented.

 

De-branding certainly is not for every company, but it does force you to think about what elements of your brand make the biggest impact with your customer. Could de-branding be part of your brand strategy?

 

• Does your brand offer value to your customers that extends beyond the tangibles of the product or service?

 

• Do your customers have a clear understanding of your brand and its story, what it stands for?

 

• If you de-branded your product, what are the remaining elements that would have the biggest impact with your customers?

 

 

Company Culture: Your Brand’s Strongest Competitive Advantage

Company culture may be the most vague aspect of brand management but carefully controlled and nurtured it can provide your brand with a sustainable competitive advantage that even your strongest competitors cannot replicate.

 

Company culture is a culmination of the behaviors, attitudes, relationships, core brand values and environment within a business. Simply put, your company culture can be viewed as “the way we do things around here”.  The manners in which these components are managed make your culture what it is.

 

 

How Does This Support Brand Development?

Many of the strongest brands have a product offering that is similar to that of competitors in the market. What gives them their greatest competitive advantage however is that while competitors can replicate the product, apply similar marketing techniques, and headhunt their staff, they can never fully duplicate their company culture. A company culture is the one truly unique sustainably competitive advantage a brand can have.

 

A winning culture can be a real point of differentiation, but it must be managed, driven, and reinforced in order to truly see results.

 

 Team Culture

  

 

What is the Culture Within Your Company?

Many companies aim to strategically shape the culture that exists within their organisation, but even companies who have never heard of company culture already have one in place.

 

The question is, is your company culture strengthening your brand or holding it back or, worse still, undermining it? A good place to start when developing and understanding your corporate culture is asking your staff and customers what they think of the company; the good, the bad and the ugly. What you need to take from that exercise is what elements of the existing company culture that you like and your customers like, and what needs to be eliminated.

 

 

What You Do, Not What You Say!

The core values you identify for your brand will shape the behaviour of your employees and provide the guidelines they need to best serve the brand. If providing the best customer service possible is a core value of the brand then employees know that they are expected to do their best to achieve this value through all customer interactions.

 

Remember, it is not enough for your brand to have strong core values that are clearly articulated to stakeholders if they are not acted upon. It is what you do, not what you say that counts. It must be a fully integrated and intuitive part of your brand’s signature way of doing things.

 

 

What Is It That Your Company Values?

In order to create a corporate brand culture that yields results you must first identify what is it you value as a company? How to you live and authentically demonstrate the importance of these brand values to your stakeholders?

 

If you want to delight your customers then what is the reward for your employees when they achieve this?  Think of it this way. If your company culture values customer service and your core value is to delight customers, then what happens if two supermarket employees each make sales of equal monetary value but one offers to carry the customer’s bags to the car. Does that employee receive a reward for going out of their way to delight the customer? Or more to the point, is the other employee penalized for not doing so?

 

 Team Hands

 

Reward your staff for embracing your company’s culture. Don’t just review employees based on measuring results, measure their behaviour and what they try to bring to the work environment.  Encourage, support and acknowledge those that not only promote but act on your core brand values.

 

If you want to create a sustainable corporate brand culture than staff recruitment should aim to find employees who fit within the existing brand culture and whose values are closely aligned with the brand.

 

Zappos famously offer potential employees $3000 to leave the company during their initial training to make sure those who choose to stay do so because they believe in the brand and not just the financial benefits of the job.

 

 

The Role of The Leader

The most critical influencer on the development of a corporate culture that supports strong brand development is the leader. Leaders understand that their brand’s identity is shaped through touch points between their customers and their organisation.

 

Leaders cannot possibly anticipate every possible touch point that could influence perceptions of the company’s brand, and advertising can only get you so far, but they can set the example as to the attitude and behavioral cues for the corporate brand culture.

 

Strong leaders understand that in a sustainable winning company culture, the behaviours of employees are intrinsically linked to relationships, informed by attitudes, built on a foundation of core brand values and suitable to their industry environment. By managing these cultural components a leader can create a company culture that supports strong brand development internally.

 

 Southwest Airline Staff 

 

Southwest Airlines embrace a company culture that nurtures staff first and customers second. This may seem counter intuitive but by giving employees the tools to make decisions, by building a culture where people feel respected and valued, Southwest Airlines understood that these values would also be reflected in interactions with customers. Their corporate culture has created an environment where employees want to deliver the best customer service in the business. 

 

 

As Zappo’s CEO Tony Hseih states; “company culture and company brand are two sides of the same coin. Your culture is your brand.”

 

 

• Does your corporate culture nurture your brand and provide a competitive advantage?

 

• How do your core brand values support your corporate culture?

 

• Do you as a company leader understand your role in the development of your company’s brand culture?

 

• Do you need to engage in a Brand Discovery Programme™ to re-evaluate your company culture and brand values so you can reinvigorate your brand’s offering to make it stronger, more relevant and more profitable?