Joined CNBCs Power Lunch for Apple’s annual conference. I didn’t think it was that “big”. We discussed why Apple has an obligation to innovate and needs the next big thing to stay relevant. Why, because it’s Apple. That’s their brand. They have a responsibly to be that and to do that. So this raises the question is Apple still sexy, where’s the wow and is the right man at the helm? Steve Jobs was a genius who had a very strong vision while Tim Cook is an operations man and I think at the moment it’s a little unclear.” Here’s the segment: http://snip.ly/srif6
Okay, time to wake up. What does Schultz need to do to keep the initiative alive. Here’s my perspective with CCTV Anchor Michelle Makori on March 25th, 2015.
Is brands’ importance dwindling? Are consumers thinking about your brand? Are organizations that sweat to differentiate themselves in cluttered markets wasting their money? Brands are supposed to have the power to provoke, instigate, incite and inspire, enlighten and stimulate, agitate, stir up and encourage, urge and edify the consumer and are often worth much more than a company’s physical assets. Today brand equity accounts for 30% of the S&Ps value, but pundits have been fomenting about the irrelevance of brands and their role since the digital revolution started.
Ubiquity of computers and smart devices in an age of “perfect information” challenges the role of brands and how they’re built. Do brands make it easier for customers to cut through the bombardment that drowns us every day? Research reveals that receive more than 3,000 commercial images a day; our subconscious absorbs more than 150 images and roughly 30 reach our conscious mind. Therefore, practice has it that if you differentiate your brand you dramatically accelerate the potential for your brand to reach the conscious mind of the consumer.
The ability for customers to research reviews on websites, chat with people through social media and review websites like Trip Advisor before they buy products has dramatically reshaped the customer journey. According to a new book by Simonson and Rosen these trends simply make brands not as valuable as they used to be because the consumer has become more informed and rational in their decision making process and need brands less, especially as word-of-mouth is the No. 1 purchase decision-maker.
The old purchase funnel is dead. Consumers still want a clear brand promise and offerings they value. What has changed is when, at what touch points, they are most open to influence, and how you can interact with them at those points. In the past, marketing that put the lion’s share of resources into building brand awareness and then opening wallets at the point of purchase worked pretty well. But touch points have changed in both number and nature, requiring a major adjustment to realign marketers’ strategy and budgets with where consumers are actually spending their time. To best serve today’s consumers, companies need to enhance their Internet presence and encourage word of mouth with more consumer feedback before and after a purchase especially as many products marketed to men are bought by women and vice versa.
Perhaps still the best definition of the word brand, from a 1998 copy of Webster’s dictionary, was “to mark with a red hot poker” and in many ways it’s still spot on because brands need to be red hot in this Darwinian new world of social media and empowered consumers who now can prolifically communicate with each other and form the all powerful court of public opinion. Recent research by McKinsey & Co has shown that consumers do not systematically hone down their choices, but take a more recursive and less reductive approach.
Today the consumer goes through a rigorous consideration phase followed by evaluation of the brands chosen and the selection/decision to buy. After purchase the customer enjoys the service, advocates the brand to their peers, bonds with the brand and swoops round to purchase. If not bonded the process starts over and moves back into consideration. This has huge implications for the delivery of brand marketing especially as consumers today take all the brands they have under consideration right to the point of purchase so a brand being a short cut to a consumers purchase is a lot harder to accomplish.
If you don’t like change you’ll like irrelevance even less. The dawn of “social sharing” is transforming the economics of marketing and the Internet has upended how consumers engage with brands making obsolete many of the brand’s traditional strategies and structures.The Internet has upended how consumers engage with brands. It’s transforming the economics of marketing and making obsolete many of the brand’s traditional strategies and structures. For marketers, the old way of marketing their business is unsustainable. The purpose of brands has changed. Brands will succeed mainly by inspiring customer loyalty, but prior to loyalty being built, brands need to both aid brand recognition in the market and influence what customers associate with the brand such as speed, reliance and status.
People do care about brands, just not as many as we’d like to think and brand value is rising. The presiding confluence of economics, culture, and history intertwine creating consumer’s who desire a reciprocal relationship and new thresholds that bring to the fore new brand leaders with a more progressive outlook. The timing is ideal for brands to seize this opportunity to take on decisive role, establishing an even stronger position in society and taking consumer’s experience with the brand deeper into the core strategy of the business – not just a pure sales play.
What it takes is a “fans first” philosophy that guides the brands overall engagement strategy. This represents a move away from push advertising toward a model of listening and engaging where appropriate. So the challenge to a brand strategy that desires to be everywhere customers are, and in the social space, is how to achieve it in a non-big brand way. What we search for in brands is not so far from what we search for in friends: brands are personalities and the more CMOs care about their brand’s role in society, share benefits with their community and really listen and engage their customers to compete to get what they want fewer CMOs will get fired less and they’ll get more bang for buck from their brand marketing dollars.
What was once the privilege of the few has become prolific and demonstrably influential by all. Brands used to be about control, a short cut to decision-making and the means to stand out in the crowd. Now we have saturated markets and research that reveals the consumer buying process has changed dramatically where consumers now take all the brands in their consideration set to the point of purchase, i.e., no real short cut nor stand out yet the process of brand building has changed little.
Once brand became a verb and not just a noun, an entire industry leaped up around it “applying ingenuity to the disingenuous” according to Lucas Conley. Now we live in an age where businesses need to look beyond the aesthetics of a brand or the efficacy of a service where consumer engagement and loyalty factor far more than benefits and features because consumers now expect to interact with or even influence brands. Thus many clients and pundits are firing salvos saying traditional branding is fast becoming ineffective, irrelevant and impotent complimenting Amazon CEO, Jim Bezos’s definition as, “A brand is what people say about you when you leave the room”.
Brands should benefit society as a whole, not just protect tenured brands from competition. Mutual client suspicions and holding company interests underlie the growing debate of brands added value role. Now a revolution is needed thanks to three forces: rising costs due to market saturation and the explosion of channels, big changes in consumer buying behavior and disruptive technology. To capture this opportunity requires a new approach to brand building that delivers the consumer earlier and deeper into the brand building process, not just the ole who we are, what we do and why we do it approach.
Rarely have need and opportunity so neatly come together. The business goal of any brand is to create more users, new users and/or new uses by continually innovating to add value to customer’s lives. Plus brands help consumers compete to get what they want. Today brand owners should attempt a new approach by being interested in the consumer not just interesting to the consumer. This is not palliative it’s the solution. To do so brand owners need to distill their brands into a core idea/promise, the emotional attributes concerning their values and personality, the functional needs of the brand, social attributes surrounding the environment and the brand’s context in society. These combined will enable product and service innovation that helps brand owners realize ambitions, build legacies, violate convention and shatter norms.
With the 21st Century on fast forward, never has there been a more important time to innovate and drive productivity growth in the face of rampant change with new faster global competition. Entire new industries and many existing ones have transformed to become creators of valuable ideas and experiences. Increasingly, businesses are organizing themselves to maximize the generation of new and better ideas, creating the infrastructure, education systems, and innovative organization that will solve problems, create value, and change the world. As former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner said of business transformation. “It requires focus, leadership, and commitment” to create an authentic community of motivated thinkers and doers that can open new channels for the business, industry and society.
In brands’ defense, they do have the capacity for reinvention because branding is not a body of doctrine but an activity. True originality in brands, as in life, comes from turmoil and the constant search for new insights, ideas and true innovation. Brand owners need to be messianic on their vision and martial in their command because it’s not about who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you. Reinventing an established institution to be fearless crusaders will not be easy and like all revolutions the one that needs to take place with brands will have many victims, but the process will benefit many more businesses and people than it hurts.
“There’s no more big ones” quipped my 3yr old as she scooped an empty spoon from the ice cream cup. The same is true drilling your network for new business: the sea has turned red, time to forage afresh. Here are some sure ways to kick start.
New growth is achieved by being different and heroic, but with big corporations hording their cash and banks refusing to loan small businesses much needed finance, the US has more than a fiscal cliff on its hands – it has growth crisis that threatens to stifle the very core of America’s economy: small business owners.
Within any entrepreneur’s purview all manner of initiatives and schemes exist to boost business growth. Sadly most can’t through lack of time and resources. The vital ingredient to pursuing opportunity without regard to resources currently held lies in creating affordable actions and simple communications that generate new business opportunities with warm contacts. To help beat the bushes there are eight practical initiatives you can apply to drum up your staff’s involvement, rapidly creating a simple program of actions that can kick-start a river flow of opportunities.
Value creation is determined by how tightly your business is run and the quality of your customer relationships – retaining 5% of your customers can add 25% to the bottom line. Satisfied clients and suppliers are a great place to start by simply asking who in their company/market you might be able to help. This is an effective way for your client servicing teams to engage their clients and vendors to generate opportunities, whether it’s inviting the client to discuss this with your CEO through to the power of proactive proposal writing by the team that provides the most immediate impact.
How did you feel the last time you received a genuine hand written note? Send notes to a handful of influential people either at a client’s business or a prospect you know. It’s amazing how effective it can be to trigger “why should I care?” from the client. Yes, it’s laborious and your handwriting better be in reasonable shape, but the approach works, especially if you make sure the note is promising lots for them, not you!
Business often suffers when you’re unaware of your brand’s standing because your client quite literally doesn’t believe that you can do what you say you can do. Therefore, more often than not, we need to give to get for an opportunity to meet with a prospect. To demonstrate your diverse grasp of the category consider emailing an article or some recent research from a related field that shares an invaluable perspective on the client’s business (including clients you haven’t talked to in years) with an outline of the actionable insights you wish to share that will benefit the client in multiple.
Don’t be frightened by Possibility, She makes a great mistress. Write a provocative byline with a strong POV and send it to the editor of a magazine, paper or blog your customers and competitors read. You might get lucky and its published or at least they’re open to hearing more about you. If all fails you now have a strong POV to present, tout in a sales letter, host on your web site and use as part of an office wide social media outreach campaign for the company.
It’s not actually who you know, as the saying goes, it’s how you use who you know. Encourage the office to identify 25+ people – commercially important to your business – invite them to an informal group discussion (8-16 attendees) on a hot topic at a salubrious location for breakfast or after work. Aside shared insights, the goal is to make an appointment with each attendee post event, and approach those who did not attend using the outputs from the discussion as a lever for opening a conversation.
Consider having the team send a thank you gift (as simple as a good book) to a few people who referred you or gave a reference for you. It might have been some time back, but the act of recognition is rarely refused and showing appreciation inevitably leads to a follow up opportunity where new ideas you have prepared can be discussed. Remember, nine times out of ten, people will answer back when spoken to.
People are a brand’s greatest asset and to lead a team you first need to be in the team; when a business shares a deep and broad connection with its employees, they go above and beyond what’s expected of them. When employees are excited and focused, servicing customers who are satisfied, the business runs well. These initiatives are simple to accomplish and if engaged with enthusiasm they will entice the office to be involved to pool their knowledge and get them vested in the success of the business. The difficult part is follow-through.
Nothing in the world takes the place of persistence and determination. Build momentum by creating a low cost competitive initiative that is team based using all of these actions to rapidly promote the business. If you have the benefit of a new business professional representing your company the task becomes a lot easier to orchestrate, especially the art of following up. While being fully prepared for delays the key is to have fun with the program by coordinating it enthusiastically versus efficiently, and with regular office alerts on progress, impact will be felt within weeks. Let’s grow.