Reasons To Believe: A Key Part of Your Brand Promise

RTB

Buyers make purchasing decisions based on a number of factors.  Sellers must understand these factors in order to create reasons-to-believe (RTB) in their brand.  RTB statements are short, concise, to-the-point statements that serve as a sound bite to the buyer.  Trident gum’s “4 out of 5 dentists” is a simple example of an effective RTB. The use of reasons-to-believe can apply to any person, product, service, or business.  Whether your are building your personal brand or your company’s, it’s your job to develop an RTB that resonates with your buyer.

How do you know what’s important to your buyer?  Do you understand the process your buyer goes through on their journey to the cash register? By mapping your buyer’s journey, you will uncover these critical insights, that are necessary in creating your brand messaging which should include some RTBs. Current pain level, budget, ability to solve the problem,  reputation of the seller, and the buyers emotional state are all key inputs into the buying decision.

The most effective RTBs are those created to align with a specific point on the buyers journey.  As the buyer travels thought the 4 emotional phases of buying including, awareness, familiarity, confidence, and conviction, she will require different messaging to continue her buying journey.  RTBs are most impactful when used in the confidence phase of buying.  During the first two emotional phases, Marketing is working to establish conscious and subconscious brand recognition.  Once awareness and familiarity are developed, a strategically positioned RTB can help establish confidence.  Some examples of RTBs include:

  1. Ford F 150 – highest EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of any full-size gasoline powered pick-up on the market
  2. Chevy Colorado – MotorTrend’s 2016 Truck of the Year
  3. QuickBooks – 4 million business run on QuickBooks
  4. Perdue – No-Antibiotics-Ever, and an all-vegetarian diet
  5. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital– families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food

While some of these RTBs sound like nothing more than a simple statement, they in fact have been strategically developed to connect to a buying emotion.  All were created to instill confidence and provide an emotional satisfier…a feel-good reaction.  These companies are just a handful that have taken the time to study and understand what’s important to their buyer’s.  They understand that we live in an information society where cutting through the noise is paramount to capturing the buyers attention.  These direct, relevant soundbites provide buyers with an added reason-to-believe in a brand.  Do you know what your brand’s RTBs are?

 

Becoming a Brand Master: Lessons Learned From Taylor Swift & Jony Ive

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift gets branding. In fact, I’d put her up against most of today’s “branding experts” as being a true master brand manager.  Swift is an artist but also a great businesswoman.  She has a clear vision of what the Taylor Swift brand delivers.

Jonathan (Jony) Ive, the world renowned industrial designer at Apple who is largely credited with the iPod’s sleek design and UI is also a master brander.  He has a deep understanding of what buyers need, and want, and focuses his efforts, and those of his team, to deliver products that meet those needs.

JonyIve

While Swift and Ive may have taken different paths to be becoming brand experts, both share some common characteristics that all marketers can learn from if they desire to become master branders.

  1.  Establish clear goals for your brand.  Is your goal to appeal to the mass market or to a niche? No brand can be everything to every one.  Taylor Swift may be a great musician and artist but there’s still those who prefer heavy metal to her country-pop. Ive’s iPhone may have an awesome design but there are millions of buyers who prefer the Android operating system over iOS. Pick your lane and nail it.
  2. Focused intensity.  Once you’ve identified your goals and they are in clear sight, go after them with focused intensity.  Having focus is wonderful, but having intensity with focus will drive you to reach your goal quicker.
  3. Always be kind, even when acting otherwise would be completely acceptable.  Every brand is susceptible to negative comments.  Can anyone say Kanye? Buyers are always watching your behavior. Be honest, be transparent, and take the high road. It doesn’t mean rolling over or not defending untruths, but do it with a smile.
  4. Be a perfectionist.  Branding is an art, and we all know art is not perfect, otherwise it wouldn’t be art. But being a perfectionist relative to executing your branding strategy is something that sets brand masters apart from those that tinker in branding.
  5. Stay above the fray, operate with a touch of paranoia.  Looking over your shoulder isn’t always a bad thing.  Two things I learned growing up that that help with this concept are; nothing good happens after dark, and what would your grandparents think?  Your brand is your own and you can do with it as you please.  Just make sure you’ve thought through the implications of acting or speaking a certain way and then accept the outcomes. If someone in your company does something that has a negative impact on the brand it’s up to you, the brand master, to take action and deliver consequences.

These may appear to be small things.  Maybe even trivial things.  And while much of what we experience in life would suggest we NOT sweat the small stuff, when it comes to our brand, nothing is too small an item to not sweat.

 

Dunkin…One Hot Brand

Dunkin

Some time when I was around 5 or 6 years old my grandmother let me try my first sip of coffee.  She brewed it in a small tin percolator on the stove and I remember how the aroma of the coffee filled the house.  She put a touch of cream in a small cup, slid it across the table, and wa-la…a coffee enthusiast was born!

Dunkin has been my go-to brand for as long as I can remember.  It’s where I go to think, sometimes to work, sometimes to write, and other times to hang out.  It’s a special place I go to with my dad when we’re together, to chat and spend time with one another.  Dunkin has become a comfortable part of my life.  How did they do it?

The Marketing team at Dunkin works overtime to stay connected with their customer.  From determining new menu items, to the appropriate temperature at which they serve their coffee, Dunkin stays close to their customers thoughts.

By delivering on their brand promise every day, Dunkin has created a trusted brand that represents consistency, dependability, and commitment.  “YOUR COFFEE JUST RIGHT, EVERY TIME.” That’s a commitment.

The Dunkin I frequent in Jamison, PA is staffed by an incredibly friendly team of service professionals.  While some would argue that qwik-serve establishments are far from employing service professionals I’d argue against that position every day of the week when it comes to Dunkin.  Traveling more than 100,000 domestic miles every year since 1997, I can confidently say I’ve been in hundreds of Dunkin locations across the country.  My coffee, and the experience by which it was delivered, keeps me coming back.

Typical elements that are included in measuring a customers experience with a brand seem to have been mastered by Dunkin.  Clean stores, hot coffee, comfortable gathering spaces, WiFi, quick and friendly service, a killer app that rewards you for your business, well lit stores at any hour of the day, and great presentation of their baked goods are all things that have helped create a dominant Dunkin brand.

When you look at your brand, do you know what your customers judge you on?  What are the elements surrounding their experience with your company that you need to pay attention to?  Do you know?  If not, it is probably time you engage in some deep buyer journey work to better understand what your buyer goes through in order to arrive at their buying decision.  Rest assured Dunkin has.

Operating nearly half the number of stores as Starbucks, its largest competitor, Dunkin still controls 24% of the coffee market compared to Starbucks 36%. Dunkin reports selling nearly 2 billion cups of coffee each year.  Starbucks has elected to not disclose their number.

Dunkin’s growth will no doubt continue providing they keep their eye on their brand promise.  Assuming they do, I can guarantee them I’ll be returning every day for my medium hot coffee with cream.  Keep on runnin Dunkin!

DunkinJoe

Presentation Matters!

Jewelry

Recently I was killing time in one of the country’s largest department stores as my wife did some shopping.  As a passionate, yet at times geeky marketer, I enjoy going to the mall to look at how merchandise is marketed and how consumers interact with that merchandise as they consider their purchase.

I’m often baffled by how some stores seem to be quite comfortable with messy racks and shelves.  You know the ones where all the sweaters are thrown all over the place, sizes mixed together, shirts are on the floor, and forget about the socks section.

As I wandered through this major, national, department store I stumbled into the jewelry section.  In fact, I quite literally stumbled as I noticed the sign for a pair of diamond earrings for $3,200.  It wasn’t the price that caught me off guard.  It was the horrible presentation.  The jewelry case looked like a disaster.  I actually snapped the photo above as my brain tried to reconcile the price of $3,200 with a case that looked like it had been through the war and back.

How could a retailer that is one of the most iconic in the country allow one of their stores to present merchandise like this?  Could their executive team even be aware that they are trying to sell jewelry for thousands of dollars in this manner?  I could never imagine a mall jewelers case to looking like this.  You’d never see a presentation like this in Nordstrom or Bloomingdales.  So my question is simple…

If this is the only way you’re able to present merchandise should you do it?  Is it worth jeopardizing your brand’s image? Is it worth the risk of destroying its value?  Further is this the image you expect of your brand? Crusty, cracked, faded, and dirty? Would any of this company’s executives spend that kind of money anywhere else where the merchandise was presented this way?  I’d bet not.

This got me thinking.  I wondered just how expensive jewelry displays actually cost.  Maybe, just maybe they were really expensive. So I went to http://www.nilecorp.com which sells jewelry displays.  I inventoried the displays in the case and priced out replacements.  NEWSFLASH: To replace the faux suede displays in this picture would cost a WHOPPING $50.00! Seriously?  Kind of makes you wonder just how far out this capital expenditure has to be budgeted for. Sense the sarcasm?

The morale of this story (blog) is that a multi-million dollar brand can be tarnished for under $50.00.  And whether your company is a local small business, a national retailer, or a luxury automobile manufacturer your brand is open for business 24/7. So if you’re not paying attention to these kinds of details guess who is?  Your lost customers.

And remember this…while diamonds may last forever, their display cases don’t.  Pay attention to the details.

Consistency: The not-so-secret ingredient to building a strong brand

consistency-is-key

If I were to ask you to name your favorite brand what would you say?  What metric or definitions would you use to acknowledge those companies whose brands rise to the top?

Brand building is big work.  Heavy work.  Time consuming work.  It takes patience, curiosity, interest, a willingness to listen, a willingness to act, a conscious effort to deliver what you promise day in and day out.  Yes, a brand is simply that…a promise.

Chances are your favorite brands may do many things well, but there’s one thing I bet they do better than all the others.  I’ll bet your favorite brands deliver what they promise consistently.  Not 70% of the time, or 80% of the time, but 10 out of 10 times you get exactly the experience you’ve come to expect.  It’s exactly the reason you keep going back.  It’s THE reason it’s your favorite brand .

Consistency is the little, but not so secret, ingredient of successful brandsDunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and Wawa deliver great coffee all the time.  Apple delivers quality products for home, work, or on the go, that are easy to use and deliver what’s promised.  The gym I go to is always so clean you could eat off the floors which says a lot for a gym!  I drive 23 miles to take my car to a Cadillac dealership when there is a Caddy dealer 4 miles from my home.  Why?  They always recognize me by name, their waiting area is ultra-comfortable with TV, work stations and high-speed internet, not to mention their  “Nordstrom-like” restrooms.  Speaking of Nordstrom, their service is remarkable each and every time.  Whether you’re buying a brand name shirt, or one that carries John Nordstrom’s name, you can rest assured you’ve purchased something of quality.

We all have examples of our favorite brands.  What’s funny is how many companies I’ve experienced where paying attention to those little things is viewed as more of a luxury than a requirement.  Dunkin didn’t get the reputation for great coffee by accident.  They didn’t say “it doesn’t matter where we get our beans from or what type of equipment we use to brew it”.  They are all about those coffee details.  Nordstrom’s didn’t develop its reputation as service workhorse by giving customers a hard time when an item didn’t fit, work, or hold up as expected.  And for those of you privileged enough to live in a city where Wegmans operates you know how consistent their delivery of remarkable service is.  Wegmans has been known to take back, refund, and provide other goodwill gestures for food purchased that the customer didn’t like.  Consistently consistent.

If you’re selling fast and easy, it better be fast and easy all the time.  Not just most of the time. If you’re selling fresh, it needs to be fresh at 6 am or 6 pm.  If you’re selling durable, it better last under the harshest uses or conditions.

Regardless of what you sell, think about how consistent your brand delivers on its promise.  If it’s anything shy of 100%, or Six Sigma, I suggest you reevaluate and understand not just why, but what you’ll do to correct it.  Nobody wants to buy “sometimes”.  In fact most people buy with their emotions, and as human beings our emotions are wired for a “forever” experience.  People don’t like change and if your brand is inconsistent you’re indirectly creating a situation that will bring a change to your customer.  Not a good thing.  Consistently consistent.  That’s the key.

 

 

Can You Tell If Your Culture Is Broken?

broken

Sales are down, customers are complaining and the board is losing patience.  You say you have a brand problem.  People aren’t aware enough, confident enough, or convicted enough to buy what you’re offering.  Why?

Is it because your marketing budget isn’t big enough?  Maybe you’re not running enough ads?  Or perhaps you haven’t paid enough attention to SEO and key words?  It could be some of these things, or maybe all of them.  I’d be willing to bet it might be something entirely different.  It might be your culture.

What you produce is a direct reflection of who you are, how you act, and what you value.  These are the things that make up a company’s culture.  They’re the sticky things, the messy things, the complicated things.  They are the ingredients that many executives (notice I didn’t say leaders), shy away from addressing.

I’ve read literally hundreds of company websites that proudly talk about their culture using words they refer to as their “values”.  They advertise these words like awards, placing them on a shelf like a trophy.  Inside the company however is a different realty.

Years ago I had a boss tell me, “if you have to put your values on a website they have no value”.  She further explained that “saying something is so, doesn’t make it so.”  I agree.  If, as an example, you list integrity as a value then what does it mean for the companies who don’t list integrity?  Does that mean they’re bad, or operate dishonestly?  Do you really need to say you value operating in a truthful manner?

I’ve seen countless companies where there is a disconnect between the stated values and the real culture.  The employees know it.  They see it.  They’re living it.  They’re wondering if anyone else notices the disconnect.  They become numb to the words because that’s all they are …just words.  Instead they watch actions.  They look for proof.  When they can’t find proof to validate the words the culture cracks.  It becomes fractured.  It fails to deliver a delightful experience to the customer because the delivery mechanism – the employees – is fractured.

Leaders hit this challenge head on.  Leaders are not afraid to tackle the hard stuff, the sensitive stuff, the messy stuff.  They stand in front of the company leaning forward, and take complete responsibility for the disconnect.  They own it.  They believe it’s their job to fix it, no one else’s.  They’re a leader.

The leader knows that fixing something, or improving it, begins with honestly.  They know that to make a positive impact they must be able to be honest with their team.  The team is too smart to misled.  They know the deal.  They’re listening for the truth, not fluff.  Only then will the team rally.  Only then will the team consider the remarkable.  Only then is the delivery of a delightful experience possible.  Until then…the broken culture is incapable of mending the brand. But the only way forward is for the leader to walk the talk.

The question is, do you have the courage to see things as they really are and deal with the messy part of business, or will you ignore it, explain it, and excuse it?  The choice is yours.  Be a leader.

 

The 3 Deadly Sins of a Marketer

A Marketers primary job is to understand their customer.  What drives their buying behaviors, their decisions, their choices.  It’s the marketer who is responsible for gaining this knowledge and use it to create the companys go-to-market strategy.  Here are 3 things that can crush a marketers effectiveness in creating a successful strategy.

  1. Not challenging the status quo.  For marketers joining a new team be wary of the famous “won’t work”, “tried that before”, or “our product is different”.   Thomas Edison made over 1,000 attempts before the first successful light bulb.  Edison said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times.  The light bulb was an invention of 1,000 steps.”  Your job as a marketer is to challenge the status quo in order to find the message that best resonates with your buyer.  For those marketers who have been in their current roles for a while change this up to bring a level of freshness back to the office.  Read a book, talk to a collegaue, do something that provides you with an opportunity to propose trying something new.
  2. Lack of curiousity.  Marketers are part sales person, part researcher, part engineer, part visionary, part data analyst.  Given the breadth of your role the most important question you’ll have in your arsenal is “why”.  Ask it often and ask it everywhere.  As tools such as A/B testing become more mainstream asking why can be positioned as a quantitative inquiry and one that is backed by data.  If you’re working in an enviornment where “why” may be a bit too challenging then reposition your intention as a test, a study, a pilot.  No matter what you call it, it stills answers the question “why”.
  3. Failing to learn new things.  Change is fast, faster than ever.  Whether it’s marketing automation, Google’s new Penguin algorithm or dynamic content, your job tomorrow will be different from the job you leave today.  Keeping up with all these changes requires a personal investment of your time and energy.  Reading, webinars, conferences are all ways to keep up to speed on what’s changing and evolving in the world of digital marketing and media.  Twitter is a great source of valuable content if you follow the right people and companies.  Set a specific time every day for your reading.  Building a routine around your personal education is a critical success factor in taking control of your professional development.