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

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.

A Social Media Experience Gone Bad

disappointment

My job requires a great deal of domestic travel.  I’m typically on the road 75% of the time covering the entire country.  Living in Philadelphia there’s one airline that dominates this market.  I’ve traveled this airline since 1995 and have flown their top-tier status for years.  With more than a million miles under my belt I’d consider myself a pretty savvy traveler.  I’d also consider myself to be a loyal customer to any company that provides me with the right value equation – what I get for what I spend.  So what does all this have to do with social media?  Here’s the story.

Recently I was scheduled to fly out of Philly to Denver.  Shortly after midnight, the day of travel, I received an email alerting me that my flight had been canceled.  I called the airline and after I got the customer service agent out of bed he proceeded to tell me that the flight had been indeed been canceled but that he would help me out by getting me on the next available flight to Denver.  Imagine my surprise when he informed me that the next available flight was scheduled for the exact same time as the original departure.  Hmm.  In his ever groggy voice the representative informed me that he could not assign me a seat as this flight was “under airport control”.  Sounds reassuring.

Got to the airport only to be told that the only seat available on this new flight…which remember was scheduled for the exact same time as my original flight…was a center seat.  Needing to get to Denver I had no choice.  So, last row, center seat, sold out flight.  I proceeded to tweet this airways regarding my situation.  Moments later I received a response to my tweet that said “We’re sorry for the cancellation. Check in with a gate agent for a seat assignment.”  Wow, now that was helpful.  So I proceed to reply suggesting they offer me something as a consolation…a free drink, WiFi, something.  Response? “We’re unable to offer free WiFi or drinks we’re sorry for your disappointment.”

Needless to say this airways attempt at using social media to delight and wow a customer fell WAY short.  Their responses were cold, impersonal, and above all else…useless.

Fast forward a week later.  Same exact situation happens only this time in route to Dallas.  So I tweet again.  This time the response I receive is “We’re sorry we aren’t able to help you here however our agents are happy to assist.”  This airways just doesn’t get it.  What they’ve done is made a bad situation even worse.  No one has owned the problem, no one owned fixing it.  It’s an incredible game of shift the blame and move the shells around.  Simply awful.

So what could this airways have done differently to make this a better experience for the traveler using social media:

  1. Have a policy already in place that provides guidance to whoever is monitoring social channels as to what goodwill offers can be made to satisfy the customer
  2. Make the reply personal.  “I’m so sorry Mr. DeRosa.  That’s terrible.  Here’s what we can do to help…”
  3. Follow up.  Two weeks have now passed and I’ve heard nothing from anyone at airways.  They have my contact number, my frequent flier number, my home and cell phones, and nothing.  Clearly they believe they don’t need to be the Nordstrom’s of the skies.  In fact I’ve gotten better service at a Dollar Store than at airways.

So keep in mind that if your company is using social media to engage its customers it requires a true commitment.  It’s not something to dabble in.  Canned replies, form letters, and traditional customer communication does not work with social media.  Spend the time to understand this before getting involved.  If your company doesn’t have the time, resources, or patience to learn and understand social media then do all you can to ensure they never launch it lest it will lead to an airways like experience.