Tag Archives: brand

Should We Look At Brand Philanthropy In A New Way?

perception-eyes-philanthropy

Whether brand philanthropy should be included as part of a marketing strategy has always been a contentious topic. Arguments from both sides can be valid and our opinion is that it really depends on a company’s intention in the first place. Part of my own previous work experience was managing the brand philanthropy for a large Irish financial company. As such, it was an element of our overall CSR Programme.

Part of my role was making sure that the general public knew about the good we were doing and as a result – how our brand was an integral part of the communities in which our people operated. At times, people would complain that we were focusing on promoting ourselves and wasting funds that could be donated.

My response was always that the awareness was mutually beneficial for us and the cause. Sharing information about what we did for the greater good worked both ways as the non-profit gained much-needed awareness of their cause and their impact. In my experience, many non-profits struggle with the communication of their impact on society which can cost them in the long-run.

A discussion about impact measurement that I had with a few fellow marketers recently has prompted me to write this post about looking at brand philanthropy in a new way.

First of all, let me say that I believe companies can reap the benefits of supporting causes without appearing to be self-serving by using community outreach methods. Ways to do this would include:

  • Considering causes that naturally align with the company’s core values
  • Undertaking initiatives that allow staff partake in the cause’s work
  • Developing internship programmes for local students to work with you
  • Assisting a non-profit partner’s operation through shared business learnings
  • Matching employees’ donations / time given to local causes

At the end of the day, it’s about a company being authentic. There are always ways to give back that does not look to be disingenuous – it’s about doing the right thing. If the public are prompted to talk about it, and do – all the better,

Good brand philanthropy means doing well and doing good.

The following might sound a little harsh but it is probably fair to say that brand philanthropy hasn’t really changed over the years for most companies. The model has been – make loads of money and give some away for reputational credit (and tax purposes) and get a photo in the press with a big cheque for awareness.

Unfortunately, at times, the business owner’s intention is not really to solve a societal problem but to look good, to optimise profits or just to ‘tick’ a giving box.. When the recipient is not measuring impact either – nothing is really changing.

Whereas one could argue that this is an acceptable arrangement between a local charity and a small business owner, the problem is whether it is really having a needle-moving impact on a societal issue?

Wouldn’t it be better if an SME owner, conscious that if the business is doing extremely well, they should be doing good on a larger scale? If so, genuine brand philanthropy would have a long-term impact on societal challenges, as the business grows.

How about looking at brand philanthropy in a new way. Imagine if companies focused on bringing innovative products to market that also reduced a social problem. For instance – could Tesla’s self-driving cars be seen as a social cause e.g. reducing accidents / road deaths. Could Apple use the iPhone for natural disaster alerts? Could these be seen as contributions towards societal welfare?

Here’s another idea for you. Look at TV stations – other than a TV Licence (in Ireland) most programming is paid for by advertising i.e. the viewer gets to see programmes for free. Would it be beyond the bounds of possibility for those advertisers to allocate a portion of their ad spend to promoting needy causes. It wouldn’t cost them anything extra and the general public would be instantly aware of the support given.

A new way of giving back through corporate citizenship

We all appreciate that brands today must try and communicate with their audience through a multitude of channels and try to maintain a relationship. More and more, people are expecting something in return for their relationship/giving their attention. A company, making a public commitment to good corporate citizenship is one way of doing that.

Another way for brands to give back would be to help others donate by harnessing the power of social media. What if a company, as part of a social media campaign, donated an amount based on the volume of engagement a message received online. Possibly in conjunction with the advertising idea above this is another way of bringing people the ability to make a difference – especially if they can’t afford to do so themselves.

By all accounts, the so-called millennials generation are forcing brands to focus on genuine philanthropy. As a result, we see evidence of more brands starting to focus on causes that matter. A win-win-win situation occurs as a result. A brand’s relationship with its customers is strengthened, the cause benefits financially and the public feel better about themselves.

If this is the case, then us marketers need to climb out of our regular thinking box of lead generation, social media, website redesign, offline campaigns etc. and try to understand our business’ impact on society better.

Tips for making philanthropy part of a business model

The future is bright for brands that make philanthropy (CSR) part of their business model and not just an element of marketing / HR. They could go about this by:

Aligning core mission and values

Simply put, companies can ensure that their product / service and their mission and values are aligned and can be measured from a societal point of view

Ensuring philanthropy is not a campaign

If you cannot measure the impact of your CSR activity then it is not worthwhile. Measuring the results of a brand campaign is not what is required by society

Not having a short-term focus on community outreach activity

Mutually beneficial programmes are just that – mutually beneficial for the community and the company. Making a lasting impact on a community will take a long time to reach an entire community so short-term blasts won’t achieve much.

Developing long-term budgets

Funding models that delve deeper and not broader will work the best. Grant giving that spreads the benefit across many causes will be less effective than one that focuses on lasting impact.

Creating a self-sustaining revenue stream

At least one goal of the collaboration should be to create a situation where the cause develops a self-sustaining revenue stream to ensure long-term impact.

Creating a workplace philanthropy programme

Give employees a say in what cause is to be partnered. Ensure the cause agrees transparency and accountability, agree a suitable project and measure outputs / outcomes separately.

Conclusion

Nothing has changed in that everything is in a state of constant change.

Wealth is being accumulated faster than ever, but also how it is deployed for social purposes is also changing. Brands are beginning to realise that they must contribute to solve societal issues if they are to survive. Donors are realising that new models are required to ensure that the impact from philanthropy is real.

A commitment to societal impact presents challenges for non-profits and for-profits alike and it needs to be tackled head-on, together. Not only will this benefit society in general but also the people that we want to help in the first place.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

What Is It About Content Marketing That Makes It So Effective For Building Influence?

building influence

Building influence in your industry sector amplifies your marketing efforts. Having influence can impact the attitude of people to your brand and potentially change their purchasing behaviour.

One of the most effective ways of building influence is through the use of content marketing. We believe that it is one of the most powerful tools that any business should have in their arsenal.

It can achieve many things if done right. It can position your business as an industry leader and provide sales leads, but interestingly it can also be used for building influence.

In the current ever-changing and connected marketplace, providing useful content that makes your business a go-to resource is an effective way of providing a positive customer engagement.

Providing value is the way for building influence.

Through positive engagement, businesses can build relationships and subsequent influence.  At a practical level, having influence will help a) people to buy into the brand, b) to differentiate themselves from competitors and c) to get the team to buy into a founders vision. How do you build this influence? – by providing people with some type of benefit. The recipients have to appreciate the benefit / value provided or they won’t be influenced.

Think about the people who have influenced you in the past. It may have been your parents, a teacher, a sports coach, a work colleague or even a friend. Whoever it was – you probably valued them greatly. Doing so makes them an influence in your life.

Therefore, our point is that content marketing can be a powerful tool to help build influence by providing benefits to your target market. If you can solve a problem or just answer a question, without asking for anything in return, they are more likely to favour you if deciding to purchase a service you supply.

Let’s face it – people are really only interested in what your business can do for them. So they will be interested in your brand if it engages them by making their life easier somehow. It’s not about you – it’s about them.

People are hungry for relevant and reliable information.

Admittedly, nobody is going to put up their hand and say “influence me” but they do want the availability of good information so that they can make quick decisions. This can be for personal or business reasons.

The problem is that there is a tsunami of information being made available online and offline every day. As a result, it is becoming extremely hard for many people to sort the relevant and reliable information from the time wasters. Good content marketing can help them with this dilemma.

We will look at content marketing in a little more detail. Customers want information to help them take the ‘next step’ in a decision process and businesses want it to help build their customer base. Let us say you have decided to assist both parties by providing information. Before you start doing so we would recommend you have a look at our four general principals which you need to commit to:

  • Decide to use content marketing as a strategy (see below)
  • Consider how you will develop content that will be relevant to your audience
  • Agree on a consistent style and delivery schedule
  • How will you facilitate your team in providing good, quick and real content

We have found that if you create content based on your own experience, recipients can empathise more and will view it as being more valuable to them. For instance, the driver of the content of this post arose from a client meeting from last week.

They have decided to pay more attention to their online presence and to commence building thought leadership in their industry. Accordingly, we have embarked on a plan of activity to achieve that objective. In doing so, we thought we might share our thought process with you.

Effective content marketers build a plan of activity.

I guess the hardest part of starting off is putting together a content marketing plan. Here are 7 elements we recommend that you consider:

  • Curate a list of your current content – website, blogs, social media, brochures, newsletters.
  • Determine where your target audience is – what are they listening to / talking about (e.g. google analytics).
  • Align your communication for consistency – tone, keywords, interest, educational, engaging, of value.
  • Choose appropriate channels and tools – social media, video, audio, images, presentations, software (e.g. Hootsuite to help with time management).
  • Plan around specific events – industry events, public events, seasonality, PR/advertising  campaigns etc.
  • Place your plan in an actual calendar – one, three, six or twelve months, whatever suits.
  • If you don’t have the time, get help* – you will be planning, creating, editing, curating, distributing, measuring etc.

* If you do decide to get external help, look for evidence of, i) previous work samples, ii) who influences them, iii) SEO / SEM knowledge and iv) how much they expect to be paid.

Tips and Timesavers.

I think we can agree that no matter how fantastic your product or service is – if nobody knows about them, your business will not survive. Marketing is an essential part of business growth and using a content strategy is a relatively cheap way of gaining a foothold in your chosen market. Quite often these markets are dominated by large companies so not having to compete on budget, levels the playing field somewhat.

There are many ways of over complicating content marketing, but the concept is relatively straight forward.

Create and curate good and reliable content, promote it in the right places and thereby offer value to your audience.

As alluded to above, undertaking a content marketing strategy has to be a conscious decision by you / your management team. Let’s look at five steps you might take to build your strategy into one that will get you noticed:

  • Firstly, ask yourself why do it in the first place? Consider your overall goal – is it to provide a specific solution to customers, to reinforce a brand positioning, to generate sales leads, activate a sponsorship etc.
  • Secondly, determine (with your colleagues / external survey) what type of content your audience wants to receive – how to videos, tips via a blog, infographics, ebooks etc.
  • The third step is to decide where the content will feature i.e. paid, owned or earned media. Your allocated budget will determine to which extent these channels are used for distribution. Either way there should be a mix of these elements.
  • The penultimate step is to decide who will run your content marketing efforts. As mentioned above, if you don’t have the resources (i.e. a dedicated person / team) get help. Agreeing responsibilities, up-front, will help determine your capacity to create and distribute your content.
  • The final step is to consider how you will measure success. There are many tracking tools out there that can provide you with mountains of data. Choose the one that provides real insights into how you’re doing and how you can improve.

Conclusion.

So why are more businesses making content marketing an integral part of their marketing strategy? We touched on it earlier in this post. We believe that it is because if you want to build influence with your audience, you need to be providing as much value as possible.

This is why content that offers a distinct benefit that makes your customer’s life easier, will earn you the right to influence them. However your content must be relevant if it is to provide value. How can it do that?

It should answer a question that is being asked by your audience. At least it should be content that tells the reader how to solve a problem. Perhaps you could give your audience information that may be hard to get elsewhere. Or alternatively, you might provide content that makes your audience think about a topic differently

Whatever style you decide upon, if you want to persuade someone to take a particular action, you must find a way to benefit them. If you provide relevant value, you will grow your influence.

 Content marketing is a way of making your brand useful to an end-user beyond what your product or service offers. ….O’C&K

“We hope you have enjoyed our marketing tips and timesavers blog” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

Love, what’s that got to do with your brand?

brand love O'C&K

8 ways that might help people to love your brand a little more.

 We have written about business and marketing plans here before but now let’s get a little romantic, and talk about how much brand love you can attract, if any, from your customers and prospects. Perhaps, instead of spending your time sweating about operational plans for your fantastic service, it would be time well spent thinking how sustainable is the love for your brand.

We presume your mission is to have people engage with your brand (buying your stuff) – right? Well then, working out a way to get them to love you, long time, will lay the foundation for a good business strategy.

Of course, along the way, people are going to see your brand from different viewpoints, but that’s fine. Your focus should be on getting the right people to want to engage. Think about it this way – it would be a bad state of affairs if people weren’t aware of your service, (product), but wouldn’t it be even worse, if they were and didn’t care about it, at all? If you are in a competitive environment you may survive by being liked, but to grow, your brand has to be loved.

In a service based, small business your brand is yourself.

So here’s the point, nobody can ‘love’ a letterhead, a business card, a brochure or a website because these are just elements of branding. No one is going to love your premises or your background operations. They are going to love how you make them feel.

Your brand must go deeper than visual extensions, and it can because your brand is a personal promise to people. This promise can set you apart because you are promising value, and you have everything to lose because it’s your reputation that you are putting on the line.

In any business, is it not the founder’s unique qualities, their vision and mission and their values that manifests in a brand? Yes, it is, but the main difference between one competitor (brand) and the next is how the above is communicated through all interactions with people.

Why many start-ups fail is that they try to copy what other businesses in the industry are doing. The downside of this is that they are not unique or authentic, which are the very things that customers are looking for. Our advice – just be yourself because that’s what people will love about you and what you provide.

If you have a clear notion of what your brand stands for you can build on being perceived as a specialist and a credible resource in your industry. Of course the people, you want to have credibility with are those in your target market. The more you are the go-to brand, the more people will notice you, engage with you and eventually (hopefully), love you more than your competitors.

When determining your brand, therefore, the first step would be to define your unique qualities e.g. what do people like about you? The next step would be to clarify your strengths e.g. think about past successes, what talents / strengths did you use to achieve them? The last step is to nail down what exactly is your promise e.g. what are you committed to delivering to people on a consistent basis and what would they say if asked about you?

If you go through these three steps, we believe that you will be in a position to ‘live’ your brand and thereby develop its story. People love good stories. If you have your story, you can determine your brand messaging and then you can incorporate these into some of the branding elements referred to above.

Tips and Timesavers.

As alluded to above, brands can achieve sustainability through a consistent delivery of their promise. However, when businesses plan their messaging on an annual basis it’s hard for people to really connect with what the brand is all about, never mind loving it. A brand that changes its messaging every year will result in people perhaps liking their product / service, but not loving the brand.

Here are 8 ways that might help people to love your brand a little more.

  1. Build your brand on an idea that can create a bond with people.
  2. Everything you do should be customer focused, without exception.
  3. Connect with people, based on their insights.
  4. Don’t just solve a basic problem, connect in an emotional way.
  5. Show people that you are passionate about your own brand.
  6. Be unique in what you do and how you do it.
  7. Focus your efforts on areas where you can win (quality, cost, experience, different).
  8. Over-deliver on your promise.

Conclusion.

It’s really important to be consistent in everything you do and everything you say if you want to manage the reputation of your brand, properly. It is also extremely important to remain on-message in whatever communication channels you use (online and offline). You must remain focused and true to your promise.

Do not be distracted by all the ‘shiny new tools’ that are available, nowadays. People will love you because of your heart, not your head. Pick a method of communication that suits your strengths, your brand’s style and engages at every brand touchpoint with your customers.

And hey! There’s no rush, it can take years to develop a strong brand.

Real love for a brand

 “We hope you have enjoyed our marketing tips and timesavers blog” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like to be notified by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffeet, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

Sponsorship Engagement won’t be effective if left to chance.

questioning sponsorship engagement

Sponsorship tips for all parties – even the guerillas.

In today’s high-speed world, is your sponsorship activity engaging enough to cut through the noise? Like all elements of a successful marketing campaign, sponsorship engagement needs to be authentic. When people are aware of your involvement – authenticity ensures a better chance that they will believe in you. And they might even care that you are a sponsor.

Honesty, passion and uniqueness may well be marketing ‘buzzwords’ nowadays but even so, they must form the basis of your sponsorship engagement. As a consequence, if they are not elements of your sponsorship portfolio, people will not change their attitude or ultimately, their behaviour. This defeats the marketing purpose in the first place.

A big step towards making sponsorship engagement genuine is if it is made accessible and inclusive. – O’C&K

In my day, a question I always asked the AIB Bank sponsorship team, when we were evaluating a particular involvement was, “if we weren’t involved, would it make any difference”? Our advice now? – do the research and if your target audience doesn’t mind if you sponsor something or not – pull out. By the way, I’ve long been a supporter of the word ‘partnership’ rather than ‘sponsorship’ – but that argument is probably for another day.

Aidan and myself were talking at a student forum earlier today (BICS Forum), discussing the difference between sponsorship and fundraising. The main points we made about sponsorship is that a) it is a joint marketing activity and b) it is a partnership (see slide below), where the partner, the rights holder and the audience become completely interdependent over a sustained period of time.

engaging sponsorship model

Our mantra, in this regard, is that it is always more than ‘just about the money’.- O’C&K

Unfortunately, to this day, sponsors use events just to raise their profile and are disappointed when research shows apathy towards their brand, amongst the targeted public. Brands must demonstrate the ‘why’ of their involvement and ‘how’ it is relevant to people. Otherwise, it is an engagement opportunity lost and at worst, a waste of time and money.

Logo exposure is NOT sponsorship.

As already alluded to, in its simplest form – sponsorship has two objectives: changing people’s attitude (or perception) and thereafter, people’s behaviour. Smart sponsors know that placing a logo on a shirt or pitch-side hoarding does not contribute to either of these objectives.

The word ‘leverage’ is used to describe what a brand does to make a sponsorship work towards achieving its business objectives. Good leveraging focuses on aligning and connecting the brand with the target market and most of all – it adds value to people’s experience. It is easier for brands not to leverage their sponsorships because it costs less and it appears very measurable (eyeballs, opportunities-to-see etc.), and that’s where the ‘numbers’ people win (and the brand loses).

When a sponsorship is creative (online and offline) and strategic (based on business objectives) it becomes the most flexible, and in our opinion, unparalleled marketing medium there is.

Here is a list of questions that a sponsor should ask before deciding to engage:

  • Is the target market relevant to my business objectives and will we have we direct access?
  • Could we get similar exposure without this partnership or what unique exposure will we get?
  • Is there a natural ‘fit’ for us and will the audience care, if we sponsor it or not?
  • Are competitors involved and if not – why wouldn’t we do it?

The sponsorship game is changing.

As we meet with more and more clients, who are planning events, we are stressing that they must create a seamless, multi-channel experience around their event, that is measurable.

Event owners are struggling a little bit with the advent of technology. The rights-holders (and their agencies) are required to develop integrated communication campaigns that facilitate ‘sharing’ online. Fans / supporters / viewers are demanding more ‘ownership’ through interactivity of their team.

Rights owners must facilitate this change and relinquish the old model of considering the fan base to be a ‘wallet’. They must treat them more as brand partners (e.g. Leinster Rugby). For sponsors, this is a very welcome development. Now they can integrate their own involvement within the narrative and, as mentioned above, drive interdependency and eventual brand affinity.

In fact, the involvement is even more measurable as website visits, Instagram uploads or app usage for instance, can be measured in detail. The provision of content has also become a welcome ‘value exchange’ element of a partnership.

How about guerilla marketing and sponsorship?

Guerilla marketing is a form of marketing and not one that should be ignored. The difference is that it uses unconventional advertising methods to differentiate a brand amongst others. Many ‘signed-up’ sponsors see it as a cheap way to cash-in on an event etc. In our eyes, an existing sponsor should be on top of their game anyway and thereby make the ‘pretenders’ look like an add-on.

This type of marketing can be as simple as car stickers or promotional gifts being handed out but, just like all forms of marketing – it needs to be fresh and memorable. Let’s face it, any advertising needs to be seen to be effective. So what guerrilla marketing focuses on is, it been seen in a different way especially by being public and in the right place to surprise and to build hype. The one caveat is that it must not annoy.

It should also be remembered that this form of marketing activity still only serves to raise awareness. A brand needs to follow it up by providing people with an added value experience. This is where the ‘signed-up’ sponsors should be able to win the battle for hearts and minds. Through the sponsorship, they have a captive audience –  if they leverage it correctly.

Tips and Timesavers.

The most important thing about sponsorship is that all parties involved; the brand, the partner and the audience, must gain value from the activity.

Rights holders:

  • Don’t mix up the financial shortfall of the event with the potential value of the sponsorship
  • Customise your sponsorship introduction letter and proposal
  • Look for a long term investment and not ‘go-away’ money
  • At the first meeting – stop selling and listen to what the sponsor is looking for
  • Provide the sponsor with ‘leverage’ ideas, based on your experience of the event
  • Do not assume that you know what the sponsor’s business objectives are
  • Remember – sponsors don’t care about you – they care about your audience

Sponsors:

  • All sponsorship decisions should be based on business objectives
  • Ensure that all internal disciplines have access to the sponsorship
  • Agree a budget for leverage (1:1 is good), or you should not get involved
  • Be creative and strategic and measure your leverage activity
  • Agree with the rights owner what success will look like for all parties
  • Ensure that the sponsorship ‘fits’ your overall marketing strategy
  • Check that the timing is dovetailing rather than overlapping other sponsorship activity

Conclusion.

From both the rights holder and the sponsor’s point of view, the most important element of any partnership is the audience. It is only when the sponsor and the sponsee collaborate on leveraging, for the benefit of the audience, will the ‘deal’ be sustainable.

People often ask us should in-kind sponsors be treated in the same way as cash sponsors and our answer is always – yes! But whatever type of sponsor you are or have, keep engaging with all parties as inertia will kill any relationship dead.

“We hope you have enjoyed our marketing tips and timesavers blog” – Aidan & Jim.

Would you like to be notified by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here.

Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we can grab a coffeet, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

Brand Personality, what people really think about you.

Brand Personality

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

6 feelings that you want your customer to have about your brand.

This is probably going to sound a bit ‘nerdy’ to you, but I’ve just finished watching the Breaking Bad box set on Netflix. What’s nerdy about that, you ask? Well, I know that I’m a few years behind everybody else in watching this show but for me, the character of Walter White knew a lot about the three building blocks of a brand. He appeared to understand that it must mean something, be relevant to somebody and known by people.

Think about it – his brand, per se, was built on the product’s high quality (meaning). This is why his product (crystal meth) was more sought after than his competitors. Secondly, he used a visual hook. Because of his ‘cooking’ process, the end product had a blue tinge to it. It became known thereafter as ‘blue’, which built a brand image for his customers (relevancy).

I want to avoid spoilers here, but Walter’s constant challenge was to get a reliable distribution network for his product (known) and it could be argued that his personality traits, impeded his efforts. Both of these made me think of brand communication, in that, what’s the point in having a brilliant product if nobody knows about it or you allow your personality to get in the way of its awareness?

So, that is how Walter White influenced the writing of this article. In this post I want to elaborate on a business being real and how brand perception can reflect that.

Discovery sessions and branding.

Some of the word-of-mouth leads we get in O’C&K, enquire about a logo review or a sales campaign. This is a good sign, in that the prospect has noticed that there is some issue they want to solve. Sometimes though, we have to convince them that a traditional marketing campaign is not always the only, or best solution.

The truth is usually, that they simply haven’t had the time to sit down and think about how their marketplace is changing. The day to day operation of the business and keeping its head above water is challenging enough, in this day and age. Accordingly, during our initial meeting we end up discussing the current and future strengths of their business, their customers and how they engage with them.

We call this our discovery session. In other words we talk to them about being smarter about their marketing activity, based on an underlying business objective. Being smarter can apply to businesses that already undertake marketing activity and need support or those that need to outsource. Either way our focus is on helping them to achieve their business objectives by communicating in a more engaging way.

Looking at the big picture, such as the brand’s personality, is always a good place to start because how your business engages with your customers and how they react, will be the driver of your business growth. We find that there are four useful headings under which to review your brand personality, they are; Brand Positioning, Digital Visibility, Customer Engagement and Networking. For the purpose of this post, I will concentrate on the branding element.

As referred to earlier in this post, there are three critical elements of any brand that must be understood by the owner. The first one is to determine why the business exists in the first place. What meaning is it going to bring to somebody’s life?

The second is relevancy. Let’s face it, you cannot determine if you are relevant, if you don’t know who your audience is. If the audience has been clearly defined, then ask yourself – do you know who the loyal ones are? How many have moved to the competition? Is anybody recommending you, offline? Do you use social media as a listening post for determining this loyalty factor?

The third important measure of the brand (as pursued by Walter White above) is awareness and recognition. Are people aware of the brand’s vision or mission. Research, be it ‘top-of-mind’ awareness (no prompt), ‘considered’ awareness (choices) or ‘prompted awareness, will offer feedback on where the brand ranks apropos competitors.

Your real brand.

In O’C&K, we believe that one of the biggest changes in recent years is the drop in brand loyalty, generally. In my parent’s day, one always bought a ‘Hoover’ rather than a vacuum cleaner or a ‘Crombie’ rather than a coat. Quality was presumed as the marketing message was trusted. Millions of euros (or pounds in those days) were spent ramping up awareness (and loyalty), irrespective of the quality of the product.

Nowadays, however, perceived quality has to fight hard against financial value and function. People are looking for authenticity and reassurance in brands. There is much more cynicism towards businesses, marketing and messaging. In these recessionary times it has been suggested that function is the new emotion and for marketers, this relates to brand personality. As a result, brands are being forced to get real again.

To differentiate themselves (and survive), businesses will have to start showing a personality. Preferably one that is real and personable. This will not be achieved as the result of smarter communication only, you must also offer people something that’s important to making their lives better. Not only might this facilitate charging a premium price but it also might retain and attract customers.

In order to project your personality professionally, you should have a customer engagement strategy. This would be a focus and guideline for everything you say and do. Elements such as colours, logos, advertisements, and your online activity are all just a reinforcement of your brand values, your brand promise, your personality and why you exist. A good customer engagement strategy will assist with the perception of your brand being authentic and transparent.

How you engage with people, is your real brand.

Tips and Timesavers.

We’ve written many posts on this blog, probably reminding readers of what they already know – that most purchase decisions are based on emotion. In our opinion, businesses that place value ahead of price considerations are going to be better placed to succeed into the future.

In this context, brand perception really matters. What you do to create and position your brand among your customers, will be determine the sustainability of your organisation. Here are some points to bear in mind when considering what you want people to feel when they encounter your brand.

  • That you are authentic – the experience of your customer should be consistent across all platforms.
  • They feel part of a community – their family and friends think of your brand in the same way.
  • They can rely on you – you deliver on your brand promise.
  • They can connect with you – you are available when they need you and your staff live the brand values.
  • They are the ‘hero’ of your story – you can empathise with them and contribute to their community.
  • They can trust you – you are honest with them, if something goes wrong.

I suppose what you could say about the above list of ‘feelings’ is that people just want your business to be real.

On occasions I’m asked to give a presentation on sponsorship (see our previous post on sponsorship) – when I do, the topic revolves around all parties to the sponsorship agreement being real. Sponsors have to be real about their engagement with customers / fans, the organisers have to be real about delivering for the sponsor and the ‘fans’ have to be real and appreciate that the sponsor is adding value (only when they are, of course).

To carry this thinking through to businesses showing a real personality, sometimes we can be too hung up on being perfect.  Hotels obsessing about room décor, fast-food restaurants relying on optimal colours, logo usage guidelines, banks anguishing over customer flows and ‘hotpoints’ in branches and even vineyards (wine-makers) attempting to create the perfect taste (ughhhhh). Sometimes it’s good just to be yourself.

Times are changing. Reality TV might be a misnomer but still, producers can no longer determine where and how you watch programmes. Shops without stock photo ads on the walls are perceived as more genuine -disposable fashion, anyone?  There seems to be a trending back towards traditional retail values – the personal touch. People are just fed up at being a number and a wallet.

Every business should review its brand positioning, on an ongoing basis, to ensure they are still ‘in touch’ with their customers. Yes, they should adhere to branding guidelines, but they shouldn’t lose sight of what the customer actually wants – a great experience. Sometimes, all people want is for you (your business) to be yourself and have a real personality.

I want to finish by referring to The Brand Desire 2013 report by the U.K. agency, Clear. In it they suggest that a brand’s desirability comprises a ‘unique balance of energy, substance and connection, qualities that have a profound effect on the brand makes the consumer think, feel and act”. They hold that the brand should energise the organisation towards success (being real). The tangible proof of that energy is ‘substance’ (customer relevancy) and the result is that people will want to ‘connect’ with the brand as they would a friend.

“Any brand can be successful if they think about the world in terms of the three principles of energy, substance and connection. Brand Desire is about having an offer that continuously makes a difference to people’s lives.” …. Peter Askew, director of strategy at Clear.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course, if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K