If someone asked you what company branding was not about, what would your answer be? To us, branding is not about:
Fees and pricing
What your product is and how it works
Canned, automated words
Stats, numbers, charts, and reach
The rat tat tat of emails, newsletters, tips, and tricks
These are things organizations do instead of branding. Not what you should be doing.
The biggest brand marketing mistakes
Every day, marketers battle each other with similar weapons. The same “value add,” the same price, the same ads, newsletters, and marketing presentations.
Every day, brokers blur the lines of distinction between themselves and competitors by using similar website layouts.
They use a similar emphasis on search, similar corporate collateral, similar stock photos, similar pie charts and bar graphs and similar positioning words.
Every day, tech vendors use features, facts, figures, data and coma-inducing tech jargon their target customers don’t understand.
We offer an all-in-one plugin integrated with a high-powered CRM solution that combines ease of use with powerful functionality and secure data backup that is highly efficient and effective.
Every day, coaches, trainers, and gurus sell similar books, DVDs, and get-rich systems through similar websites, seminars, and events. Each makes the same promises.
When you brand around the things you share with all your competitors – your products, prices and promises – you end up lumped together. Indistinguishable.
This is pandemic in much of business marketing. Sure, it lands customers and closes deals.
But it doesn’t build your brand.
Let’s dig deeper into the brand experience with an example.
It’s one thing for a retail store to implement a program making the brand experience easier, more convenient, and greater value for a specific customer segment.
But when the program degrades the retail brand experience for higher margin customers and causes the employee to act as if these customers are less trustworthy? Then, the program is a problem.
The retail store is Walmart, and the program is the Walmart Ad Match Guarantee. That’s where they will match a competitor’s advertised price on the same item at Walmart.
On the surface, the Ad Match Guarantee is a great value enhancement strategy:
it makes it convenient for bargain hunting customers to do all their shopping at Walmart while grabbing the greater value for certain items at other retailers.
It obviously has revenue benefits for Walmart since it’s not splitting a customer’s shopping cart with other retail stores.
I’m not an Ad Match Guarantee person. Probably should be, and once was earlier in our marriage when I had my self-titled “Retail Project” spreadsheet to track prices for frequently purchased items at our primary retail stores.
Great idea when I had more time.
My exclusive experience with the Ad Match Guarantee is getting caught behind someone at Walmart with a cartful of stuff segregated into non-coupon, coupon, and Ad Match items.
Waiting for an Ad Match customer to get done with their “convenient” shopping experience typically sucks for those behind them in line.
It can seem like forever as they take over managing the Walmart brand experience by informing the checker item-by-item on prices and how to check them out.
Company branding … faulty customer segment innovation
This is a prime example of a brand ceding control of its brand experience to one customer group to the detriment of the rest of its customers who aren’t in the Ad Match segment.
The other night though, a benign Ad Match situation turned into an even more bizarre retail experience. We were behind a woman buying lots of groceries, although with only one Ad Match item – a pack of batteries.
She saved them for last, telling the checker they were $4.89 at another retail store.
Without any apparent hesitation, the checker took her word and rang the batteries up at that price, just at the Ad Match guarantee promises.
Then, it was our turn. We went to Walmart to buy two cases of Diet Coke. There were no cases (at $5.98) to be found, and two 12-packs were near $8.00.
We did find 6-packs for $1.50 each on an end cap. We loaded up the cart with eight 6-packs; great price, but inconvenient to handle. We placed just one 6-pack on the belt. When it reached the checker, I told her we had 8 of them.
She stopped everything to bend way over and count how many 6-packs we had in the cart and verified I was telling the truth.
You mean the shopper in front of us could tell the checker a price for an item at another retail store that could have been completely bogus, and the checker accepted it without hesitation, but she had to do the old 1,2,3 count for our Diet Coke to make sure we weren’t lying?
So, I told her I should have just grabbed the 12-packs and had her Ad Match to the $1.50 Diet Coke on the end caps – which would have been a lot more convenient.
She mumbled that she couldn’t Ad Match to the Diet Coke because of Coca-Cola and not Walmart stock it. She planned, however, to let somebody know about the $2 price gap.
Wait! You mean Walmart can Ad Match another retail store’s prices, but can’t address a stupid pricing situation in its retail store for the sake of MY shopper convenience?
The greatest truth in branding
The world is a complicated, noisy place. To be heard, understood, loved and remembered, brands must be clear on what they want the world to know about them.
That’s the function of branding.
It’s what Grey Poupon did when they branded around their belief that any meal can be transformed into an elegant, gourmet experience.
This approach distanced them from the competition in the condiment category without ever mentioning anything about the product.
No features. No price. No reasons why they are better.
Grey Poupon instead focused on the one unique aspect they owned – something every brand should possess – their point of view. This alone created a lasting impression.
The milk industry suffered a rapid decline in sales during the ’70s and ’80s despite their attempts to market around the health benefits of milk.
Then the Got Milk? campaign aired and completely reshaped our perceptions of the product. They shared a unique point of view – the need to quench thirst – and in doing so focused on the absence of their product.
These points of view are the stories people remember.
These are the things that shape impressions and behavior.
Values. Purpose. Beliefs.
The bookshelves in our office house expired brand collateral once used by our clients. All contain information, facts and images designed to compel customers, market their value and brand them.
All show the endless effort and expense in the pursuit to sell goods and services.
Each in its way is missing the one component that would tie it all together – a unique worldview that shapes the reasons why the things they offer should matter to people.
It’s the one thing that draws people in and shapes their impressions.
It’s been 20 years since Apple’s Think Different campaign. This simple tagline summed up their entire belief system and ignited a world of customers.
It also made the many who didn’t use their products feel left out.
Today, that narrative prevails despite the utter ubiquity of Apple’s product line.
In fact, the company has become the very thing it rallied against – the status quo. Due to the strength of their branding, Apple users don’t recognize that.
In the absence of branding, all you’re left with is marketing the same things your competitors have.
When you do that, you will always be perceived as just like them. When you successfully create a brand, you will stand out.
You will lead. You will develop fans. You will create clarity for your customers and help them understand and feel great about their place in the world.
When that happens, your customers will never let go.
Company branding … 3 questions to test faulty brand innovation
Here’s the lesson for all our brands: when your brand innovates a great program to enhance the brand experience for a certain segment of high volume customers (or any other customer segment), ask these questions:
In what ways might the program compromise the brand experience for other customer segments?
Does the program, by changing our typical processes, cause employee behaviors which don’t make sense or won’t be well received by other customer segments?
Even if we can’t answer questions 1 and two right now, what do we have in place to monitor weird exceptions and negative brand experience situations the program causes?
To make our experience even odder, when we got home, we realized the checker had not given the shopper in front of us all her groceries.
The checker gave us a bag of lunch meat and Tapioca pudding that belonged to the previous customer.
So the previous customer, by mucking up the end of her checkout experience with just one Ad Match Guarantee item, distracted the checker enough to wind up losing a $15 bag of groceries while saving maybe 60 cents on a pack of batteries.
That my friends is every day crappy value.
The bottom line
To be effective in this new era, we as marketers need to see our jobs differently. No more just focusing on metrics like clicks, video views or social media shares.
We must successfully integrate our function with other business functions to create entire brand experiences that serve the customer all the way through their experiences throughout the business.
We can do better. Much better. But first, we need to stop seeing ourselves as crafters of clever brand messages and become creators of positive brand experiences.
There can never be enough focus on continuous improvement on brand marketing, independent of how well the business is doing. It seems we all are looking to take our success to a new level.
This is an excellent time to make a statement with their brand marketing. Changing before you have to is always a good idea.
Need some help in capturing more customers from your branding design strategies? Such as creative branding ideas to help the differentiation with potential customers?
Call today for a FREE consultation or a FREE quote. Learn about some options to scope your job.
Call Mike at 607-725-8240.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new ideas.
When things are not what you want them to be, what’s most important is your next step. Call today.
Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy to improving your continuous learning for yourself and your team?
Do you have a lesson about making your brand marketing better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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Company Branding … Don’t Make These Mistakes