Month: November 2013

32 more signs your brand is dying (part 2 of 2)

http://newheightsinc.com/house/support/boot8.asp?opt=br 1. You’re less connected with your customers than you used to be, or than your competitors are. 2. Your distributors increasingly hold the relationships and the tables are turning. They’re treating you like the supplier rather than the other way around. Or they’re introducing house brands that undermine your margins. 3. You’re past your heyday. There’s a lot of talk about history and the “glory days” of the business and/or the sector. 4. You’re paying too much attention to the wrong metrics. 5. You don’t know as much about your buyers as you need to. 6. You’re increasingly focused on technical excellence at the expense of relationships. My term for this fascination is “redundant excellence”. 7. Your customer base is static. So is your market share. Everyone’s comfortable. 8. You’ve lost the spark that’s got you this far. You’ve run out of ideas. 9. You’re riding a wave (but that’s all you’re riding). 10. You’re fading. Your competitors are less intimidated by you (and less respectful of you) than they used to be. You’re being …

30 signs your brand is dying (part 1 of 2)

It’s often not hard to see why other brands have died – especially after the fact. There’s also one interesting and abiding constant in all the casualties. What kills a brand, more often than not, is what it lacks rather than what it does: conviction; energy; value; humility; cash; discipline; imagination; focus … Here are 30 signs of trouble that I would look for. 1. Your new product or service tanked. If that’s a continuation of a recent pattern and not just a one-off, then you’ve either disconnected with your audience, failed to hold their attention or been superceded. 2. Customers are leaving. You haven’t noticed, or you don’t care. 3. You’re getting more and more questions about the value you add. 4. You’re being asked to sharpen the pencil on just about every deal, and you feel you have no option but to do so. 5. You don’t feel you’re in a position to take a position (on anything). 6. You keep diversifying in the hope of attracting more business, but all you’re really …

Rebalancing the brand experience

http://ocontoareachamber.com/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed?url=http://ocontoareachamber.com/about-us/ A couple of months ago, Adrienne Bateup-Carlson sent me this op-ed by Roger Cohen. In it, Cohen laments the plasticisation of experience. “The question of genuine, undiluted experience has been on my mind,” he writes. “Germans have a good word for something authentic: “echt.” We have an echt deficit these days. Everything seems filtered, monitored, marshaled, ameliorated, graded and app-ready — made into a kind of branded facsimile of experience for easier absorption. The thrill of the unexpected is lost … We demand shortcuts, as if there are shortcuts to genuine experience.” Anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of a fast-food “service experience” can sympathise. The greetings are anonymous, the requests generic, the answers pat, the actions either physically or mentally automated. This is life on rote, experience in a box. It feels as sincere as the latest apology for downtown traffic delays, the “Thanks for waiting” message from the telco customer service team and the reassurances from an insurer that they will “gladly” pay up in the event of a claim. It …

More brands should leave more things unsaid

This is a guest post by Mark Blackham. It’s a huge pleasure to have Mark as my first ever guest blogger at Upheavals. I first met Mark many years ago, and he has been a regular commenter here on reputational and branding issues. I hope you enjoy his perspectives as much as I do. The more I learn about how humans receive information and conceive ideas, the more simplistic most marketing looks. We’re beginning to understand from brain research that a million different experiences, predispositions and feelings go into each human decision. Behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman talks about a ‘remembering self’ that selects the experiences we use to create and define ourselves. Each one of us has this complex bundle of self-selected memories that influence our decisions. Yet marketing is often based on one insight thought to be common across all target customers. When you consider the variance of attitudes possible across individuals, that insight has to be a generality to be accurate. And if it’s a generality, it’s likely to be irrelevant to the …

Brand truth: fascinating insights into what holds true for consumers

We don’t always mean what we say in social situations – nor, it appears, in research. That seems to be the key take-out from recent research (delicious irony!) by Chip Walker and the Y&R research team. In their recently released study, Secrets and Lies, (thanks Hilton for the reference and for the introduction to Chip) the team concludes that consumers’ conscious motivations differ markedly from their true deep drivers. In fact, they’re often the opposite of what they say. Those conscious-unconscious biases are also reflected in the brands that people say they like versus those they actually like. Consider this: “The top 10 conscious brands are Amazon, Google, Apple, Target, Whole Foods, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Facebook, AT&T and Prius. That contrasts with the order of the top 10 brands consumers favor unconsciously: Target, Amazon, Facebook, Whole Foods, National Enquirer, Exxon, McDonald’s, Apple, Starbucks and AT&T.” While it’s important to recognise that, for the purposes of the study, people were asked to rank a finite list of brands not to nominate those brands from scratch, the contrast …

Brand transformation: Don’t focus on the change, focus on the difference

I regularly refer to adrenalin as the chemical of change. To me, transformation must be radical and scary, because it pretty much requires the same levels of energy and momentum to get to a ‘dangerous’ place as it does to shift to somewhere a lot more comfortable. The only difference may be the time it may take for people internally to get comfortable again. That’s particularly true if you’re a brand that has fallen behind – where the shift required to even stay alive can feel huge. And yet for all the effort, the concern, the misgivings, where your brand lands can in reality be right in the middle of the pack – meaning that sooner rather than later, the company will need to repeat the same process in order to avoid being lost. So often, it seems, those undertaking brand change misjudge impact. People assess what has happened from the point of view of how far they have shifted rather than looking at the two things that really matter: the active difference it has …

9 ways to stage a brand resurgence

Commoditisation is a fact of market. I always remember that great observation by VJ Govindarajan that “Strategy starts dying the moment it is created”. It dies because its (potential) effectiveness dies and with that, its relative value. That idea, transposed to brand is, in reality, what commoditisation is: the (slow) death of relevant value. However, there are strategies you can put in place to reverse the speed and/or pace of that commoditising effect. Here are nine ways I outlined to a leadership forum in Malaysia recently to decommoditise your offering and reassert its branded value. In the presentation itself, I focused on actual commodities, but the principles are in fact applicable to any brand/product that doesn’t command the value that it needs to, or once did: 1. Think of the product in new ways – when you redefine what something is or could be, you reframe its context and it’s much easier to redefine what it can be used for. When you stop thinking of milk as a drink, for example, and start thinking of …

What comes after “No”?

As Seth Godin pointed out recently, “no” actually means all sorts of things. The flipside of a marketplace where branding encourages people to buy for emotive reasons is that brands also need to counter consumers’ rational and irrational reasons not to buy. Or listen. Or act. Or stop acting. Some reasons are based on legacy. Some are convenient. Others stem from ignorance, bias, self-interest, loyalty, limitation, pride or tradition. Some are supported by fact. Many aren’t. The problem for the person or brand making the offer is that none of that matters. The problem that matters is not your opinion of why your buyer won’t buy – it’s the fact that they have this opinion for whatever reason, and they have every reason to keep thinking it until shifted otherwise. As Bruce Turkel pointed out in a telling post this week – “No” is also how some people have to get to “Yes”. And most people want to get there. He makes some great observations: “Because of its incomparable ability to establish terms and boundaries, …

How do people want to spend time with brands (and what are brands doing about it)?

We’ve just had Guy Fawkes here in New Zealand. In Wellington, there was a big fireworks display in the harbour as there is every year. It got me thinking about what brands consumers go crackers over, why and is that changing? Recently, the research firm APCO Insight released its list of the top 100 most loved companies. Their study measured consumer attachment to brands based on eight emotions: understanding, approachability, relevance, admiration, curiosity, identification, empowerment and pride. There are some interesting results. Yahoo beat Google. Disney beat everyone (OK, maybe that’s not so much of a surprise) and Apple came in at ninth (which certainly would surprise many). According to the study: The tech sector outperforms across all emotions, and rates especially well on relevance, meaning people see these brands as fitting with them and playing a meaningful role in their lives. But they could inspire more curiosity. Retail brands are seen as highly approachable but people are less enthusiastic about wanting to be associated with them. Restaurants are also approachable for the most part, …

The brand dilemma: recognition vs excitement

One of the intriguing aspects of understanding brands is that one must be prepared not just to balance but to actively address the contradictions that humans happily live with. Blogger Daniel Walsch sums up those inconsistencies beautifully: “We want to be alone. We want to be part of groups. We are benevolent. We are selfish. We want to be independent. We want guidelines. We are self serving. We are generous. We stick to the truth. We shade the truth. We have violent tendencies. We desire peace. And on and on it goes.” Brands mirror that humanity in the pace at which they are increasingly asked to compete. And that pace is simultaneously handbrake and accelerator. Handbrake – in that customers want consistency. They want brands they can recognise, that they feel they know, that make sense to them, that they can depend on. They want brands that they can just reach for, without giving them a second thought. They want brands that feel like part of their normal, ordinary lives. Customers look to recognition and …