In a discussion forum about branding, one contributor responded to a question about how to build a small company’s brand with a post with this heading, “Brand Building is Like Dating.” I thought it was a very clever way to think about building a brand. Having given it more thought, however, I’d like to offer my own take on the subject.
Brand building is actually more like online dating. Here’s why:
“60 Minutes” reported about innovative new research that studied babies as young as three months, to try to find if babies have an inner moral compass. The study found that babies do.
One part of the study was fascinating from a marketing and branding point of view. Researchers found that babies and young children tend to like others who like the same thing they do. Here is what they did: They tested six month old children by giving them one type of cereal in one bowl and another type in a second bowl to find out which they preferred. Then, they showed the babies stuffed animals “eating” from those same bowls.
One color animal liked one of the cereals and the other liked the other cereal. Afterward, a different researcher offered the children both stuffed animals. Interestingly, most of the kids went for the stuffed animal that liked the same cereal they did! …Read More
We have too many choices for our own good today. In almost everything.
In my previous blog entry, I discussed how having a bewildering selection of computers, especially with the all the confusing technical choices we have to make, makes purchasing a PC so difficult.
It is not just the bewildering technology that is the problem, it is the amount of choice itself. Psychologists have found that having too many choices actually diminishes our happiness and satisfaction with the choices we do make. …Read More
This is a reprint of a press release from Pitney Bowes, dated February 16, 2012 that I found very interesting. Great information for marketers.
According to a new report from Pitney Bowes Inc. , consumers surveyed in France, Germany, the UK and the US have indicated which marketing activities draw them closer to a brand, and which act as a repellent.
Consumers are clear about what they want from their business interactions and many of the techniques and initiatives being deployed are simply not having the intended effect. Worse, inappropriate communications often diminish a brand’s pool of available prospects and customers as targets opt out of the brand conversation altogether.
Customer satisfaction surveys are perceived as perfectly acceptable for 75 percent of those surveyed. This presents a real opportunity for brands to get to know their customers. With the insight learned, brands may then create a personalized or custom experience based on each consumer’s preferences, a very acceptable practice for the majority of consumers surveyed. By more accurately identifying a customer’s desires and concerns, marketers greatly reduce the number of off-target communications and also save substantial marketing dollars.
The growing trend of personalizing messaging is working for brands. On websites, 59 percent of consumers surveyed say they appreciate personalization such as “Welcome, Jane.” For transactional sites, especially where purchases are being made, it can be reassuring for Jane to know that the site recognizes her account details and has a record of her interactions.
Conversely, consumers clearly point to many annoying brand actions. These outreach efforts are meant to be inviting, yet are irritating to most consumers instead. For example, among the negatives are asking customers to support a brand’s charity or ethical concerns (84%); sending offers from third-parties (83%); encouraging interaction with other consumers via an online community (81%).
Do’s and Don’ts of Brand Interactions with Customers Personalization
Do Amp up the level of personalization on the Web (59% positive)
Don’t Let your call center reps get too chummy on the phone (70% negative)
Asking the customer for action
Do Conduct customer feedback surveys regularly (75% positive)
Don’t Invite consumers to create their own homepage (69% negative)
Do Send a special offer in the mail each month (74% positive)
Don’t Send weekly emails (89% negative)
Invitation to a brand’s cause
Do Keep customer forums with the customer service efforts, not marketing (81% positive)
Don’t Ask the customer to support the brand’s charity (84% negative)
“This survey confirms that brands should listen to consumers before they send out their communications,” said Dan Kohn, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Pitney Bowes, Inc.
“Every interaction must honor the interests of the customer first, only then is a relevant offer or call to action acceptable to consumers. Each conversation between a brand and a customer is an opportunity to delight or disappoint. We’re all learning how to do more of the former and less of the latter.”
I wandered into a Van Heusen store in San Francisco yesterday because it was right across the street from a meeting I had. The signs in the window proclaimed, “Take an additional 30% off” their already reduced prices of 30 – 50% off. I had just retired a couple of shirts that were showing their wear, so I figured I’d take the opportunity to stop in.
Oh, boy. Here are my observations, from a branding standpoint:
First, the store’s signage is generic looking, with basic black sans-serif type on a white background. This may be their corporate graphic standard, but it just looks, well, generic. Cheap. (It was raining, so I didn’t take pictures).
Second, the store perpetually looks like it is going out of business because of the deep discounts it always advertises in the windows. I’ve been by there many times before, and there are constantly sale signs in the windows.
What does that do to the Van Heusen brand name? It dubs it a discount brand that may be hanging on by a thread (no pun intended). Combine that with my experience that their shirts are not the best quality — the customer’s experience is always of paramount importance in branding — and you wind up with a brand that the customer only buys at a discount.
Third, the “regular prices” on the shirts were in the $50’s and $60’s, a ludicrous price level for a so-so quality shirt. My impression was that the so-called regular prices are inflated so the deep discounts advertised still give them a profit margin. It’s a game people catch on to.
I also found Geoffrey Beene brand clothes, a brand I’ve seen and bought before, and one that made me laugh: Donald Trump brand. Did I miss something? When did The Donald become a fashion icon? Does anyone buy clothing because it carries his brand name? In my case, I might buy it in spite of it being a Donald Trump brand, not because of it.
In addition, these brands were discounted right along with the Van Heusen brand clothes. This leaves the impression that they are owned and made by Van Heusen, therefore these are discount brands as well.
Maybe this “discount king” marketing strategy works for them, I don’t know. But is it where they would really like to be? For most companies, this is a trap they can fall into when sales are down. One that it is extremely difficult to climb out of again. Once a brand becomes labeled a discount brand, it is usually stuck there for good.
Oh … I did buy one shirt I found on the clearance shelf, for $9.95.
Which brand was it? It didn’t matter at that point. I liked it, it was my size, mostly cotton, and 10 bucks.