Sustainability and Authenticity Present Huge Opportunities for Brands

Riddle me this: how do you boost sales by almost one third while telling your customers to buy less from you?

Sustainability and authenticity are the twin brand values that can power this exemplary business growth, and Patagonia is the current exemplar.

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For some time now, Patagonia has been urging customers to repair and keep their $700 Patagonia parkas rather than buy new ones. The result? Sales increased almost one-third to $543 million last year, which included about nine months of the “Buy Less” marketing campaign.

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October 4, 2013   No Comments

Why David Brooks Almost has it Right about Brands

David Brooks, an Op-Ed Columnist at the New York Times writes a very interesting article about the differences between the use of and understanding of brands between the Americans and the Chinese. His premise is that the Chinese are not good at building brands that connect with consumers in the West despite the fact that they have the largest economy in the world. This will hinder their achievement of global economic dominance. He is right.

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However, one of his notions is only partly correct and flies in the face of what great brands work hard at every day. Brooks believes that “People who create great brands are usually seeking some inner longing of their own…”. In this he is thinking about romantic notions of founder-led brands like Nike or Ralph Laruen.

What he is missing is that great business leaders spend a great deal of time and energy to understand their customers and their needs, and then address them in a way that builds an enduring relationship that can last a long time. In most cases it is the diligence and hard work requiredto build stronger relationships with consumers than competitors in every category that leads to sustainable market leadership.

Much of what Brooks writes about is very true, and he is astute to recognize as much as he does. Where he misses the mark is realizing that there is a process and method to establishing and building a strong brand that connects with key audiences that works on it’s own and is not necessarily founder led. Just look at a few minor brands like IBM, General Electric, BMW, New York Yankees, Mayo Clinic, etc. Sure each was founded by great thinkers and leaders, but they have evolved into very strong brands generations past founder longing.

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Congrats to Brooks for recognizing how brand have become an engine of the Western economic growth. His basic premise is more than correct.

May 31, 2013   No Comments

Protecting & Enhancing Your Brand in Social Media – Whether You’re Joining or Creating the Conversation

As the old saying goes, “you have to be in it to win it”. That pretty much sums up the role of social media for brands today. Social media is no longer just one of many tools a marketer can use. It has all but become the cost of entry. In the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 94% of marketers said that they use social media for marketing purposes. It goes without saying that some social media marketing is better than others, and therefore more effective at driving business results. But the bottom line is that companies can no longer ignore social media. This is true for every category and industry from consumer goods to professional services, from healthcare to the financial industry and for both B2C and B2B.

Here’s the rub: Because social media is a two-way street, gone are the days when a brand can control messaging through a monologue of traditional advertising and communication. What is compelling to consumers today, and to a large extent, expected, is a dialogue, back and forth. These conversations can be strategically initiated by the brand to disseminate a particular message, i.e. a new way of “advertising”, or a brand can strategically participate to help steer the conversation in a way that protects the brand.

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Either way, whether you are creating the conversation about your brand, or joining in conversations about your industry, which may ultimately involve your brand, follow these rules to not only protect your brand, but to take advantage of this new reality and use it to actually strengthen your brand:

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April 3, 2013   No Comments

Brands can be the Comfort Food for the Soul

For those living through the “Perfect Storm” of October 2012 that hit the East coast of the U.S., we all, collectively, had our senses heightened out of need. Many had no electricity, the coast had severe flooding, wind damage was everywhere and there were all manner of challenges in the days following the storm. What I found interesting is how some well-known “brands” comforted my soul as the winds howled and the storm raged on.

For example, we heated up Campbell’s Chicken Noodle and Tomato soup in the evenings over a propane stove. More than the warmth of the soup, the Campbell’s brand enveloped us with a smile and a comforting feeling that all would be OK. It was like a grandmother’s hug.

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November 12, 2012   No Comments

How Citibank has Lost my Loyalty

I have been a loyal Citigold customer for 20 years. But last Friday they really put a chink in my loyalty. Citigold is the “premium banking” part of Citi, a step above the masses. It has been very convenient for all these years. Here’s how they violated my affection.

First, they called me at home to market something. I guess there should be nothing wrong with that, but then again, I expect better than retail treatment as a Citigold member. Perhaps they were calling about a fraud issue, or an observation about how I could manage my account better. But they weren’t. [Read more →]

June 21, 2012   No Comments

What Branding and PR Professionals Can Teach One Another

“Long-term brand equity and growth depends on our ability to successfully integrate and implement all elements of a comprehensive marketing program.” – Timm F Crull, Chairman & CEO of Nestle

Branding and public relations (PR) professionals have a great deal in common. Branding professionals develop and communicate a promise. PR professionals bring that promise to life through stories, case studies, videos, events and points-of-view. Despite the common ground, branding and PR professionals don’t always collaborate. In some cases, this is because accountabilities reside in different departments. In other cases, it’s because each discipline has its own way of doing things.

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May 1, 2012   No Comments

You Earned My Loyalty. I’m Sticking with DYMO.

DYMO, one of the leaders in providing label printers, just treated me the right way, and retained my loyalty at a critical moment. I had recently upgraded to a new operating system for my Mac. As a result, my computer couldn’t communicate with my label printer. After trying several options, I finally called DYMO customer service, and they used that moment to secure my loyalty for a long time to come. When they realized that my label printer wasn’t compatible with my new OS, they generously said they would replace my printer with a new one… at no cost to me.

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February 10, 2012   No Comments

What Happens When We Don’t Trust a Brand Anymore? Ask Netflix.

Netflix stock has tumbled again to an 18-month low of $75 a share based on, among other things, trust. Think about it… the company’s value has erased about $12 billion in just 104 days. Yes the company has see-sawed on promises of splitting apart services, then relenting and bringing them back together… but what they have really undone is the consumer trust and loyalty they had worked so hard to achieve.

One of the fundamental values of a brand is to earn loyalty that results in the security of future earnings. In other words, consumers will come back time and time again to both purchase your products, and also allow them to expand their relationship with you. But the moment a company breaks that trust, it is very hard for consumers to stay on board. [Read more →]

October 25, 2011   No Comments

Treat Me Like you Care about Me, and I'll Donate more Money.

When a charity or relief agency asks for money and doesn’t give anything back, it really frustrates me. A year or so I gave a nice donation to AmeriCares, a disaster relief agency that responds to emergency medical and humanitarian needs all around the world. About 3 months later I received a standard “thank you” letter, with another donation envelope tucked inside. That really got me steamed… they want something from me but haven’t given me anything in return. At that time, I wrote the CEO and indicated that the constant appeal was very cheeky… and they had now lost me as a contributor.

Contrast that to a small charity in my local community that focuses on developmentally disabled adult children. It’s called “The Cottage”. I have given them money too, and they just sent me a Happy Valentine’s Day card with pictures of the children they help. No, they didn’t ask for anything. The mere act of the card touched me deeply, and made me feel very good about our “relationship” and I will continue to contribute.

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February 14, 2011   2 Comments

While Automated, Electronic Customer Service 'Voices' are Getting Better, some Brands are Missing a Bigger Opportunity.

Companies around the world continue moving customer service to automated systems to cut costs. But in doing so, they may be damaging their brands instead of helping them. A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights the recent moves to shift these automated voices from “cold to homey”.

In some business categories, customer service is the critical touch point where the brand is actualized. While marketers have been focused on advertising and other traditional marketing tools to define brands, it may well be that customer service is the one place where a company has control of shaping the brand in a tangible and powerful way. The service interaction is an enormous opportunity to build the customer relationship with the brand and engender deeper loyalty and advocacy.

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November 4, 2010   6 Comments