Example of China getting to grips with global brand-naming – a lesson for us all dealing with intercultural branding http://ow.ly/gM9Q309XAtx
We have seen a number of brands suffering reputational damage over recent years – BP, VW, Sports Direct, BHS – to name just four that spring readily to mind.
By comparison, the glitch at the Oscars is just an amusing sideshow. However, it brings into sharp focus the importance of attention to detail in everything a brand does. The bigger the brand the more small details matter.
Brands are about people – not only the people in the organisation, but the people with whom they interact. The brand exists at this nexus of interaction. The right brand values are shared throughout the organisation, so every point of interaction should reflect those values. That should include attention to detail in servicing customers and dealing with the world in general.
Mistakes happen, people are human. But often particular brands are chosen because among their perceived values are reliability and being a safe pair of hands. The brand has a reputation which has a tangible value.
For such brands, damage to that reputation can be costly.
Every brand loves to be involved in high profile projects as they have the potential for exposure and building that valuable reputation. However there is the very real danger of those human slips and errors, should they occur, happening in full public glare.
We all believe we know what we do and what benefits we offer potential clients. We put a lot of effort into our brand proposition and ‘elevator pitch.’ But it can be easy to be too close to our business and miss the very fundamentals that we take for granted.
I often lecture at universities on digital marketing to non-marketing students. I usually begin with a question, saying something like, “What is digital marketing… no, wait, first of all, what is MARKETING?”
As you can guess I get a lot of answers that are way off the mark, and hardly any that are near correct. That’s understandable because it’s not part of their day-to-day.
The question opens the door for me to present some definitions and introduce such ideas as the Marketing Concept and Philip Kotler’s thinking.
A good deal of the public misunderstanding and confusion may be blamed upon media misunderstanding and sloppy journalism. But it got me thinking: was I assuming that my business audience actually understand what we do?
I do quite a bit of networking and often describe my business in broad terms as a marketing consultancy, brand marketing or marketing communications specialist. But always using the term ‘marketing‘ and assuming it means the same thing to my audience as it does to me.
So, I decided to put it to the test – I asked various groups of businesspeople: “What is marketing? What do you understand by the term?” The results were worrying. There were lots of muddled ideas but very few understood the basic concept – unless, that is, the people were from associated fields (and surprisingly, even some of them had fuzzy definitions).
This presented me with a dilemma. I was using a term in our brand descriptor which most of my prospects did not fully understand. Of course, in presenting my proposition I go to some lengths to describe what we can do and what benefits we can deliver. However as a basic brand communications issue, I had a lot of thinking to do.
Many other businesses may fall into the same trap. You may be so familiar with what you do that it’s easy to assume a similar understanding from audiences. They will have a broad idea (we hope) but some important nuances may be lost.
Take the step
My advice would be to try that basic test on your prospective audience – ask them what they understand about what you really do. It could give you valuable insight into how you define your brand and fine-tune your proposition.
The Institute of Sales and Marketing Management has recently updated its identity and is now just the ‘ISM’ and it’s not clear which ‘M’ has been dropped. Hovering over the logo on their website shows the alt tag: ‘Institute of Sales and Marketing‘, while the copyright line on the foot of the same page states ‘Institute of Sales Management‘ – curious.
Throughout the rest of the site, the ISM acronym is used consistently. Though worryingly, this is also used by the ‘Institute of Supply Management’ and the ‘Incorporated Society of Musicians’ amongst others.
However, it’s not the nomenclature that is concerning. From the tone of the language and discourse it’s clear that we are now talking about pure sales skills and expertise. There is no mention of marketing. We must assume that this is a conscious policy decision and there has been a schism between sales and marketing in the eyes of the organisation.
This is intriguing – because a little while ago, I was at a CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) event where speakers were bemoaning the historic drifting apart of the two disciplines and suggesting both would benefit from bringing them back together.
As a marketer, I would like to see this re-engagement. I’m sure many of my fellow practitioners would benefit from the cross-fertilisation of ideas – and a straw poll of my sales friends suggests similar viewpoints.
One Marketing Ltd give our clients what they ask for. It’s what marketing is all about – and they want web development.
We are a broad-based consultancy with a focus on brand based marketing communications. However, thanks to our history in web-development, we are regularly referred by past clients to help new ones with site design, creation and management.
Check out the link for more info.
When personal brands mean money – lots of money! http://ow.ly/MRGc303oOzz
We need to get real psychologists back working in marketing, not ‘pop-psychology’ #peoplemakebrands http://ow.ly/uffu303hjNK
Brands are about perceptions rather than reality, because they are primarily concerned with emotion more than logic.
Perceptions and attributions may be constructed from early experiences of a brand or by received information. Often, that information is also emotionally constructed. It may have been channelled through peer groups, respected friends or colleagues, or sympathetic media.
Large brands may spend a great deal of resource trying to understand perceptions in the hope of being able to correct any gaps between perception and ‘reality’. Modifying such perception gaps may be a near impossible task as attributions people have constructed themselves are often not accessible to logical argument – they may require significant rebuilding of the brand’s emotional capital.
Changing perceptions can be a long and difficult process – often outside the scope of small brands.
All may not be as it seems.
A key word however is ‘understanding’. Perceptions do not always have to be changed, but they must be understood.
One of the most important perception gaps for small and medium enterprises is that between internal and external perceptions.
Smaller businesses tend to be driven by small close-knit teams with a shared vision of what their business is all about. They are very close to their product or service and have a deep understanding of its operation. However, there may be a significant gap between that and the benefits customers perceive in dealing with the organisation.
The company may believe its key strength lies in the range of products and services – customers may put quality of service top of their list.
A business may see its pricing as a vital advantage – for clients it may be same-day delivery.
Customers may relate to the image of a charismatic CEO while the business believes they success depends upon innovative solutions.
It’s easy to see that this perception gap can lead to businesses devoting costly resource on developing and promoting the wrong dimensions of their brand. Conversely, identifying and building on strengths as perceived by clients can be an effective and rewarding action.
Dealing with the gap
So, how do we identify the perception gap? The answer is relatively simple.
First clarify within the organisation what is seen as the major brand strengths and reasons why clients should make their choices.
Next determine what are the strengths as perceived by customers and other stakeholders. How do we do that? Simple – just ask them – surprisingly, people will usually just tell you.
A very simple device is the customer service survey. Ask questions designed to probe people’s views of the company and services. These could include a list of adjectives with the question: ‘Whch of these best describes ABC?’ Similarly, a list of benefits – price, range, customer service, reliability, track record etc. – asking the client to rank them in order of importance.
Ask a range of questions and keep as many as possible quantitative – i.e. score 1 – 10 or rank these qualities. This allows you to measure answers from a number of respondents. Eep the qualitative questions, ‘What do you think…’ To a minimum.
Your last task is to compare the customers’ perception with the company’s. There may be some obvious gaps that need addressing or some small adjustments. Remember, it’s more effective and easier to adjust your brand communications to be in tune with customer perceptions.
Thought provoking – though brands are not necessarily about innovation. http://ow.ly/IBd5302SJf9
When a brand gets personal – interesting perspective from ‘across the pond’. http://ow.ly/29cR302uZGn