Tag Archive for Brand Awareness

Is It The End of the Marketing Funnel

Marketing has grown more complicated, media choices have exploded, and consumers have asserted themselves more visibly than ever before. So perhaps some of the classical ways to understand and visualize marketing concepts, need to change and evolve too.

Forbes.com shared some information from Forrester that found that 53% of U.S. online consumers research products online that they’ll then purchase in the store. This process exposes consumers to brands they might not have previously considered, expanding their consideration set at exactly the point where, according to the traditional funnel, it should narrow.

The author, Forester analyst, Steve Noble proposes to bury the marketing funnel and introduce a new model–the customer life cycle.

Discover: Every customer must discover a brand, product category, or personal need–the initial trigger that leads to a new or repeat purchase.

Explore: In this phase, customers explore the brand–and their options. When visiting an online store or handling products in a well-crafted shop environment, customers are immersing themselves in the explore phase.

Buy: Customer experiences during this phase include product availability, inventory lookup, and satisfaction with the checkout process. It also includes the actual price paid, the perceived value, and the experience with the sales channel if there is a problem.

Engage: After buying a product or service, customers engage with brands in several ways.

We reported on the evolution of the way people make buying decisions based on some data from McKinsey. That study found that “traditional” marketing was still a very important part of the buying process, it just happened earlier. This latest information from Forrester Research also supports the important role that direct mail can play in the buying process, during the discovery and engagement phases.

Lessons Learned from The Gap’s Attempted Logo Change

BNET recently discussed The Gap’s logo change and the quick abandonment for something that looks much more like the original.

These ideas could share some new insights about brand management.

  1. Consumers own brands. Your brand does not have any value until it is valued by your customers. You might feel your business needs to be rebranded or relaunched, but your opinions are irrelevant: You work for the company. You’re so “inside” you can’t see outside. Proceed with caution!
  2. Consumers are savvy about design in just the same way as they are about media and advertising. The 21st Century has really stripped the mystery from design and advertising. Most consumers have better software on their laptops today than professional designers had on their desktops 20 years ago.
  3. As a result, consumers expect more from professional design. One of the main problems with the Gap’s new logo is that it used a typeface — Helvetica — which everyone has available on their own computers. Similarly, the graduated blue box is also something that virtually everyone can do after just a few minutes fooling around on the most basic graphic design software. This left Gap open to the legit accusation, “My kid could do that!” Redesigns need to be a lot more subtle and complex — even if the aim is to to be simple and clean — than they used to be.
  4. The move saves Gap some money. Changing back its web site is a lot easier than changing back all its store interiors, point-of-purchase material, catalogs, etc.
  5. The change removes uncertainty from the brand. Gap could probably have gotten away with keeping the new logo. Fashion and product trends drive Gap’s business, not typefaces. Most people didn’t even know the logo had changed. With the blue box back on its throne, the risk goes away.

So perhaps your website is a good place to test new design ideas. Can we help you before you go to press with a new idea?

High End Consumers Don’t Like Splashy Logos

Low- and high-end fashion products tend to have less conspicuous brand markers than midprice goods, according to a paper published in The Journal of Consumer Research. 87% of sunglasses priced $100 to $200 carry a brand name or logo, the same is true for only 28% in the over-$600 price range, according to research by Jonah Berger of Penn and others.

Maybe this information will help you as you craft your direct mail and other marketing messages.

A Tribute to the Underdog

As a tribute to cute costumes and a way to help you consider a possible branding message, we want to share some highlights from Harvard Business School professor, Anat Keinan.

The weaker party is often more attractive to many people. The reason might be due to consumers wanting to identify with the underdog. In today’s economically difficult times, it appears, underdog brands are gaining power in the marketplace.

Stories about underdogs overcoming great odds through passion and determination are resonant during difficult times. They inspire and give hope when the outlook is bleak. They promise that success is still possible. Throughout history Americans have embraced the American Dream, which proclaims that through hard work and perseverance anyone can be successful.

Underdog brand biographies (that highlight the companies’ humble beginnings, hopes and dreams, and noble struggles against adversaries) are being used by both large and small companies and across categories. Even large corporations, such as Apple and Google, are careful to retain their underdog roots in their brand biographies.

The common themes that link these brands’ underdog biographies are

  1. a disadvantaged position in the marketplace versus a “top dog,” a well-endowed competitor with superior resources or market dominance, and
  2. tremendous passion and determination to succeed despite the odds.

Marketers can use underdog narratives to positively affect consumers’ perceptions of and purchase of brands. “Underdog narratives are often delivered to consumers through the rhetorical device of a brand biography, an unfolding story that chronicles the brand’s origins, life experiences, and evolution over time in a selectively constructed story.”

Many contemporary brand biographies contain underdog narratives. Product packaging, corporate Web sites, direct mail advertising, blogs, and marketing communications tell the biographical stories of brands.

  • Avis’s classic slogan “we’re number 2” emphasized that it was playing second fiddle to a giant in the rental car business.
  • Brands such as Google, Clif Bar, and Apple celebrate their garage origins. Hewlett-Packard recently bought, and has a whole section on its Web site dedicated to, the garage in which it started. It is now a historical landmark.
  • Starbucks, in an effort to reverse declining sales, recently launched Pike Place Roast, which emphasizes the brand’s humble Seattle coffee culture beginnings.
  • Adidas’s “Impossible Is Nothing” campaign emphasized the underdog stories of famous athletes.

Advertising is Still Important

The graphic from the previous post about Word of Mouth showed that advertising, including direct mail, is the most important factor of consumer purchasing decisions during the “initial consideration” phase of the purchase decision making process.

Consumers “pull” information to them later in the purchase decision process.

How can we help you use direct mail to help you build your brand or stimulate demand?

Ideas to Define Your Brand

We have posted a few articles about branding and why it is so important in marketing. We thought it might be helpful to suggest some ideas to help you refine and define your brand.

What is a brand?

  • the outside view of the company, product or service.
  • the sum of all relationships between buyer and seller.
  • the most important asset that the organization owns.
  • the symbolic embodiment of all the information connected with a product or service.
  • the set of expectations associated with a product or service.
  • what leads customers to choose you over the competition.

Questions to get your thinking started

  1. What do your employees think sets your company apart?
  2. What is your company best at?
  3. What are your core strengths?
  4. What do you offer that one else offers?
  5. What do you love about your business?
  6. What makes your employees proud?
  7. Why has your company been able to stay in business when others have failed?
  8. If your company were to close, how would you want to be remembered?

Every contact or interaction with your customers and prospects is an opportunity for you to communicate your brand

  • Sign
  • Building
  • Letterhead and business cards
  • Packaging
  • Company vehicles
  • Staff attire
  • Advertising
  • Direct Mail
  • Web site

What do people (customers, prospects, audience) experience with your:

  • Product or service
  • Pricing
  • Customer service
  • Employee attitudes and actions
  • Atmosphere of your place of business
  • Role in the community

Now that you have a clearer idea of who you are and what you are all about, how can we help you share it? Direct Mail is a great way to reach the people who most want to hear from you.

Help Your Brand Stand Out

Andrea Syverson suggested some ideas in Target Marketing Magazine to get you started in your thinking about how to differentiate your brand.

We like to cheer for the underdogs, they try harder. These “underdogs” seem more comfortable in their own brand skins. They are original. They are daring. They are independent thinkers.

What about your brand? I bet your customers know the answer.

Stand Out from the Crowd

What are the differences between the many companies jockeying for customers’ minds and market share these days? Is there a difference between OfficeMax, Office Depot or Staples? What differentiates Barnes & Noble from Borders?

What is different between your offering and your top two competitors? If your brand is sandwiched blandly between others, it’s time to rethink both your brand positioning and your merchandising concept. Don’t bore your customers with this sea of sameness. They deserve better.

There is no formula for authenticity. Either you are authentic or you’re not. Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to living in a faux society, where entertainment is disguised as news, celebrities are disguised as heroes and Internet connections are disguised as relationships. And, yes, there are faux brands and transaction-based companies focused on themselves and short-term profits.

In “Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want,” authors Joseph Pine and James Gilmore propose that authenticity is a completely new management discipline, and they outline three axioms for authenticity:

  1. If you are authentic, then you don’t have to say you’re authentic.
  2. If you say you’re authentic, then you’d better be authentic.
  3. It’s easier to be authentic if you don’t say you’re authentic.

This may seem simple, but it isn’t. Many brands fall back to being faux. It’s easier.

Authenticity in Action

Consumers crave the real deal. They desire companies that deliver on their promises and brands that listen and do what their taglines say they do. They seek independent thinkers, product creativity and originality in solving their problems. They want brands that respect their time.

Authentic companies have one thing in common: They are true to themselves. They beat their own drums. And, most importantly, their customers thank them for it.

Steven Covey, best known as the author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” writes:

The more authentic you become, the more genuine in your expression, the more people can relate to your expression and the safer it makes them feel to express themselves. That expression in turn feeds back on the other person’s spirit, and genuine creative empathy takes place, producing new insights and learnings.

We believe the same is true of brands. Authentic brands are infectious. They draw people in. Authentic brands stand out. Authentic brands feed people’s spirits. They give customers what they crave today: realness.

So, how can we help you communicate your authentic brand message?

Strengthen Your Brand

Andrea Syverson recently asked some great questions for readers of Target Marketing Magazine.

Questioning is the precursor to innovation. Alfred North Whitehead, a British mathematician and philosopher, said, “The ‘silly question’ is the first intimation of some totally new development.” After years of questioning, there really are no silly questions.

Even Jerry Greenfield’s (of Ben & Jerry’s fame) lighthearted question, “If it’s not fun, why do it?” is one of utmost importance to its brand. Fun is an attribute at the top of Ben & Jerry’s brand and product fit charts. It is even a tab on the Web site.

In 2003, Frederick F. Reichheld wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review called “The One Number You Need to Grow.” His research showed if brands concentrated on improving just one measure, it should be the answer to this question asked of their customers: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?”

Author James Thurber wrote, “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” What other questions is your brand grappling with, or perhaps should be grappling with, these days?

Try these steps to get things going:

Create an Environment for Questions. First, do you cultivate a question-asking environment? Without the freedom to raise questions or question decisions appropriately, your brand may have a blind spot.

Question to Build Loyalty. Secondly, can you handle the answers to tough questions? Many brands have solid customer loyalty programs in place. These are indeed important parts of retention strategies. But take a moment to turn that question around for your brand—just how loyal is your brand to your customers? What have you done for them lately?

Listen Up. Thirdly, what are your customers’ pain points? What makes them mad, frustrated or just plain tired in relation to your product, service, category or overall brand experience? If you spend time uncovering these issues and then creatively addressing them, both your customers and your competitors will take note.

There are many examples of product/service/experience rage out there. Are companies listening? Do they care?

So, take some time to question your culture, your customers and your results.

Pay It Forward

Trendwatching.com posted an extract from The Globe and Mail discussing the trend of helping consumers “feel good”.

“Paying it forward” is an old idea with new life lately. Many different major brands have launched promotional campaigns that blur the line between business and philanthropy.

Benjamin Franklin pioneered the idea more than 200 years ago when he lent a colleague some money on the condition that it be repaid not to Franklin but to someone else in need. Franklin wrote at the time: “This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”

Maybe the idea caught fire because news of Feel Good Ripples spread due to what Wharton School professor Jonah Berger calls “social contagion,” a mechanism by which consumers and media decide what to pass along. “People like to talk about what is surprising, remarkable and unexpected,” Berger says. “They also like to talk about what makes them look good. Self-interest is a big driver.”

For more hedonistic brands, the experience has been mixed. Starbucks received some positive feedback in the mainstream press, but bloggers sniffed that the whole thing felt contrived. Starbucks customers reported feeling good about themselves when in 2006, news of a pay-it-forward phenomenon at Starbucks drive-throughs began to make the rounds. Customers pulled up to the window only to be told the driver ahead had already paid for their coffee. The cashier then asked if they would like to pay for the customer behind them. These chains of benevolent coffee purchases reportedly carried on unbroken for hours at a stretch (and still do, by some accounts). And that may be the real dividend from initiatives of this type. Berger’s assertion that acts of generosity are driven by self-interest may not be so cynical after all. In other words, if your company can make customers feel good–even in such an oblique fashion as facilitating their philanthropy–the customers are likely to transfer some of that goodwill back to your brand. That’s a “trick” of which Benjamin Franklin might have approved.

Here is a random act of kindness: Dean’s Mailing is offering a free marketing consultation to your favorite charity. This is valued at over $250.00 and will help save money and increase response.

What does your brand stand for?

Deliver Magazine provided some thought provoking questions for many organizations and their marketing teams.

You spend hours crashing through strategy documents, pulling out nuggets of customer insights, determining differentiators in the industry and understanding what it is that makes your corporation unique. And in the end, you have a vision of who and what your company is about. It’s that vision that helps establish relationships with customers, win over prospects and get your company noticed in this increasingly chaotic and fragmented world.

Then, after all of that strategic work, comes the execution part of the marketing plan and you decide to go digital. You send an e-mail — which looks just like any other e-mail in your best customer’s inbox.

Oh, we know, you finely tune the colors to match your brand (despite the fact you can’t calibrate how that color appears on any one monitor) or you include photography and graphics (which don’t download until the users request them) or you include the all-important link to your heavily branded Web site (although fewer than 10 percent click through).

So, maybe it’s not the optimum branding experience, but it’s cheap. Boy, is it cheap. And it’s efficient — you can reach hundreds of thousands, even millions in a single blast — and really, you’re getting the word out there.

Then the economy picks up, but your sales don’t jump as much, and at the next marketing meeting, as you’re puzzling over the numbers, someone asks why your customers aren’t so loyal anymore. What’s happened to that great relationship your brand used to have with them? And there’s a lot of this and that around the table, mutterings about “empowered consumers” and “everything’s a commodity,” and the meeting rolls on. You shrug your shoulders and concentrate on the next campaign. There’s work to do.

We understand. It’s not an uncommon problem. It’s just that, well, you could stand for something. You could put something in your customers’ hands, something branded. Imagine that: those finely tuned colors, the carefully selected images, the perfectly worded summation of what your brand is all about sitting right there in the hands of the people you most want to reach. It’s right there at their fingertips.

And inside that package, something amazing — something they could never get digitally. A sample, a tchotchke for their desk, a magnet for the fridge, a baseball bat, a brick, a salami — who knows? Something that’s amazing and brilliant and relevant, just like your brand. A piece that says “Hey, I know you,” and reminds that customer why he or she came to you in the first place and what your brand is really all about.

You could do that. But that’s direct mail, and some say that is old. No point in doing that, right?