As retailers will attest, picky shoppers are spending less and expecting more these days. And they’re carefully evaluating where to spend their money. With your website, ads, direct mail and (especially) PR under the microscope, it’s never been more important to have a company or brand message that’s right on the money.
Are your customers hearing your message?
You may be surprised to discover there’s a major difference between what a company is selling and what its customers are actually buying. Look at a product or service from the customer’s perspective. Where would Harley-Davidson be if it merely sold motorcycles instead of the lifestyle, adventure and persona being a Harley-Davidson owner represents?
Sales increase when you create a marketing message that taps into the essence of what your customers want to buy. You can get a clear understanding of their expectations through research, such as online surveys and focus groups as well as from online message boards and direct feedback from one-on-one sales contact.
Getting your message right
The core marketing message you develop must remain consistent across all your marketing channels, from your website to traditional offline media, and even into social media. That means it has to be simple, direct, and easy to remember and understand. Your core message is the essence of your brand or company. It’s uniquely your own and must clearly define the difference between you and your competitors and make your brand relatable for your audience.
Making a promise
Can you describe what your company is and does in just a few words? This is sometimes difficult for inexperienced entrepreneurs, particularly when there are complex technology products involved. But it’s essential to boil down what your company or brand provides, or more specifically, how customers or clients will benefit from what you offer. As you develop your core message, throw out the words ‘our’ and ‘we,’ and replace them with ‘you’ and ‘your.’
This type of outer-directed language is more appealing to potential customers. An effective core message communicates the benefits customers will enjoy when they buy from you. It’s not the place for a litany of product and service features. Make a promise, and let the remainder of your communications explain how you will deliver on that promise. It may take six months, a year or more for customers to internalise the essence of your core message, and it can be difficult to change perceptions once they’re established. So fine-tune your core message with an eye toward longevity and staying power to support your company’s growth over time.
They’re Your Rules, Break Them
Could your brand benefit from the surprise factor? If you can package your information into a ‘mystery’, you’ll hold your audience in the palm of your hand.
The phrase has become iconic, and even those who have never caught an episode are familiar with it: ‘Winter… is coming!’
Many viewers have a love-hate relationship with Game of Thrones. It is impeccably well made, and, as the most expensive television show ever produced per episode, visually stunning.
Yet the level of violence beggars belief. Even if you are not an especially squeamish viewer, the assembly-line massacre of leading characters is perpetually shocking. And therein lies at least part of the reason why the enterprise is so successful.
No, it’s not the gore. It’s the unpredictable nature of each new development. The good guys don’t necessarily win. The bad guys don’t necessarily lose. Upheaval and disruption rock the storyline at every turn, making it one of the least formulaic productions around. You simply don’t know who’s going to prevail and who’s going to perish colourfully, and that keeps fans coming back for more.
So why is it so attractive for a store to defy conventions and, in a sense, ‘betray’ expectations? And can a brand story make use of the same dynamic?
I did not see that coming
In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, authors Chip and Dan Heath describe the powerful communication technique of ‘breaking people’s guessing machines’.
To make communication genuinely riveting, simply organise the information into a mystery, something in which the recipient can’t tell the outcome in advance. It can be done with something as traditionally dusty as a university lecture. George R.R. Martin certainly did it in a medieval fantasy about warring kingdoms.
It can even be done in a sales pitch. In Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Babble founder Rufus Griscom is described giving a completely counterintuitive presentation as part of a sales pitch. He headlined his slide: ‘Five reasons you shouldn’t buy Babble’.
And there was no trick implied. The presentation covered precisely these ideas, and not in an ironic way. He went into detail about the obstacles the company was facing, and described why these hurdles could be a difficulty to investors.
So why did it work (and work it did!)? The answer is two-fold.
Initially, the novelty factor drew attention. How do you not listen to a presentation like that? Secondly, the executives evaluating the presentation were basically being covertly invited to problem-solve.
‘That’s not so bad!’ they would say, psychologically bypassing the ‘should we or shouldn’t we?’ step and going straight into assumptive ownership. They then began discussing ways of overcoming the obstacles. It became a challenge to their abilities.
In all of these cases, the approach has been to break accepted conventions in order to ‘break the guessing machine’ of the audience. The net result is heightened engagement, sustained curiosity and delight upon the reveal of the ‘answer’. When you depart from the accepted formulas of communication, you create cognitive dissonance. The audience (despite themselves, in the case of Thrones viewers who might not like violence), have to know how this will turn out.
Breaking the rules makes you distinctive
Rules can create set expectations. Formulas and accepted approaches do the same.
When you break and betray the rules, the level of anticipation remains high. In communication, surprise is effective and often attractive.
Does your brand ever surprise? Or is it constantly communicating in ways that are so predictable as to be mildly sedating? In your pitches and presentations, does your copy stand out? Or suffer death-by-predictability? What might you accomplish if you tampered with the rules on purpose, in order to up-end expectations? Do you have what it takes to break the human guessing machine? If you do, you just might achieve true brand distinction.
Beyond mere words
The technique of ‘breaking the human guessing machine’ is not just limited to pitches and presentations. Your entire brand tells a story too, and with each new initiative, each new enterprise that it undertakes, it adds to the total tale in the public consciousness.
I contend that brands in South Africa tend to under-utilise the possibilities available to them. In an understandable quest to be taken seriously, they speak the language of ‘dependable business,’ rather than ‘exciting venture.’
A ‘dependable business’ has the narrative of stasis. There is no movement. An ‘exciting venture’ by contrast, speaks in vivid movement and attractive energy. It has purpose, mission and meaning.
The key to actualising this idea is theatre. And to understand the power of theatre in a brand’s narrative, let’s go straight to what must be the greatest example of brand theatre the business landscape has ever seen.
‘Here, hold my space shuttle’
Imagine you owned two organisations. One created space shuttles. The other made electric sports cars. What if you launched one of your cars out of earth’s atmosphere, using your own rockets? What if you then set the car into an orbit around the planet, with a little spaceman mannequin hanging out the side, playing a David Bowie hit as he cruised through eternity? Do you think such a theatrical initiative might just make it into every newspaper on the planet?
In doing just this, Elon Musk led the way. He demonstrated just how far we can depart from stuffy brand narrative to tell an exciting story, a surprising story. … And what will he do next?!
The very fact that we even ask such a question is proof of the concept.
It’s not about big budgets
Naturally, not every business has the budget to tinker with near-earth orbit. But theatre doesn’t have to be expensive. Have you ever dropped by a luxury car dealership, to have your cappuccino served to you with the brand’s logo drawn into the froth? That cost nothing but a little imagination.
Have you seen the number of YouTube views BMW achieved with their ‘drift-mob’ video in Cape Town? It runs into the millions, and growing.
Achieving surprise and telling a distinctive brand story need not be exorbitantly expensive. Kulula sets themselves apart with their inflight announcement. My all-time favourite is still: ‘In the event of an emergency, please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting your child. If you have more than one child, please pick your favourite now.’
This month, what if you challenged yourself to think about the key word ‘surprise’? What could your brand do that is unexpected and delightful, that will have people turning to one another and saying, ‘That was awesome!’, while still remaining true to your mission and vision? In fact, what if you started by looking over your mission statement, and then asked, ‘How could this be done in a way that is publicly surprising?’
Theatre can set you apart. It can make you what US speaker Joe Callaway calls, ‘A Category of One.’ And it only requires that you use a little imagination, then have the courage to be different on purpose. Your goal is simple, emotional impact. Wow factor. Nothing more intellectual than that.
New toys for rule-breakers
There are many other opportunities for rule-breakers to create strategic disruption. You might ask why things have always been done in a certain way. You might carry out an exercise in which you ask what ideal end-usage looks like for your client, then challenge your team to try to achieve that goal, using the phrase, ‘Couldn’t we just …?’ You might even ask insightful questions about what you actually sell, and not what product you believe you’re selling. All of these are useful exercises for the courageous maverick, and all can lead to different forms of productive rule-breaking.
For this month, though, pose yourself this single challenge only: What could we do in our brand narrative that might have a Game of Thrones-level impact?
In our household, that looks like this:
- Douglas: ‘I can’t believe we keep watching this show!’
- Wife: ‘Me neither!’
- Douglas: ‘That was so shocking!’
- Wife: ‘Unbelievable.’
- Douglas: ‘Want to watch the next one?’
- Wife: ‘Absolutely!’
… And that’s what you’re after.
3 Things Taylor Swift Can Teach Entrepreneurs About Reputation Management
Taylor Swift makes certain not one of her fans feels like a number, which is part of why she has more fans than she could possibly count.
How do you get customers to notice the release of a new product? If you’re Taylor Swift, you delete your social media history and then drop a video of yourself in a $10 million diamond bath. Although it’s a bit unorthodox, her approach worked.
The “Look What You Made Me Do” video racked up more than 43 million views in 24 hours, according to Variety – crushing the record for views of a debut video. By the time it became available through streaming services, Swift’s Reputation album had already spent three weeks in the Billboard 200’s No. 1 spot.
What made Swift’s album release so massive? She knows her fan base well enough to create exactly the type of hype her millions of followers respond to best. Brands can follow suit by looking for opportunities to get the attention of their own fans.
Swift’s fans follow her religiously on Instagram, but if, say, General Electric deleted its Instagram posts, few people would notice and even fewer would care. Entrepreneurs should first find out where their customers are and what they care about in order to figure out the best way to get them to take notice.
What’s the customer experience ‘end game’?
Customers want to feel like they matter, but all too often, they end up feeling like little more than a number. This feeling isn’t unjustified. What’s the first thing the typical business does when it gets a new customer? It assigns that new customer an account number.
Swift differs from a typical business by looking at her customers as unique individuals, even though her millions of fans far exceed the number of customers of a typical business. Swift broadcasts general information to all her followers, of course, but she also goes out of her way on an almost daily basis to engage at an individual level with at least some of her fans.
In a world where the bar for the customer experience is so low that even the most skilled limbo dancer couldn’t slide beneath it, the way businesses interact with customers is more important than ever. Businesses often use size to justify their lack of a positive customer experience.
While a start-up can offer customers a personalised interaction at the beginning, many businesses find it difficult to keep individualised attention and care a priority as they start to add more customers and hire more employees. There are ways to keep the focus on customers’ experiences, though, and Swift’s success in doing this at scale offers three great lessons:
1. Stay true to the “customer comes first” philosophy
Never forget that a company’s success grows directly from the relationship with its “fans.” Swift is under no false illusions. The second her fans decide to stop listening to her music, her career is over. This is why she goes out of her way to cultivate her relationship with her fans on a daily basis.
Her Tumblr page is a prime example of how she takes fan engagement seriously, and she uses the platform to interact with fans on a regular basis by following their pages, commenting on conversations and even sending flowers to fans who need a pick-me-up.
The same must be true of every employee in a company. If the people who come into contact with customers don’t understand and share the enthusiasm for creating a remarkable customer experience, the “customer comes first” philosophy isn’t being put into practice on the front lines.
Never forget that customers are a brand’s fans, and they keep companies in business. Every employee plays a role in making customers feel special and appreciated.
2. Forget the old way of doing things
For her most recent concert tour, Swift announced a change in how ticket purchasing will work. Rather than follow the traditional “first come, first served” model – which invites bots to snatch up tickets before actual people can purchase them – Swift’s fans will be allowed to compete for a ranking through Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan programme.
In this model, if a fan exhibits increased engagement by signing up for Swift’s newsletter and sharing about her on social media, the fan is able to purchase better tickets to the concert.
Like Swift, constantly be on the lookout for fun and engaging ways to let customers know that their business is valuable. This will take creativity and may require extra effort, but the response from customers will be worth it.
3. Reward raving fans
Many entrepreneurs worry that if they can’t create a remarkable experience for every customer, it would be unfair to do so for any customer. This means that no customer ends up having a remarkable experience.
Related: How Not to Commit Reputation Suicide
Swift refuses to get tied up in such limited thinking. In 2014, she undertook a project to study the social media accounts of a few of her “superfans,” learning what they liked, who they were friends with, where they worked and other personal details.
Swift then went shopping for Christmas (or “Swiftmas,” as it came to be called) gifts for those fans. These exceptional personalised gifts, sent to only a few dozen fans, were seen by the rest of her fan base as an incredible act of kindness. That made them love her even more, even though they weren’t direct beneficiaries of this special treatment.
Showering your best customers with extra love isn’t unfair to the rest. Set the bar for customer experience high across the board, but do something extra special for your most loyal fans. They deserve it, after all, and there’s no better way to convince a customer “fan” base that they really are more than just a number.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
(Infographic)Top 10 Reasons To Rebrand Your Business
In order to grow, sometimes you’ve got to go back to the drawing board.
Businesses often need to rebrand, and it can be a result of many reasons, including international growth, new management, a bad reputation or an outdated image. Whatever the reason, it’s important to create a stellar brand that people will remember.
Because of internationalisation, Raider changed its name to Twix. If you plan to grow internationally, it’s incredibly important to choose a brand name that’s adaptable and appealing to cultures worldwide.
Walmart, known for its low prices, is also a prime example of a major company that wanted to reposition itself in the market. However, instead of changing its name, the company simply changed its slogan from “Always low prices” to “Save money, live better.”
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he changed Apple’s rainbow logo to a sleek metallic one. Keeping up with trends, changing times and his vision for Apple’s future, Jobs’s rebrand worked well and aligned with the company’s brand of offering minimalistic, contemporary products.
If you’re planning to rebrand your business, it’s important to think about what will help your company grow. To learn more, check out Custom Logo Shop’s infographic below for the top 10 reasons to rebrand your business:
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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