By Russell Zwanka
Think of why you go in certain stores, why you buy different types of clothes, or maybe even why you ate that cereal this morning. Hate to break it to you, but you were probably influenced by the brand. Sorry, I know you are in control, you are the only one who can make your own decisions, you aren’t swayed by advertising….but, subtly or overtly, brands influence your behavior.
And why do you choose certain companies over other companies, certain labels over other labels, certain cars over other cars? It all boils down to how well the brand can keep its promise. A good brand is a promise, a great brand is a promise kept….
So, how is it that we can keep our brand promise? What can we do to help our customers understand what we are, what we stand for, what we aspire to be, and even how we help them in their lives? A great brand always answers the question, “What can you do to help me?”. Here are six steps to success:
Be consistent. This step is number one for a reason. A brand is not a brand if it is not consistently executed. It’s as simple as that. Aspire to be a low cost provider, and someone beats you on price? You’ve just broken your promise. Your brand states, in no uncertain terms, your position in your consumers’ lives. Consumers are way too busy to wait for you to understand your own brand. Consistent execution is number one.
Communicate your brand in the simplest manner possible. Wow, we are all going at light speed these days, we are reading our smartphones while walking through the mall, we are talking in our ear piece while looking for our flight information. It’s the world of multi-tasking! The last thing any customer wants is a cryptic message. Be simple. State what you provide for the customer, and do it quickly. What do you do, and why should I shop here? Simple. Quick. Done.
Use every platform available. Some call it omni-channel, some call it hyper-channel. Call it whatever you would like, but understand that every person uses each platform differently. In an airport, you will probably not see the television commercial for that hotel right around the corner, but place a mention next to the car rental station? Bingo. Walking into a store and wondering what is on sale, and it shows up as a geo-text? Bingo. Your brand should be as ubiquitous and accessible as your customers want it to be.
Put your brand where your money is. The number one disconnect in companies? The brand is off trying to create content, while the merchants are busy trying to sell something. Both groups see the other as being optional to overall success. You have got to marry the revenue flow in an organization with the brand message. This step is a must-do, and cannot be taken lightly. The merchants must be creating a revenue stream that reflects the brand aspiration. The brand team must work extra hard to align the message with the customer.
Start with customer need as the center of your universe. I know this step sounds basic, but think of how many times the company is going one way, while the customer is going the other way. And, as one more added variable, customer needs change. We don’t really use envelopes anymore, we fast-forward through television programs, we text our kids to say hi to them. Things change. Customers change. The direction of the company needs to encompass a clear understanding of customer need, and the long-term sustainability of those needs.
Inspect what you expect. Every action should be measurable, and every result should have a desired outcome. Otherwise, why are you doing it? If you run stores, then make sure the systems are in place that measure how well execution is meeting the brand promise. If you are spending marketing dollars on brand awareness, then measure the equity being built. Ask customers if they are aware of your brand promise, measure your advertising effectiveness, measure your sales and profits and connect them to brand positioning.
The most difficult job of any entity that connects with customers is creating and executing the brand promise. It’s not easy, and isn’t meant to be. That is why those who get it right, really get it right. They always satisfy the promise. Remember, a good brand is a promise. A great brand is a promise kept.
Russell Zwanka is CEO and Partner at Triple Eight Marketing. Russell has led the merchandising, marketing, advertising, procurement, and all customer engagement areas for multiple organizations in the United States and Canada. Russell holds a Doctorate in International Business from the International School of Management in Paris, France. He also holds a Masters of Science in Management from Southern Wesleyan University, and a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from the University of South Carolina.
Russell has spoken at various events, including the Carnegie Mellon Social Media Conference, the University of Manitoba Marketing Conference, and the Argyle Executive Forum in New York City. Additionally, he has served on the IGA Retailer Advisory Board, the Consumer Goods Forum Marketing Committee, the Topco Operations Board, and the Nielsen Retailer Advisory Committee. Russell can be followed on Twitter at Rzwanka.