Archive for the ‘branding’ Tag

All Brands Need is Love

The other day a colleague pointed me to BBC’s 1 hour documentary on Steve Jobs called “Billion Dollar Hippie” (I’d send you a link but then the copyright owners might yank it. Google it for now). There’s a line around the 40 minute mark of the video where they’re telling the familiar story about the iMac and how its success was attributed to its unique design and how Apple managed to make a computer fashionable. Then came a line that not only captures the brand essence of Apple, a quote from iMac’s designer, Jonathan Ives, “We have to make this something people will LOVE![emphasis added by me]. “Love” according to my colleague, should be the thing to which every brand aspires.

Every brand? I wasn’t so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘love brands’. I’m typing this post on my beloved MacBook. I have a protective case and an InvisibleShield screen protector for my iPhone. I find Porter Airlines and the Toronto Island Airport (Yes I know it’s officially called Billy Bishop Airport) experience absolutely lovely. I think I’m falling in love with this (new to my neighbourhood) frozen yogurt chain from California called Menchies. As a professional marketer, I love to work on ‘love brands’. And yet, there’s a ton of no-so-loved brands that do perfectly fine if not thrive in the marketplace. Take a look at the top 10 companies in the 2011 Fortune Global 500…only one of them, Toyota, still going strong despite its massive recall in 2009 and the Tsunami, has some ‘love brands’ in its roster.

  1. Wal-Mart Stores
  2. Royal Dutch Shell
  3. Exxon Mobil
  4. BP
  5. Sinopec Group
  6. China National Petroleum
  7. State Grid
  8. Toyota Motor
  9. Japan Post Holdings
  10. Chevron

You see what I mean. While I’m uncomfortable to say it, the evidence suggests that you don’t have to be loved to be successful. So that got me thinking…maybe love and not-so-loved brands can co-exist in the same marketplace. While being loved can be a competitive advantage, there must be other ways to gain competitive advantage and maybe being loved is something a marketer can choose a brand to be or not to be.

Enter Advertising Age’s ad critic Bob Garfield, someone not known for jumping on the latest marketing bandwagons. In what I think will become a landmark cover story, Garfield writes, “Say goodbye to positioning, preemption and unique selling position. This is about turning everything you understood about marketing upside down so that you can land right side up. This is about tapping into the Human Element. [bold face added]”

Notice that branding was not in his goodbye list. That’s because branding and brand building is more important than ever before. “…you are being evaluated 24/7 in countless conversations that have zero to do with your ad slogan. On the contrary, they are about your brand’s essential self–which behooves you to think very hard about your essential self.”

“Your essential self.” In other words, we judge brands pretty much like we judge other people. We dislike insincere brands in the same way we dislike insincere people. We love those that we connect with emotionally and who we trust. Why do we tell brands to be authentic? It’s the same thing we tell people before their date…”Be yourself!”

Authentic, trustworthy, brands with whom we emotionally connect have staying power. The others do too…but they won’t get our love. Imc2’s “Brand Sustainability Map” charts out this brand universe where the love and not-so-loved brands co-exist.

Brand Sustainability Map

At the top-right are the familiar “love” brands but next to them and below them are brands that have enough to keep them going for a while. Emotional relationship brands aren’t maximizing that connection to its full potential or are missing something. In the bottom left are the reluctant relationship brands. These brands have traditional competitive advantages like high switching costs, high barriers to entry from competitors, patents, etc. which might explain why there’s a phone and cable company in that quadrant.

So love brands, not-so-loved brands, and even bland brands can co-exist. It’s the same with other people in your life. You don’t love everyone you know; some people are just friends and some people are that bland acquaintance who’s a friend of a friend who you see at parties but don’t pay much attention to ’cause they’re kind of…meh.  So here’s the thing. No one wants to be that ignored bland guy. Most of us want to be loved…or at least…not be bland. So how we get there? That’s for another post.

Tony Hsieh on Life, Business, and Being Happy

I was one of the fortunate bloggers to receive two free advanced copies of Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Tony Hsieh, he’s the CEO of Zappos.com the shoes and clothing e-tailer known to its customers for WOW-factor customer service and known to social media types (like me) for its amazing culture of openness.

While bookstores will likely stock it in the “Business” section, the book reads more like an autobiography with a bit of social commentary thrown in. The breezy, jokey style makes for an easy read but Tony’s storytelling brilliance really comes through when he turns anecdotes into fables. When he goes through his entrepreneurial exploits from childhood through university, we’re treated to the evolution of an inventive mind and lessons learned both through failures and successes. Along the way we also see an evolution in mindset from the boy who “always fantasized about making money, because to me, money meant that later on in life I would have the freedom to do whatever I wanted” to a multi-millionaire adult (following the sale of LinkExchange) asking the questions “What is success? What is happiness? What am I working toward?” That’s when the epiphany hits him,

“I thought about how easily we are all brainwashed by our society and culture to stop thinking and just assume by default that more money equals more success and more happiness, when ultimately happiness is really just about enjoying life.”

And that’s when the Zappos ethos forms. Tony realizes that he’s happiest when he’s creating something and then even happier when the people around him are happy too. So the customer service WOW is about making customers happy and the company’s “Core Values” is partly about giving employees the ability and freedom to pursue their own happiness.

You’ll notice throughout this review that I haven’t mentioned social media once despite the title of this blog. And that’s because this book isn’t about social media even though Zappos is known in certain circles for embracing the technology. But I’ll leave that to Mashable and ReadWriteWeb to expound on that. What I took away was some whose taken some values shared by socially mediated culture i.e. radical transparency, openness, sharing information, along with many others and incorporated them into the DNA of the corporation, not only because it makes Tony and everyone around him happy (though that’s a pretty good reason in and of itself) but because it’s good for business.

Delivering Happiness launches today (June 7, 2010)
To learn more about Delivering Happiness visit www.deliveringhappinessbook.com

I’m not really friends with [brand name]

So Razorfish puts out a new FEED report and all marketing 2.0 punditry is aghast.  All the happy hippie, trippy things we’ve been telling brands to do like authentically engaging our consumer in a meaningful dialogue using social media because it’s, er, social has been all for naught. Turns out, when people ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ brands, they’re really just looking for a deal. All that time and money spent trying to figure out this social media thing could’ve been spent on coupons?

Folks, the sky isn’t falling.  Take a look at the data:

Reason for Following a Brand on Twitter

Reason you friend a brand on Facebook or MySpace

56.5% of those who follow a brand on twitter and 63.1% who friend a brand on Facebook or MySpace do it for some reason other than getting a deal. Deal seeking was the plurality of rationales but not the majority.

Second, what did you expect? Did we forget our 1% rule? Our Forrester technographics? It only takes one click to follow or fan a brand, it takes a lot more effort to evangelize. That’s why there’s more joiners and spectators than creators and critics. Not everyone in your digital embassy is going to be a brand ambassador. Like a real-life embassy, some functionaries are there because the job pays the bills and offers nice benefits.

Third, yes they want a deal but they still might be exhibiting a preference for your brand. What the study should have done is ask those who indicated that they were looking for a deal, whether they friended or followed a brand’s competitor as well. I’d be curious to know how many Coke fans are also Pepsi fans, how many Nike fans also follow Adidas. True deal seekers, the ones a brand wouldn’t want to be friends with, are brand agnostic; they’ll take whatever’s the cheapest. A person who genuinely prefers Brand X and sees an opportunity to join “club brand” due to “special offers” might be thinking, “I’m a good customer, I deserve something special from you, Brand X, in return.”

Whoah, whoah, wait a minute. Is that how to treat a friend? You’re only friends with that guy with season’s tickets so he’ll take you to a game? What about his winning personality? You’re shared values? Please forgive the marketer trained on “brand personality”, “brand as a person”, “personae development” and “personal brands”  for forgetting that brands are not actually people. They are representations of something to be purchased so our relationship to them is fundamentally a business transaction. Sure there are people who worship at the altar of your brand logo but those valuable customers are the exceptions. Here’s the deal <bad pun intended 😉 >, the deal may be the impetus for them becoming a “fan” but providing them with an engaging experience afterward might convert some into “true fans”. Deals bring them in, experiences keep them coming back.

A corollary to this, maybe we’ve infused the word “brand” with too much meaning and associations. Maybe we need to back to a simpler definition. How about, “the intangibles that cause people to prefer and value one product/service over others”