Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Letter from the Editor: Tell Your Story

Dear Friends,

In previous SweetSpot newsletters, we featured the five branding disciplines…differentiation, collaboration, innovation, validation, and cultivation. While we could expound on each of these very important aspects of branding more, the bottom-line is always about storytelling.

From birth, children of every culture hear stories told by parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, books, and more. Why? Because stories connect us together. Sharing them bridges generations, all the while teaching, entertaining, and bonding. It's even been said that the importance of stories in our lives ranks somewhere between nourishment and shelter. 1

Because stories are easy to remember and illustrative, they build stronger emotional bonds between people and parties. This is true of branding stories as well, which is a viable marketing method, proven to build customer loyalty.

An authentic brand story...

  • makes the brand memorable,
  • differentiates it as desirable,
  • breathes life into it,
  • creates a distinctive competitive advantage,
  • motivates the target market, and
  • positions the company as visionary.

So, the question we always ask our clients is, "What is your brand story?" (Take a look at our article "Brand Legend: Do you have it?" for inspiration and successful brand lores.) Ultimately, our goal is to help them emotionally connect with their customers and provide a memorable experience that will build loyalty. 

Here's to telling great stories!
Bridget Hornsby

Hornsby Brand Design

1: Price, Reynolds (1978). A Palpable God, New York:Atheneum, p.3.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Brand Legend: Do you have it?

As champagne is to Champagne, France, so is Scotch Whiskey to Scotland. There's only one true Scotch whiskey and in Scotland, it's just called “whiskey,” for there is no other substitute for the folks in the Highlands, therefore, there is no need for the regional adjective.

In examining their marketing story we can learn an important lesson from the passion behind this unique blend of water, barley, yeast and fire. Do they use language? Yes. Do they exploit exclusivity? Yes. Do they tout the uniqueness of the terrain? Yes. But the BIG lesson is in the legend.

Legend provides strength, mystery, and validity for brand marketers. Some brand examples include Coca-Cola's unique formula, Colonel Sander's secret herbs and spices, or the one and only P&G's floating Ivory soap made from a formula discovered by accident.

The use of legend is even more potent with Scotch makers as the unique flavor is credited to both the ingredients and the individual size and shape of the vats in which the whiskey ferments. Even with replacement vats, some distilleries stay true to form as they replicate the original vats from more than 200 years ago, down to the cracks and dents. Such is the power of the legend in Scotland.

One legendary example is the exercise of a 300-year-old tradition believed to be the secret to Glendfiddich Whiskey's smooth taste. Glenfiddich Distillery hires a Scottish bagpiper to play to the casks of whiskey. This legend wins Scotch brand loyalists from around the world...a brand marketer's dream accomplishment. In fact, some sobering facts regarding the marketing success of Scotch is that it is enjoyed in more than 150 countries worldwide, and, since 2006, global shipments have exceeded 1 billion bottles. Even the English golfer Horace Hutchinson expresses typical British sentiments saying, “We borrowed golf from Scotland as we borrowed whiskey. Not because it is Scottish, but because it is good.”

In light of this information, consider for a moment what legends exist around your brand. Is it your history? A unique process that differentiates your product? An idiosyncratic detail that might seem strangely laughable today? The BIG question is how can you merchandise those in such a way that starts to build a legend around YOUR brand?

Trends: The Math of Khan

3,000 lessons online. Six million visitors monthly. Viewership of a half a billion. A two-year-old, not-for-profit service with a staff of 32. What is it? It's the “Math of Khan” and more. It's Khan Academy online on a mission to offer “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.”

According to USA Today reporter, Marco R. della Cava, Sal Khan's educational videos span the gamut from algebra to French history and are “sparking a revolution” in education, prompting numerous teachers to use his lessons...in class. Cava offers an example in Suney Park, a sixth-grade math teacher who is among the converted, quoting her as saying, “I had my doubts, but now I feel like the conductor of an orchestra, and if I have to tell the violins to go on with their stuff while I help the brass catch up, I can do that....I couldn’t go back to the regular way of teaching.”

Even Microsoft founder, Bill Gates touts the videos: “At 3,000 lessons online, Sal’s personal ability as a teacher is remarkable,” and “Bringing this kind of creativity and new assessment tools for teachers could make a profoundly positive difference in education.”

Quitting his position two years ago as a hedge fund manager, Sal devoted himself to Khan Academy. Cava reports that Sal recruited Google's first hired employee and programming ace, Craig Silverstein, to successfully launch the academy. “Search was a bit like where we’re at with Khan Academy,” says Craig. “There was a lot out there, and it was just a matter of helping people find what they needed fast.” His goal is to “make the site’s user experience more intuitive” and interactive.

What does Sal have to say of the project? “I teach the way that I wish I was taught. The lectures are coming from me, an actual human being who is fascinated by the world around him.”

With the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere, all of khanacademy.org's resources are available to anyone — student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or (as stated on the website) “a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology.” The best part? Khan Academy's materials and resources are available completely free of charge.

Case Study: Kodak. Can geography feed failure?

Kodak failed partly because it “couldn’t escape the intellectual limitations of geography,” reports Rich Karlgaard in the Wall Street Journal (1/13/12). “When you study the history of great American companies that stumbled and failed, or only partially recovered,” Rich writes, “you see how difficult it is to overcome the mind-set of your immediate surroundings. Businesses located in places where success is the norm, and innovation is built into the ecology, have a better chance of fixing themselves.”

That would be locales like Silicon Valley, and not Kodak’s hometown of Rochester, New York, says Rich. The reason, he says, is that it’s easier to lay off people in Silicon Valley because there are plenty of other places nearby where they can find new jobs. If Kodak laid off people the way, say, Intel did, “the impact on a small city and the multiplier effect of lost jobs, all at once, would have been a civic disaster.” Not that Kodak’s “slow bleed” hasn’t “turned out to be a civic disaster” for Rochester, anyway.

Rich says that the Route 128 corridor, outside Boston, is another example of how geography can feed failure. Wang and Digital Equipment Corporation once prospered there, but in the early 1990s they went under. Rich says it’s because “Digital’s founder Ken Olsen and Wang’s founder An Wang…were stubbornly resistant to personal computers. Together, they cast a kind of deep-rooted code of silent resistance over the region: PCs must never be mentioned!” IBM survived, Rich suggests, because, being based outside New York City it had “zero tolerance for this “code” … The world might be flat,” writes Rich, “but innovation and adaptation remain local.”

Go Negative with “positive controversy”!

In the report “Blog, Blogger, and the Firm: Can Negative Employee Posts Lead to Positive Outcomes?” researchers discovered that moderately negative posts make corporate blogs more credible and also increase readership, which in turn offers more exposure to positive posts.

In general, readers expect business blogs to be predictably positive and boring. These posts make their blogs more of a public relations and marketing tool than an open forum. But, add some constructive criticism and/or critical commentary to the mix and suddenly you have a recipe for some honest and open dialog about the company’s products and/or services.

For example, let’s say that your company markets automobile parts online, and an employee notices that shipments, because of an archaic, supply chain practice, are being delayed. Instead of choosing to handle the situation in-house you decide to run with a post about this issue-- and any additional commentary that is spurs -- all in the spirit of improving your customer service.

I think this situation is a good example of a “positive controversy” (constructive criticism). When a company permits moderate criticism of its policies, its products or its services, readership and public engagement go up. This makes a company’s blog more credible, and increases the chances that other postings will be read, shared, and commented upon.

However, the study also found that too many negative posts could “muddy the waters”, thereby reversing the positive reader reactions. We suggest keeping such “positive controversy” posts to around 15 percent.

The key here is diligence, perspective, balance -- and of course, editing. Obviously, you should weed-out the mean-spirited, non-constructive, or demeaning post. Also suggested in the study was to employ a policy of not restricting negative posts which is different than actively encouraging negative commentary.

The other advantage of “positive controversy” online, is the ability to spot potential problems perceived by employees and/or customers before they become major issues. By carefully encouraging constructive content on your company’s blog, you’ll earn trust, respect and most of all be building an authentic brand.

80% of all websites are not effective?!

A recent study conducted by Demandbase and Focus reported that 80 percent of all websites are not effective at servicing their customers. They said "With online experiences evolving at a burning pace, what was considered “best practice” 18 months ago, has dramatically changed. Websites that haven’t been touched since 2009 “look and feel” dated, and sites that are more than four years old are absolute dinosaurs. All sites lack something, whether it’s quality content, the latest technology, or thoughtful interaction concepts."

It’s one thing when you don’t know that your company website is under performing, but to know and do nothing is detrimental to your business and your future. Decide today to get serious about your business web presence and do what you need to do. And if you don’t know exactly what to do, we can help. Either way give us a call and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Quote of the Quarter

“Our time-pressed lives leave us too busy to fully assess whatever it is we want to buy, forcing us to turn to brands we already know and trust, that makes building a strong brand increasingly essential.”

--David Reibstein, Professor of Marketing, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Things that Make You Say, "Hmm"...

Acne cream is available and served a la carte...

Details, details, details...

Deal or no deal?

Brand Glossary—Learning the ABC's of Branding

Always Addressable Customer: An end-user who has the three following criteria:
  • Owns and uses at least 3 data connected devices
  • Accesses the Internet multiple times per day
  • Goes online from multiple physical locations (for example: home, work, in the car, and at the mall)
 According to Forrester Research, "These customers require marketers to think differently about their programs if they want to be effective. To 'Always Addressable Customers,' technology is simply how they live their lives and get stuff done. It means that you can now reach this ultra-connected audience wherever they are, and whenever they need it...But more importantly, now you can provide true service and value to your customers on demand. Research shows that more than a third of all U.S. online adults are already Always Addressable. But this is not an exclusively U.S. phenomenon. In fact, certain demographics in other parts of the world have even greater concentrations of Always Addressable Customers — and the trend is only accelerating."

Repositioning: Because many viable products are initiallly positioned with inadequate resources, repositioning a product through targeted and extensive communication can expand and alter an existing product brand awareness in the existing prospects' minds and/or reach a new market.

Share of Mind: Share of mind is the proportion of thought a consumer has about a particular product in relation to all the brands in its category. In market research, the share of mind can be measured in terms of a positive perception or by its depth when incorporating a company's market position in the research.

Top-of-Mind: Top-of-mind is the highest degree of share of mind, the brand that is named first in market surveys asking about products in a specific category. Obtaining top-of-mind among prospects requires a large share voice by a company in its category.