WOULD ANYONE CARE IF YOUR BUSINESS DISAPPEARED?

There has been lots of good (and lots of rubbish) written about the (in)famous net promoter recommendation question – “would you recommend us?” Fred Reichheld made the question famous in his book called it the Ultimate Question (click to see the book on Amazon).

Yesterday I met up with Kate Cox from Media Contacts to discuss their up-and-coming conference on Meaningful Brands which I am delighted to be speaking at in February. The research they have done is to ask people “meaningful-ness” questions about the brands they use.

One of these questions is, I think, particularly brilliant which is:

Would you miss the brand if it disappeared?

This question has a real power at getting to a deeper connection.

Would I really miss Ariel or Persil? Not so sure.
Would I miss Pampers? Perhaps.
Would I miss the Guardian or Apple? Yes I think I would

In our hyper-competitive world every product is replaceable. Innovation doesn’t stay unique for long. I can get a great smartphone or washing powder from many brands. They all work broadly the same.

But would I miss the drive and inventiveness of having the Apple brand in the world? Yes I think I would. Would I miss John Lewis and what it stands for both from a retail perspective and it’s unusual co-operative structure? Again I’d certainly miss it alot more than if Debenhams went bust. Would I miss the Guardian’s drive for the truth and their inventive use of new media models? Yes because I think our society would be worse off without them in it.

We miss Cadbury in a post-Kraft merger world because an outstanding British business of over 100 years got consumed by a faceless US corporation. It was taken away and people miss it. The products are still in our lives but they are somehow less authentic and meaningful than they were before.

Going Beyond the Benefit

The brands that stand the “would you miss it” test have gone beyond the benefit. They have started to create connections that are more than just what they deliver. Whether that is by virtue of their vision, the way they do business, their pursuit of something difficult or their history these businesses mean more to us than just their product.

Would anyone care if your brand or business disappeared tomorrow?

Thanks

Justin

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BRANDS: MORE THAN JUST PRODUCT QUALITY

Gone are the days when brands were just guarantees of product quality assuring the consumer of safety and efficacy.  Nowadays, given almost universally high product quality and often strong regulation to underwrite it, brands take on myriad other roles in consumers’ minds:

  1. Brand is a store of trust –summarizing a range of qualities and experiences that have been promised and delivered (or not) over the years.
  2. “Grease” for the transaction – brands and the trust in them reduce transaction costs between buyers and sellers – they make life easier. In our information rich world we are overloaded and brands certainly are a useful shorthand for the qualities we are looking to find.
  3. As a guarantee of consistent values – the best brands and the organizations behind them are always consistent. Through consistency the right expectations can be set with credibility and followed up by delivery. Consistency also allows the brand to become a tool that can engage, be shared and command loyalty from its consumers.

Trust has a central role that runs through all the other characteristics of a brand. Without it, brands have to try much, much harder, which means spending more and more to convince the consumer of their credibility rather than making promises that you can ultimately deliver.

How does your brand and business rate as a store and creator of trust?

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW

MARKETING AND OUR CHANGING VALUES

The values that advertising and marketing portray have changed the way we think and feel about ourselves, our lives and what we consider important. As marketers we play with, and try our best to change, what is trusted and distrusted in order to persuade the consumer to buy from us.

The trouble is that our consumer, with greater access to information than ever before, is starting to see behind the messages, and often they don’t like what they see. They are becoming more empowered, more demanding and raising the bar. As they peer behind the messages into the companies generating them they are rapidly concluding that they can’t trust businesses, their brands, their advertising and above all their motivations.

The Result: either costs will increase as we have to try harder to persuade and reduce prices as everything commoditises and all markets become zero loyalty as consumers assume that all businesses and brands are as bad as each other.

The Challenge: to move our businesses and the brands that represent them towards a more sustainable, better model. To challenge ourselves as marketers to take on the responsibility not just for driving sales but commit ourselves and our brands to building positive social capital and through this finally regain trust.

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW

BETTING ON FEAR

Human beings have a difficult relationship with fear and risk. Ulrich Beck (1992), a German sociologist and professor at the London School of Economics coined the term ‘risk society.’ He used the term to sum up societies where risk has become a major concern, leading to people living in fear.

Marketers and salespeople have known for a long time that fear and loss sell.

 

Fear is the ‘lower order’ stick and the brand is the ‘higher order’ carrot. Think of all the ads which claim that if you don’t buy this or that brand you are running mortal risk. The soap and detergent ads that destroy our invisible enemies – bacteria – and protect our children. One ad campaign or another may not have effect on the overall level of fear in society but, combined with the media and all other fear-based messages from other brands, it does contribute to the overall negative impact.

Fear affects the level of social capital in our society by making us more worried, stressed and less trusting. Loss and the fear it invokes changes our behaviour and causes us to act irrationally.

Today however the smartest brands are moving away from this interventionist trend. They no longer depend on unfounded fears to create new needs but realize that they can prosper and build trust by delivering their product or service efficiently, whilst having small moments of celebration with their customer in just getting the job done correctly. A Zappos video, an Innocent wooly hat, or even just a smile and a thank you from someone behind the counter – these are authentic  ways to connect and build the relationship.

For the complete guide on how to create trust in your businesses and brands get your copy of Why Should Anyone Buy from You? BUY NOW

THE POWER OF FUN

There are many serious issues facing us as a world. Brands and their marketing have a big responsibility to contribute solutions.

Marketing departments are, or should be, at the heart of understanding the external, human aspects of a business in the context of the market. Marketing teams, whether they know it or not, use the tools of the psychologist to change perceptions and behaviours.

Never before is an understanding of “the human” more relevant or needed. We need more debate, we need deeper conversations, across government, business and with the people to create new ideas that can change our lives for the better.

So how can we get together to address these serious issues…..by having fun.

There is nothing quite like tapping into our abundant ability to have fun. Time and time again psychologists show us that fun is a rich source of engagement. Whether that’s sharing a laugh with friends, an email joke, a bizarre YouTube video or taking part in a new fun experience. Fun can be a powerful source of good and is a fast track to trust because it provides a valuable and reciprocal emotional transaction.

But marketers and their brands don’t use fun that often. Guy Murphy in his Battle of the Big Thinking presentation in 2009 made this point powerfully.

TheFunTheory has used a range of approaches with fun at their heart to change behaviours. One of the most famous is the Piano stairs experiment.

Innocent and the Big Knit initiative produces a social good and always gives me a smile when I see the little hats on their bottles on the supermarket shelves.

One of the fastest growth stories ever Zynga estimated to be worth $7-9bn has leveraged the power of social gaming to engage and entertain 100s of millions of users with games such as Farmville and Cityville.

One of my co-authors at Conservation-economy.org Jon Alexander over at the National Trust has been part of the team who  have recently launched MyFarm which is a co-operative approach to farming through the internet – sort of like a live Farmville. It’s fresh, engaging and fun.

How is your business using fun?

Thanks for reading,

Justin

Have you considered buying my new book:

Why Should Anyone Buy from You?: Earn Customer Trust to Drive Business Success (Financial Times Series)

The Re:Thinking Marketing & Brands Blog

justin@basini.com

www.basini.com

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ENGAGING WITH THE WEB 2.0 CONSUMER

Yesterday I took part in the Institute of Economic Affairs Future of Consumer Finance Conference.

I gave a presentation in the afternoon about engaging with the Web 2.0 Consumer.

Here is the presentation.

If you have any views or thoughts please comment below and share the presentation if you think its useful.

Thanks

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
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Brands: if you want trust give trust


Brands and businesses always want to be trusted. But rarely do they trust their customers to understand how business works. This is why most organisations mission or values statements don’t include simple direct statements of what businesses are there, in part, to do which is make money. Businesses and corporations assume that we distrust them and therefore act defensively. In some cases, often the high profile ones, covered by the media, this default position of distrust is right but the vast majority of businesses, those that many of us work for, and employ our friends and family members, are full of good people trying to deliver well for their customers and make a fair profit in return, and money for themselves.

But most businesses, especially the big ones, are pathologically scared of saying anything that isn’t on message. And those messages are devoid of reality because they just don’t trust normal people to understand that running businesses is not easy, a balancing act and they have to make a return on their efforts. The cancer in these organisations are the public relations and corporate affairs departments that are obsessed with controlling the message, saying as little as possible, and where success is staying hidden.

In my experience most people are fair and reasonable. We understand that businesses need to make money, but we want them to give us good services and not exploit us for super-profitability. But most corporations treat us like we are cynical, conspiracy theorists or anti-business. And this has created a culture, especially in Britain, France and Germany, where making a profit is seen as inherently exploitative and almost immoral.

Witness John Petter from BT this morning (12th Feb 2010) on BBC Breakfast. Since BBC doesn’t replay Breakfast (can someone upload the interview to YouTube? YES ITS HERE) I’ll give a sense of the Tweets that were going round that summarise his performance:

jhemusinsignia: BT spokesman on BBC Breakfast was v.poor: why are people lacking the necessary skills put forward? Train them or use someone else
charlie74: BBC Breakfast presenter grilling the BT rep on TV… loved it
Tommy_Hill: Anyone else think the BT guy was seriously floundering on BBCBreakfast? “I don’t know if we’ll make money on it”.. Bulls**t
zenemu: #BT chap who was just on the BBC was a bit of a worm. BT are changing free evening calls from 6pm to 7. Odious little man from awful company
RAIPR: Wtchng John Petter, BT directr justify 7pm off-peak move on BBC. Nervy, defensive, dncng feet, looking away from cam, stuttering #fail
imogenfarr: Anyone see the BBC Breakfast interview with the squirming BTspokesperson? Blimey, he’d never have coped if he was interrogated by Paxman.



There is no doubt that his performance this morning was very poor but I suspect rather than being a consequence of not enough media training, it was caused by too much media training. Having been through several versions of this torture myself these sessions are focused on Corporate Affairs/Public Relations/Media people drilling you. “Don’t say this, say that”, “don’t answer questions directly” and most importantly don’t tell the truth. Don’t lie, don’t tell the truth, better to not say anything at all.

This goes right to the heart of the way that businesses present themselves currently. There is no longer a recognition, a trust, that we understand how businesses work. Read the mission and values of BT (taken from their website this morning):


Our vision

Our vision is to be dedicated to helping customers thrive in a changing world. The world we live in and the way we communicate are changing, and we believe in progress, growth and possibility. We want to help all our customers make their lives and businesses better with products and services that are tailored to their needs and easy to use.
This means getting ever closer to customers, understanding their lifestyles and their businesses, and establishing long-term relationships with them.
We’re passionate about customers and are working to meet the needs they have today and innovating to meet the needs they will have tomorrow.

Our values

Our corporate identity defines the kind of company we are now and the one we need to be in the future.
Central to that identity is a commitment to create ways to help customers thrive in a changing world. To do this we must live our brand values:
  • Trustworthy – we do what we say we will
  • Helpful – we work as one team
  • Inspiring – we create new possibilities
  • Straightforward – we make things clear
  • Heart – we believe in what we do
We are committed to contributing positively to society and to a sustainable future. This is part of the heart of BT.”

I can guarantee that John Petter and his boss Gavin Patterson spend most of their time obsessing about how they can organise their business to make money, grow and be cost efficient, whilst giving a good service. That’s what they get rewarded for. And yet making a fair return, making money for themselves and their employees, is no where to be seen in the mission and values of BT. These vision, mission and values statements have become divorced from reality, and its not just BT that suffer this problem.

Every business person that goes through a media training torture session comes out scared to death of saying anything, and is certainly left with the impression that having an open conversation about working hard to deliver value whilst making money is completely “off message”.

That’s what you could hear this morning from Mr Petter. His message was “buy unlimited packages” and he automaton-like repeated this time and time again. Charlie Stayt asked for a commitment from him that the prices would always be better value now and in the future, something which was impossible to answer on the couch in a studio. But instead of calmly responding, as Mr Petter might in a normal conversation with you or me, that BT always wanted to be good value, but that these decisions needed to be properly planned his only reply was “buy unlimited packages”. He thereby demonstrated that he didn’t trust those listening to his interview to conclude that he was a reasonable man with a reasonable approach and, yep, these things generally needed to be thought about.

Even when Susannah Reid asked him directly why he didn’t just explain that giving customers free calls meant that they didn’t make enough money, he wasn’t brave or trusting enough, to agree and admit that giving a good service and making a fair profit was what they were trying to do. All he could say was “buy unlimited packages”.

I felt sorry for John Petter this morning, a classic victim of media training where the goal is to say nothing, and a corporate and cultural context where trusting people to understand that businesses are there to try and give good services that we all need, and make a fair profit in return, is unacceptable.

Unfortunately until brands and businesses start to wake up to the fact that trust is a two way relationship, they will never win our trust.

Did you see the interview this morning. What do you think?
Do you work for BT? How did you feel?
Have you been media trained? What is your experience?

Please comment below and share with others using the social media icons.

Thanks – have a lovely, non-business, non-brand, non-marketing weekend and Valentine’s day.

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
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ALREADY DESTROYING VALUE? THE CADBURY-KRAFT MERGER

 



This morning Cadbury, the UK multi-national confectionery manufacturer, and Kraft, the US based multi-national food conglomerate, announced they had agreed the much contested takeover bid for £11.5bn. I am a consumer and shareholder of Cadbury.

Food brands are all about trust, and chocolate even more so because it is an emotional category. Cadbury is an iconic British brand with a rich and socially aware history. In its early days Cadbury was a major employer of women and had a paternalistic attitude to its employees (in a good sense) investing in their welfare. Cadbury is one of the most trusted brands especially in the UK regularly coming in the top 10 of brand trust surveys. Even this morning on it's website the headline graphic was "values led, performance driven". 


Is Cadbury's history of commercial success in a social context important or relevant anymore? 


@urbanfly tweeted this morning "There's a romantic idea that Cadbury is a Birmingham company. They're a global corporation who buy out other companies". 


Whilst Cadbury is a global corporation I believe that history is an important part of the embedded value of any company. Brands are created by people and their actions. And the mythology of a company is important as an implicit guide for those making decisions, providing a different perspective or a pause for thought. 


Of course there is another side of Cadbury. They benefited hugely from the British Empire, but more recently have been a huge buyer of FairTrade commodities especially in West Africa.

A descendent of Cadbury's founder called the takeover "a horror story" according to the BBC. Felicity Loudon, George Cadbury's great-granddaughter said, "Every single iconic brand is going – we sell out everything." Of course this isn't important in of itself but I think it is the attitude that many will feel as we see this great British company consumed.

The takeover has been justified because the companies want to secure growth and save cost with now warm words between the parties saying how the best of Cadbury will be retained. But I doubt this will happen. I've worked on both sides of the fence being acquired and acquiring in my corporate career. Cultures rarely merge well. The company taking over inevitably dominates and imposes its values and decision making processes.

What all this means is a challenge to the very logic and price paid for the takeover by Kraft of Cadbury. Another reload of the Cadbury website this morning proclaimed "creating brands people love".

And here is the rub….of the £11.5bn paid a major part of this will be goodwill. A major part of this goodwill will be the intangible value of the Cadbury brands. From the reaction on Twitter and in the press the destruction of this goodwill has been palpable already. The provenance and corporate background of brands is increasingly important to people. In our transparent society information on the companies that make the brands "we love" is so much easier, we know their stories and a sense of where they come from. The fact that Cadbury has been promoting its use of FairTrade in advertising is all about proving they are true to being led by their values.

Given the arguments over the deal, the context of the UK economy and the shameful collapse in manufacturing in the UK's manufacturing base over the past 20 years this takeover will get a huge amount of coverage both now and in the future. The result for consumers will be the perception, even slight, that their bar of Dairy Milk is less satisfying than it was before. Even if the taste of the chocolate stays the same (a big topic on Twitter!), the "taste" of the brands will be tainted for ever.

There is no doubt that a great British company and brand died this morning.

What's your view? Do you think the takeover will destroy or create value? Comment now!

Thanks

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
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Here is a  live feed of comments on the deal from Twitter:



DON”T CHANGE WHAT YOU DO, CHANGE YOUR BRAND POSITION

Ever considered whether moving your brand’s position is good idea?
Ever thought about whether you could thrive in a cheaper part of the market?
Ever got frustrated that you don’t make much progress against your competitors?

I’ve often looked at these brand positioning questions and recently experienced the repositioning of Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline.

I used to despise Aer Lingus. When I was travelling to Dublin every week for work (about 7 years ago) I avoided them like the plague, they were awful. Badly run, never on time and unpleasant. They were a poor imitation of British Airways or bmi. Worse of all they were bad AND expensive.

But in the last few months I’ve flown Aer Lingus four times and they have changed significantly. It seems they have upped their game but the main thing they have done is reposition their brand and that has done wonders for their perceived value.

They have kept the core of their national carrier approach – assigned seats, quite generous baggage allowances, trained and uniformed staff, sober style, normal planes with normal seats. But they have changed their pricing model to be similar to Easyjet – i.e. book early get cheap seats. For all the flights I have taken with them I have been booking up to 8 weeks in advance (so not incredibly early) and got flights for under £50.

Aer Lingus are now competing in my mind with Easyjet and Ryanair for my low cost flights. They aren’t competing with British Airways anymore from where I look at the market. They bring a certain national carrier quality to this low cost competition and this combination has won out for my last 4 flights. They didn’t win when they were competing against British Airways, they do when they compete against Easyjet.

Sometimes you don’t have to change what you do, you just have to move your brand or business model to compete in a different part of the market where you bring value.

Now, as a quick look at their results shows, the challenge for Aer Lingus will be to right size their cost base to the reduction in revenue per seat that low-cost has caused. They need to do this whilst maintaining a half decent customer experience and is currently differentiating them from their low cost competitors. Not an easy task but by focusing on the things that really matter, keeping some of the national carrier experience, and innovating on key dimensions they have a chance.

A good example is their investment in the hub at Gatwick or the very impressive self check baggage approach they have in Dublin. This self check baggage system means you can sticker and drop your bags automatically. Rather than detract from the experience this is a great innovation and almost guarantees no queuing.

We’ll see where the airline story goes. The “pack ’em in like cattle model” will I think become increasingly niche, especially as flying becomes more expensive. I, for one, will be looking for great value.

Thanks for reading, as ever, please comment if you have ideas or thoughts.

Justin

Email me: justin@basini.com
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THE NEW LANDSCAPE OF BRANDS

A quick post to share a presentation that I put together for the UK Marketing team for Carlsberg. An old friend of mine (Ian Hannaford @ihannaford) is now a Marketing Manager at Carlsberg and he kindly extended an invitation to talk through some thoughts on brands and marketing with the team.

It was great to meet the team and I really enjoyed the session. Some really interesting ideas surfaced which provoked lots of discussion. I learnt alot about Carlsberg including the fact that it is run as a trust contributing to Danish projects and the top board is scientists and artists. How differentiated is that?

I was impressed that the team was open to hearing ideas and thoughts from other marketers and categories – I wish all teams were as open. Thanks also go to the Director of Brands Paul Davies for allowing me a slot at his meeting.

Do you want me come to your team meeting and provoke some thinking and discussion? Email me – I might just take you up on the offer!

As ever – if you have any thoughts, disagreements, energy and passion to share about brands and marketing then please comment below or drop me an email.

Update on Battle of the Big Thinking (for those that have been following my frustrations on Twitter) – I finally have a stable draft of the presentation. If you are attending see you there and if you aren’t you will be able to take part because I’m going to extend an invitation for you to join the debate!

Hope you are having a great day!

Justin

Email me: justin@basini.com
My website: http://www.basini.com/
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