Don’t feel bad. Most brands are at the Like It stage
You have been able to carve out a niche and be a chosen brand against a proliferation of brands in the category. And you have good shares, moderate profits and most brand indicators are reasonably healthy. It’s just that no one loves you. There’s nothing wrong with being a Liked brand. All the power to you. But just know that you might be leaving good money on the table.
Beloved = Power = Growth = Profit
The Brand Love Curve
In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand.
With each stage of the Brand Love Curve, the consumer will see your brand differently. The worst case is when consumers have “no opinion” of your brand. They just don’t care. It’s like those restaurants you stop at in the middle of no-where that are called “restaurant”. In those cases, there is no other choice so you may as well just name it restaurant. But in highly competitive markets, you survive by being liked, but you thrive by being loved. Be honest with yourself as to what stage you are at, and try to figure out how to be more loved, with a vision of getting to the Beloved Brand stage.
The Like It Stage
At the Like It stage, the funnel is fairly strong at the top but quickly narrows at purchase and has a very weak bottom part of the brand funnel. As people see your brand as a good rational choice, they might consider it and use it, but it lacks separation from the other brands and it’s missing that emotional connection. Brands stuck here usually focus on what they do (features) and not what the consumer wants (benefits) In the funnel, you’ll see pretty strong awareness and consideration but you’ll lose out at the purchase stage and have no real repeat or loyalty at all. You’ll notice fairly high trade spend just so you can keep your share going–and you use price as a weapon to close the deal. The best strategy here is to begin to Separate Your Brand from the clutter of the market, by establishing a brand promise based on benefits–rational and emotional. A brand like Dove was at the Like It stage back in the 1990s. Only when they could shift from talking about themselves to talking about the consumers would they be able to establish more love for their brand.
Consumers see your brand as a functional and rational choice they make. They tried it and it makes sense so they buy it, use it and they do enjoy it. It meets a basic need they have. They likely prefer it versus another brand, but they think it is better, cheaper or easier to use. Or your mom told you to use it. But, consumers don’t have much of an emotional connection or feeling about the brand. Where Indifferent is really bad, you’re ordinary, which is just a little bit better. Overall, consumers see you brand in the “it will do” space.
The Five Sources of Brand Love
Under the Brand Idea are 5 sources of connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including the brand promise, the strategic choices you make, the brand’s ability to tell their story, the freshness of the product or service and the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you. Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising, the experience or through consumers. It is not just one or the other–it’s the collective connection of all these things that make a brand beloved.
Why is your Brand stuck at the Like It Stage:
If your brand is stuck at Like It, look to the five sources of love to see if you have a weakness.
- Protective Brand Leaders means Caution: While many of these brands at the Like It are very successful brands, they get stuck because of overly conservative and fearful Brand Managers, who pick middle of the road strategies and execute “ok” ideas. They do a bad job at either telling the story or launching new products. On top of this, Brand Managers who convince themselves that “we stay conservative because it’s a low-interest category” should be removed. Low interest category means you need even more to captivate the consumer.
- We are rational thinking Marketers: Those marketers that believe they are strictly rational are inhibiting their brands. The brand managers get all jazzed on claims, comparatives, product demonstration and doctor recommended that they forget about the emotional side of the purchase decision. Claims need to be twisted into benefits—both rational and emotional benefits. Consumers don’t care about what you do until you care about what they need. Great marketers find that balance of the science and art of the brand. Ordinary marketers get stuck with the rational only. The promise stays very rational, and the execution of the brand story becomes rather bland.
- New Brand with Momentum: As a new brand, you might not have found a way to use a unique brand promise to separate yourself from other competitors. Stage 2 of a new brand innovation is ready to expand from the early adopters to the masses. The new brand begins to differentiate itself in a logical way to separate themselves from the proliferation of copycat competitors. Consumers start to go separate ways as well. Retailers might even back one brand over another. Throughout the battle, the brand carves out a base of consumers.
- There’s a Major Leak: If you look at the brand buying system, you’ll start to see a major leak at some point where you keep losing customers. Most brands have some natural flaw—whether it’s the concept, the product, taste profile ease of use or customer service. Without analyzing and addressing the leak, the brand gets stuck. People like it, but refuse to love it. That leak could be in the freshness or experience stage.
- Brand changes their Mind every year: Brands really exist because of the consistency of the promise. When the promise and the delivery of the promise changes every year it’s hard to really connect with what the brand is all about. A brand like Wendy’s has changed their advertising message every year over the past 10 years. The only consumers remaining are those who like their burgers, not the brand. The story never gets told in a consistent manner that delivers the brand promise. It fails to catch on, so instead of just fixing the communication the brand also changes the brand promise.
- Positional Power–who needs Love: there are brands that have captured a strong positional power, whether it`s a unique technology or distribution channel or even value pricing advantage. Brands like Microsoft or Wal-Mart or even many of the pharmaceuticals products don`t see value in the idea of being loved. The problem is when you lose the positional power, you lose your customer base completely. The brand with just positional power becomes complacent and lazy–with a culture that does not create a brand experience that surpasses the promise.
- Brands who capture Love, but no Life Ritual: There are brands that quickly capture the imagination but somehow fail to capture a routine embedded in the consumers’ life, usually due to some flaw. Whether it’s Krispy Kreme, Pringles or even Cold Stone, there’s something inherent in the brand’s format or weakness that holds it back and it stays stuck at Loved but just not often enough. So, you forget you love them. The strategy of linking the brand’s promise to the other connection points of the brand.
Indicators that you’re at the Like It Stage
- Low Conversion to Sales. While the brand looks healthy in terms of awareness and equity scores, the brand is successful in becoming part of the consumer’s consideration set, but it keeps losing out to the competition as the consumer goes to the purchase stage. It usually requires a higher trade spend to close that sale which cuts price and margins.
- Brand Doesn’t Feel Different: A great advertising tracking score to watch is “made the brand seem different” which helps to separate itself from the pack, many times speaking to the emotional part of the messaging.
- Stagnant Shares: Your brand team is happy when they hold onto their share, content to grow with the category.
- High Private Label Sales: If you only focus on the ingredients and the rational features of the product, the consumer will start to figure out they get the same thing with the private label and the share starts to creep up to 20% and higher.
Why Would you want to get to the Love It Stage
As you become more loved, you can use that love consumers have for your brand to drive more power for your brand. That power may be against retailers, other competitors, suppliers, media and key influencers. As well as a power over the very consumers that love your brand. With more power, a more loved Brand has 8 ways it can add profit.
In terms of pricing, you can charge premiums and any change in pricing is relatively more Inelastic. Loyal consumers, weakened channels pay premiums, and trading up where offered. More engaged employees deliver better experience—even more premiums. This gives your brand an opportunity to drive higher margins.
With costs, a more loved brand becomes more Efficient and Powerful. You’ll be able to achieve Economies of scale. Suppliers cut costs due to volume & wanting brand in portfolio. Efficient media spend, free media through search, earned and social. Gov’t willingly subsidize. Partners give favorable terms. This gives your brand lower costs–both in terms of product costs and marketing costs.
A more loved brand can drive market share by pushing the Momentum and finding that Tipping Point. Crowds draw crowds. Power of media (search + social + earned) keeps brand in the conversation with heavy influence. Competitors can’t respond to the momentum. You can steal share from weakened competitors who have no love, or get current users to use even more.
A more loved brand can enter new markets. Loyalists Will Follow Wherever: Loyal users will follow where brand goes, and doors will open to new ventures. The idea of brand no longer tied to product, but to how brand makes you feel.
As the brand is more loved, the P&L statement looks a lot stronger–higher markets, lower costs, higher share and new market entries all add up to much higher profitability. It’s worth finding that love.
How to get to past the Like It stage
- Focus on action and drive Consideration and Purchase: stake out certain spaces in the market creating a brand story that separates your brand from the clutter. Begin to sell the solution, not just the product. Build a Bigger Following: Invest in building a brand story that helps to drive for increased popularity and get new consumers to use the brand.
- Begin to Leverage those that already Love: Focus on the most loyal consumers and drive a deeper connection by driving the routine which should increase usage frequency. On top of that, begin cross selling to capture a broader type of usage.
- Love the Work: It is time to dial-up the passion that goes into the marketing execution. Beloved Brands have a certain magic to them. But “Like It’ brands tend to settle for ok, rather than push for great. With better work, you’ll be able to better captivate and delight the consumers. If you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.
- Fix the Leak: Brands that are stuck have something embedded in the brand or the experience that is holding back the brand. It frustrates consumers and restricts them from fully committing to making the brand a favourite. Be proactive and get the company focused on fixing this leak.
- Build a Big Idea: Consumers want consistency from the brand—constant changes to the advertising, packaging or delivery can be frustrating. Leverage a Brand Story and a Big Idea that balances rational and emotional benefits helps to establish a consistency for the brand and help build a much tighter relationship.
So be content with being Liked. But just realize that you’re leaving profits behind for someone else to capture.
If you are stuck at Like It, then you are leaving money on the table
To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:
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- How to Write a Brand Plan: The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about. However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise. Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan: How to Write a Brand Plan
- Consumer Insights: To get richer depth on the consumer, read the following story by clicking on the hyper link: Everything Starts and Ends with the Consumer in Mind
I run the Brand Leader Learning Center, with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders. To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here: Brand Leadership Learning Center
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About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand. I only do two things: 1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better. I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth. And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.