How to create a Brand Strategy Road Map

Slide1Master Brand Strategy Road Map

Having the brand road map on one page can help align everyone that works on a brand.   This is especially useful when managing a Branded House or Master Brand where there are various people in your organization that each run a small part of the brand.  The road map helps guide everyone and keep them aligned.  

Here’s the one I use that has all the key elements that help define the brand:

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Key Elements
  • Brand Vision:  It’s the End in Mind Achievement.  What do you want the brand to become?  Think 10 years out: if you became this one thing, you would know that you are successful.  Ideally it is Qualitative (yet grounded in something) and quantitative (measurable)  It should be motivating and enticing to get people focused.  
  • Purpose:  Start with what’s in you:  Why do you exist?  Why do you wake up in the morning?   What’s your purpose or cause behind your brand?   Very personal and connects to your own story.  In the spirit of Simon Sinek:  “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.
  • Brand Idea:   A Beloved Brand is an idea that’s worth Loving.  As Brands become more loved, they go beyond being just a product and they become an idea that fulfills consumers’ emotional needs in the consumers life.  
  • Five Connectors With the Consumer:  Under the Brand Idea are 5 Sources of Connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including 1) the brand promise 2) the strategic choices you make 3) the brand’s ability to tell their story 4) the freshness of the product or service and 5) the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.   Here’s an example of how these 5 connections would look for the Special K brand. 

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  • Brand Values should come from the DNA, and act as guideposts to ensure that the behavior of everyone in the organization is set to deliver upon the Brand’s promise.  How do you want your people to show up?   What type of service do you want?  How much emphasis on innovation?   What type of people do you want to hire?  What behavior should be rewarded and what behavior is off-side.  Having the right Brand Values will help you answer these questions.   The Brand Values become an extension of what the Brand Leader wants the brand to stand for. To read more this subject read the following:  Brand = Culture
  • Goals:  While the vision serves as a 10 year big goal, it’s also important to have annual goals to push and challenge everyone in the organization.  It’s a great way to ensure milestones on the pathway to the vision are being hit. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T. which means they should be specific, measurable, attainable,relevant and time-sensitive.
  • Strategies:  These are potential choices you must make in HOW to get to the vision.  Good strategy has focus, early win, leverage and a gateway to something even bigger.  Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions.  They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out.  They reflect and plan before they act.   They are thinkers and planners who can see connections.  There are four main types of strategy:  1) consumer oriented 2) competitive oriented 3) operational and 4) financial.  My recommendation is that Master Brands have 3-5 key strategies, but never more.  This forces you to focus.  
  • Tactics:  Activities and executions that fit under the strategies. This could be advertising, media, sales, events, social media and professional influence.   I recommend focusing on 3 key tactical areas per strategy, continuing to ensure focus.  

With this format, having it all on one page forces focus and allows you to keep a tight control over those that will be working under the Master Brand.

Here is an another example of the 5 connectors using Apple:

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House of Brands

When working with a house of brands, where you have multiple brand names under one corporate name (P&G, Kraft, General Mills and Johnson and Johnson) the brand plan would look different.  The big differences are the teams are smaller and the culture of each team usually follows that of the corporate name.  

Here’s a good example of a Brand Plan that would fit within the House of Brands and here is the related story on How to Write a Brand Plan

Plan 2.0

Use your Brand Plan to keep everyone on the same page

 

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A Beloved Brand commands the Power of a Monopoly

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.  FormulaIt’s this LOVE that helps drive POWER for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with.  With added power, you will be able to drive stronger PROFITS.  For a Beloved Brand, prices are inelastic and you can trade consumers up to new premium options.  You can drive share and move to new markets with your loyal consumers following.  And you can put pressure on costs.  All these drive added profitability for the Beloved Brand.   LOVE = POWER = PROFITS

The most beloved brands are based on an idea that is worth loving. It is the idea that connects the Brand with consumers.  And under the Brand Idea are 5 Sources of Connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including 1) the brand promise 2) the strategic choices you make 3) the brand’s ability to tell their story 4) the freshness of the product or service and 5) 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.

Using the Love to Generate Power

The 12 forces of a Beloved Brand map out how a beloved brand can leverage the power generated from being loved.

Power over consumers:  A Beloved Brand with a loyal group of followers has so much more power–starting with a power over the very consumers that love them.   These consumers feel more than they think–they are e-rational responding to emotional cues in the brand.   They’ll pay a premium, line up in the rain for new products and follow the brand to new categories.   Look at the power Starbucks has with their base of consumers, making their Starbucks moment one of their favorite rituals of the day and how consumers have now added sandwiches and wraps to those rituals.  All day long, Starbucks has a line up of people ready for one of their favorite moments of their day.

Power over Porter’s 5 Forces:  We can see that the love also gives Beloved Brands power over channels, substitutes, new entrants, or suppliers.   With a beloved brand, there is power over channels because consumers would rather switch stores than switch brands.  Apple has even created their own stores, which generate the highest sales per square foot of any retailer.  And even with their own stores, Best Buy still gives Apple preferential treatment with a ‘store-in-store’ concept.  With outspoken fans, they’ll even fight on behalf of the brand against competitors.  Competitors can duplicate the product, but they can’t get close to duplicating the emotional connection.  Beloved Brands even have power vs Suppliers, who want the beloved brand on their roster.   Many suppliers will cut their prices, offer extras and first right of refusal on new technologies. In Apple’s case, Intel has given them the lead on new chip technology two years before they gave them to PC ultrabooks, giving them a huge competitive advantage.  With these powers, it makes it hard for new entrants to break through.

Power over Employees:  Beloved Brands have a power over employees that want to be part of the brand and the culture of the organization that all these brand fans are proud to project.  People at Starbucks love working there and wear that green apron with a sense of pride.  Brand fans that get hired into the system, know the culture on day 1 and will do what it takes to preserve it.  Starbucks employees ooze the brand and honestly from a cultural view, their interactions make the difference in the experience of the brand.  Employees have their regulars, know their name and their drink.  It’s no longer just the coffee.  It’s your escape and your comfort zone.

Power over the Media:  Beloved Brands have a power over the Four types of Media:  1) Paid 2) Earned 3) Social and 4) Search.  Beloved Brands have a much more efficient media buy–lower GRPs needed to break through and a lower Ad Spend/Sales is needed to keep share strong.  Even for paid media, beloved brands get better placement, cheaper rates and they’ll be the first call for an Integration or big event such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics.  Beloved Brands have figured out the earned media, with launch events, press releases and executive story lines that seep into the mainstream press.  Competitors complain about Apple getting a positive media bias–they are right, they do.  As brands are still figuring out social media, it’s the most loved brands that are doing it right, whether it’s Coke, Nike or Apple.  Are they smarter?   Maybe.  But the beloved Brands have such a huge advantage because people want to connect socially, want to share and want to influence.   Nike did such a great job with social media during the London Olympics that people thought they were the main shoe sponsor–when it was Adidas.  Lumping earned, social and search together as ‘free’ media, Apple generates over a billion dollars of free media via the mainstream media and social media.

Power over Influencers:  Beloved Brands have a power over key influencers whether it’s doctors recommending a certain drug, restaurant critics giving a positive review for the most beloved restaurant in town  or electronics sales people selling a beloved TV. Each of the influencers become fans of the brand and build emotion into their recommendation. They become more outspoken in their views of the brand. And finally beloved the Beloved Brand makes its way into conversation at the lunch table or on someone’s Facebook page. The brand fans are everywhere, ready to pounce, ready to defend and ready to say “hey, you should buy the iPhone”.  The conversation comes with influence as crowds follow crowds.  This conversation has a second power, which creates a badge value.  People know it will generate a conversation and are so proud to show it off.  After all, they are in the club.

All 12 forces combine to generate Power for the Brand, that matches that of a Monopoly.

 

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. 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
  3. 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

 

Brand LeadershipI 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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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

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.  Im 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.

The $1Billion Brand that Defies Logic: The Toronto Maple Leafs

leafs-badWhen we look at the Most Valuable sports franchises around the world, whether it’s Ferrari, Manchester United, Real Madrid, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers or New England Patriots, they usually have one thing in common:  THEY WIN.  And in most cases, they win a lot.  We’ve never really found out what happens to those brands when they lose.  

And then there’s the Toronto Maple Leafs who recently joined the ranks of the most valued brands, now worth an estimated $1 Billion.   The last time the Leafs won a hockey championship was 1967, when Lyndon Johnson was President, The Beatles were releasing the Sgt Pepper’s album and Wal-Mart only had 24 stores (all still in Arkansas).  It was even 8 years before Justin Bieber’s mom would be born.   The Leafs have not even made the playoffs  since 2004.   None of their current players were even in the league in 2004.  And they are the only NHL team not to make the playoffs during those years.  There were two major work stoppages in the NHL in 2005 and 2012–one wiped out an entire season, the other a half season.  In both of those years, the value of the Leafs jumped up.  

And yet, since 2004, the value of the Toronto Maple Leafs has gone up from $280 Million to $1 Billion.  Only Apple’s market value has gone up at a faster pace, but they’ve launched the iPhone, iPad and the Macbook during that time.  

So clearly for the Leafs, actually playing and winning the games doesn’t really matter to value of the brand.  

What’s the Leafs Brand Vision?

Up on the Leafs wall and every communication coming from the PR staff says they want to win a Championship.  But they were owned by a pension fund for the past 15 years, whose only desire has been profit.  And now they are owned by a Media Conglomerate who sees the Leafs as content with millions of insane Leafs fans watching in person, on TV and on-line.  Winning?   Does that matter?  I believe a more appropriate Brand Vision for the Leafs is to be the Most Valued Sports Franchise in the World.  Everything they do seems more aligned to the “most valued” than winning a championship. 

Holding the Leafs up to the Principles of a Beloved Brand

My Business School Professor once said “economics proves what happens in real life can actually happen in theory”.  In the theory of Beloved Brands, you need 5 sources of connection to build a tight bond with your consumers.  You need a Brand Promise, a smart Strategy, a Brand Story, a freshness of Innovation and a Culture that helps deliver the promise.  

Arguably, the Leafs might be defying all 5 of these sources of connectivity. 

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What is the Leafs Brand Promise?  Most Beloved Sports Teams can say “we promise to deliver an on-field team that will always be competitive enough to win a championship”.   The Yankees, Man U, Ferrari, the Lakers and Real Madrid can easily say that.  Even when these other teams have a good and not great season, there is a price to be paid.  The Leafs say “we want to build a team to win a championship” but is that a reality?   If that was their promise, the brand would be a complete failure.  Fans would walk away and the value of the team would fall.  Well, at least for a normal team.   

The only real promise the Leafs offer is hope for the hopeless.  The Leafs are the eternal underdog, where the pursuit of victory is greater than the victory itself.  Maybe if you have that underdog spirit in your own life, you see hope in the Leafs where no one else sees hope.  There’s no real rational benefit you get from being a Leafs fan.  You’re never rewarded for your energy.   So it must be irrational.  Purely emotional.  Then what emotional benefit do you get from loving the loser team?  A friend of mine who is a Leafs fan had a baby a few weeks ago, and I said “when do you break it to the kid that the Leafs won’t win a Championship in his life time?”   I know that kid will be a Leaf fan.  He now bleeds blue.   And will pay thousands of dollars towards the leafs coffers over his life time. 

So what’s the benefit?   You don’t get to ever yell “we win”.  It comes back to “Hope”.  Or maybe you figure the celebration party will be so big when they finally do win, that you want to make sure you’re on that bandwagon.  That’s still hope for the hopeless–it just has alcohol involved.   

The strategy is to appear to be doing things to win a championship.  The story is more about history than it is about the present.  I don’t see any innovation in player selection or coaching.   I do see innovations in merchandising, advertising, sponsorship and fan experience.  And the culture of the Maple Leafs is clearly aligned more to making money than it is to winning.   

The Leafs Business Model

Let’s look at how the Leafs business model works.  

  1. Getting tickets to a game is nearly impossible for the average fan.  Every game is a sell out.   It’s a 40 year wait for Leaf seasons tickets. These end up in people’s wills.  They have strong luxury box sales and a strong base of seasons tickets.  If you do have tickets, you can easily scalp them for twice the value on game night.
  2. Every game is on TV, with exceptionally strong ratings.  While the ratings totally in Canada, they are such a dominant ‘country brand’ that it makes the local market all of Canada, which means it has access to 30 Million people.  The Leafs receive added earned media with 2 sports TV stations, 3 radio stations and 3 major Newspapers constantly covering every move the team makes. 
  3. The team’s sponsorship drive is incredible–carrying an astounding 50+ sponsors on its roster–including separating out the banking category into Core Banking, Wealth Banking, Credit Card banking, which allows them to get money from three separate banks.  
  4. Merchandise sales are very strong.   The Leafs have just announced it was changing its third jersey to be a replica of the 1967 jersey.   Which means all those fans have to go out and drop another $129 on a new jersey.  This past year, the Leafs have added a sports bar to the ACC, just outside the arena that has hundreds of TVs and seating for two thousand people.  
  5. Control of Costs works for the Leafs.  The NHL has a salary cap that holds teams to $60 Million per year, which is 6% of the team’s brand value.  For the other hockey teams worth $200 Million, that’s 30% of their brand value.   That’s a huge competitive advantage for the Leafs–still defies why they can’t win. 
The P&L

In 2011 with the world facing a global recession, following up on a 29th place finish in the standings, the Leafs revenue went up ELEVEN PERCENT!!!  And because of the player strike a few years ago, player costs have gone down from $69 million to $57 million.   Revenue up, costs down.  That’s a P&L the people of Price Waterhouse dream about.    A lot of the value is now connected to how much money will be made in the future.  The NHL just signed a 10 year contract giving the Leafs cost certainty.  While I still don’t think the Leafs will win a championship in the next 10 years, I would bet they will hit $2 Billion.  

It’s not easy being a Leaf Fan. Yet like a drug, it’s not easy to stop being a Leaf fan.

 

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To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

 

Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. 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
  3. 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

 

Brand LeadershipI 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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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

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.  Im 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.

Write a Better Positioning Statement by Going to War with Your Consumer’s Enemy

The most beloved brands are based on an idea that is worth loving. 

It is the idea that connects the Brand with consumers.  Consumers connect to ideas more than just facts about your product.  And 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.

The best Brand Ideas start with the conquering of the Enemy of your Consumers

As people start writing positioning statements, they normally start off with some feature oriented things they do better than others.  And it normally just sounds like a category feature that everyone basically does.  It’s like saying a car drives.  You end up with boring, undifferentiated, features that you’ve said for years.  Consumers don’t care about what you do until you begin caring about consumers need.  

And when Brand Leaders feel stuck I like to ask them: “who is your consumer’s enemy?”  Once you answer that, you’ll see the ideas get richer.   Use the attack of the enemy to generate a bigger idea which then acts as a focal point to set up your brand promise.  You will start to notice that the answers get better because you are connecting with your consumer because it helps solve something in their lives.  You are now in the consumers shoes. 

Here’s a few examples of how it might work:

  • Apple:  The enemy of most people who have ever turned on a computer is  Frustration.  Nothing ever seems to work and we end up overwhelmed and feeling incompetent.  Along comes Apple who attacks Frustration by making everything so simple.  Everything Apple does is about simplicity, not about technology.  Apple makes me feel smarter.  Apple makes it easy for anyone to download songs, edit photos or even just start using their computer on day 1, right out of the box.   Taking that one step further, Apple’s brand promise is “we make it easier to love technology, so that you can experience the future.”  
  • Starbucks:  Back in the 70’s, people loved taking a moment early in the morning to sit with their coffee and morning newspaper.  Folgers made millions on the tagline “The Best Part of Waking Up is Folger’s in Your Cup”.  Fast forward one generation and the new enemy is the insane hectic lives that we all live.  We rush to get the kids off to school, rush to work, rush to grab a sandwich and work through lunch so we rush to every kid event that night and then slither into bed at 11:15 pm.   Starbucks attacks that hectic life with and the big idea becomes a bit of “me time”.   Starbucks has created a bit of an escape with a euro-flare, people who know your name, a drink customized to your own desires, a few indulgent treats and a nice leather chair to sit with your best friend.  The Starbucks brand promise is “we give you a moment in your day where you can just escape and spoil yourself” 
  • Special K:  For all of us who have gained a few pounds over the years, we keep going on diets and failing over again.  It’s just too difficult for us to make such a life style change.  Diets are just too hard.  And we are left wearing our “fat pants”.  The enemy is not being able to squeeze into your favorite pair of jeans anymore.  Special K came along and created the 2-week challenge to attack the enemy,  offering the easiest diet that anyone can do.   Just replace two meals a day with Special K and you’ll be able to lose weight. It’s that easy.  The brand promise is “With the Special K Challenge, it’s a diet so easy that anyone can drop a Jean size in two weeks.” 
So who is your Consumer’s Enemy?  And how do you turn the attack on that enemy into a Brand Idea?  

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:

 

To read and Article on How Brand Love creates Brand Power, follow this link: Brand Love

 

About Graham Robertson: 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. 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. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth.  To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

10 “Stop It’s” to avoid failing on the Customer Experience

The most Beloved Brands create a brand experience that lives up to even over-delivers against the brand’s promise.  I always like to remind myself that the customer is the most selfish animal on the planet, and deservedly so, because they have given you their hard-earned money.  Brand Leaders are always fixated on driving demand to increase share and sales.  Yet they usually only reach for marketing tactics like advertising, special promotion or new products.  It takes years to get customers to change their behavior and move away from their favorite brand and try yours.  Yet it takes seconds of bad service for you to lose a customer for life.

There are five sources of connection for a brand 1) Brand Promise:  Positioning 2) Strategy:  Plan  3) The Brand Story:  Communication 4) Freshness:  Innovation and finally 5) The Experience:  impacted by the culture and operations. As Brand Leaders, we tend to think someone else is managing the customer experience.  But it’s all part of the brand and you should be constantly managing the customer experience so it over-delivers against the brand promise.  The brand promise is not just for great external communication.  It equally acts as an internal beacon for the company’s culture to look to for how to behave and so the organization is set up to deliver.

Here’s 10 things you can Stop Doing:

Bad Service Rule #1:  Stop It with the attitude of “I’m in shirts not ties”.  It can be extremely frustrating walking up to an employee of a store who has no clue about anything but their own little world.  And even worse when they just point and say “go over there”.  The better service is those who take the extra step by jumping in and helping and those know what’s going on in every part of the brand–not just their own world.   Try asking someone at Whole Foods where something is and they will walk you right over to the product you’re asking about and ask if you need anything else.

Bad Service Rule #2:  Stop It when you make the customer do the work.  The airlines have been shifting all their work over to customers for years–boarding pass, bag tag and now even lifting your suitcase up onto the conveyor belt.  While it might help you control your costs in the short-term, you’ll never be a Beloved Brand and you’ll never be able to charge a premium price for your services.  Instead, in a highly price competitive marketplace, you just end up passing those cost savings onto to the customer in lower prices.  No wonder most airlines are going bankrupt.

Bad Service Rule #3:  Stop It when you feel compelled to bring up the fine print when dealing with a customer problem.  Last week I had a computer problem, but I felt extra confident because I had paid extra money to get the TOTAL service plan.  Yet with my first computer problem I was told the TOTAL service plan did not include hardware,software, water damage or physical damage.  With a computer, what else is there?   As a consumer, I had gone through the brand funnel–from consideration to purchase–and made a choice to buy your brand.  Yet, at the first sign of my frustration with your brand you are deciding to say to me “don’t come back”.  I had a problem with my iPod a few years ago and returned it to the Apple store.  They went into the back room and got a new iPod for me and said “would you like us to transfer all your songs over?”.  I was stunned.  Apple took a problem and turned me into a happy customer who wanted to spend even more money with them.

Bad Service Rule #4:  Stop It when you send a phone call to an answering machine.  We’ve all experienced this and secretly many of us have done this.  Now if you know you’re going to get a machine, it’s OK to say “is it OK if you get their machine”.   But willingly sending a caller into a machine is just plain lazy and it says you just don’t care.  Treat them with the respect that a paying customer has earned with you and make sure there is a human on the other line.

Bad Service Rule #5:  Stop It with processes that make it look like you’ve never been a customer before.  While brand leaders tend to think they own the strategy and advertising, it is equally important that you also own the customer experience.  While the positive view of the purchase process is driven by a brand funnel, you should also use a “Leaky Bucket” analysis to understand where and why you are losing customers.   It is hard work to get a customer into your brand funnel, it is great discipline to move them through that brand funnel by ensuring that every stage is set up to make it easy for the customer to keep giving you money.  Step into the shoes of your customers and experience the brand through their eyes on a regular basis so you can effectively manage the experience.  When you find leaks to the brand funnel, find ways to close them so you can hang on to the customers you’ve worked so hard to get into the doors.

Bad Service Rule #6:  Stop It with the trying to win every customer interaction.  Last year after Christmas I was lucky enough to be 34th in the return line.  For some reason they put the most angry person they could find to manage the returns line.  With every customer, this guy was hell-bent on trying to break the customer’s spirit so they’d avoid returning the product.   As I watched, I felt like I was headed into a police interrogation.  On the other hand, if you want to see a comfortable returns policy, try returning something at Costco.  They take the stance that they are on the side of their “members” and help you go up against the big bad manufacturers.  If you don’t have your receipt, they’ll print it out for you.  At Costco, the returns process is where they earn that $50-100 membership price.  Just maybe you should start treating your customers like members and see if it forces you to see things differently.

Bad Service Rule #7:  Stop It when you are explaining your problems instead of listening to the customer’s problems.  When a place is completely messed up, some people feel compelled to tell you how stupid they think this is. Unfortunately, this constantly complaining ‘why me’ attitude can quickly become systemic and contagious within the culture.  It takes an effort to turn the culture around–laying in service values, driving process that helps reward good service, and driving personal accountability within everyone.

Bad Service Rule #8:  Stop It with the hollow apologies that seems like you are reading from a manual.  No one wants to deal with people who just feel like they are going through the motions.  It’s crucial that you set up a culture that is filled with authentic people who have a true passion for customers.  TD Bank retail staff does an exceptional job in being real with customers.  When you consider that they hire from the same pool of talent as all the other banks, it’s obviously the culture of caring about their customers that really makes the difference in separating their customer experience from others.

Bad Service Rule #9:  Stop It when you try using my complaint call as a chance to up-sell me  The only up-sell is to get me to come back again.   Last month, I had an issue with my internet being way too slow.  When I called my local service provider, instead of addressing how bad their current service was, the first response was to try selling me a better service plan that with a higher monthly fee and a higher priced modem.  And then all of a sudden, they tried to sell me a home security system.   If a customer is a point of frustration, why would they want to pay you even more money for a bad service.  You haven’t earned my business.  The best in class service is the Ritz Carlton who proactively look to turn customer problems into a chance to WOW the customer.  It’s built right into the culture as employees are encouraged to brainstorm solutions and empowered with up to $2,000.  Instead of up-selling, the Ritz spends the extra effort to ensure you’re satisfied with the service you’ve already paid for.

Bad Service Rule #10:  Stop It when it just becomes a job for you and you forget the passion you have for the business.  When your team starts to feel like they have no power, they just start to show up as pencil-pushing bureaucrats.  There’s no passion left–as it’s been sucked out by a culture with a complacent attitude and a bunch of check in-check out types who follow the job description and never do anything beyond it.  Ask yourself “why do you come to work” and if the answer doesn’t show up in your work, then you know that the culture needs a complete overhaul.  If you don’t love the work, then how do you expect your customer to love the brand?  

Brand = Culture

Beloved Brands create an exceptional customer experience.  They know it’s not just about advertising and innovation.  As a consumer, I’ve become spoiled by the best of the brands who raise the bar and continue to surprise and delight me.  Think of how special you feel when you are dealing with Disney, Starbucks and Apple.  And compare that to how demoralized you feel when dealing with the airlines, utilities and electronics shops.  For the Beloved Brands, they understand that Culture and Brand are One.  The Brand becomes an internal beacon for the culture—and the brand’s people have to genuinely be the strongest most outspoken fans who spread the brand’s virtues.

As you look at your own customer experience, take a walk in your customers shoes and see where your customer would rate you.   Are they with you because they love you and want to be with you or because they have to be with you?  Even though they like the product, they may be indifferent to your brand.  And they’ll be gone at the first chance at an alternative.  And as a brand leader, your brand is likely stuck on a rational promise, unable to separate yourself from competitors and instead you are left competing on price and promotion.

  • Begin by holding the culture up the lens of the brand DNA and ensure the right team in place to deliver against the needs of the brand.
  • Start finding ways to create a culture that is more consumer centric (customer first)
  • Begin to push the culture to create a unique delivery of the product experience.  Use Leaky Bucket analysis to take a walk in yoru customers shoes and to address weaknesses.
  • Set up forums for innovation—that create an energy through the culture and one that starts to take risks on the best ideas.
  • Use a purpose driven vision, with a set of beliefs and values to challenge the team to create and deliver that experience.
  • Begin using power of a loved brand to attract and retain the best.  Find fans of the brand who will become your front line spokespeople.  They bring that passion for the brand.  Just ask the guys in the blue shirts at the Apple stores.

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:

 

To read How Beloved Brands fall from grace, follow this link:  how-beloved-brands-fall-from-grace

 

About Graham Robertson: 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. 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. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth.  To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1