Displaying items by tag: brand research

What does it mean for a brand to be authentic? It has a lot to do with ethical behaviour but mostly it should be about telling the truth and demonstrating your commitment to this truth. Consumers are seeking out brands that do more than just talking about how great they are, they are looking for proof that the brand is willing and able to practise what they preach. It is increasingly vital that brands rise up to this challenge and prove to consumers they intend to live up to their brand promise.

Authenticity is not something you can create via a campaign. It needs to be demonstrated across every touch point and every moment the brand interacts with the consumer. Most importantly it needs to be true - not just a gimmick. Consumers are savvy and their expectations are high. According to last year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, the expectation on CEOs to step up and lead change was up to a record high of 65%. CEOs and CMOs can achieve this by working together to put brand purpose front and centre of the organisation.

Not only are consumers seeking out and choosing to support authentic brands, they are also actively calling out inauthentic brands (mainly via social media). The speed at which disapproval can spread is rapid, and the digital footprint left is extremely hard to reverse or repair.

As a brand strategy agency, BrandMatters work with brands big and small, established or start-up, to develop an authentic brand narrative and positioning. A brand’s story needs to be rooted in the brand vision and needs to ensure it addresses the target audience in a way that resonates with them and makes them believe the brand truly understands their needs.

In this time of disruptors and game-changers, no market, industry and category is safe from being called out or completely alienated by consumers. In the wake of the banking royal commission - a recent Roy Morgan Report indicated that 1.3 million Australians are considering opening new bank accounts in the next 6 months. In an industry where the hassle often outweighs the motivation, this number is staggering. ING and Bank Australia are two examples of financial services brands who have stepped up with a message that targets these consumers and are demonstrating how brands, even banks, can be good, ethical and authentic.

How can brands demonstrate their authenticity

Customer centricity 

Putting the customer first. This shouldn’t be a new concept, but for certain industries, complacency has taken over - performance has been measured by profits and dividends alone. This view is incredibly short sighted. Brands need to put their customers first if they want to survive long term. 

Longevity and consistency

Brands need to stick to their guns. Once they have developed and articulated their brand position and brand values, they need to find ways to communicate and demonstrate these values. Examples such as Nike, Lego and closer to home Qantas are legacy brands who have consistently demonstrated their values. They have managed to stay relevant and consumers appreciate this consistency because trust has been developed and consumers know what to expect from these brands.

It doesn’t mean that they can’t change, adapt or innovate - but when they do it must be in a way that is in-keeping with their brand position and brand values.

Purpose before profit

In the past, CEOs and CFOs have been told to put the shareholder first. Now, even their largest stakeholders are challenging this, and realising that ethics and sustainability needs to be part of the equation.

Many brands and organisations have implemented a corporate social responsibility policy (CSR), and actively support a charity or support the community in some way, shape or form. The main issue with CSR is it is often seen as a side responsibility that comes after profits. The values that lead to a CSR policy should be shifted over to become part of the brand values rather than a side project.

Brand research

Brands who care about what their customers are thinking and feeling will engage in brand research or brand tracking. Asking for feedback and continually improving based on the feedback will help brands keep a pulse on the market and the needs of their target audience. It inevitably will help them make decisions about the future of the brand and how to stay relevant. NPS is a great way to measure consumer sentiment. Simply put, understanding the likelihood of your customers recommending your brand is a great benchmark of your brand equity and customer satisfaction.

Many businesses have adopted the Net-Promoter Score as their dipping stick into customer satisfaction - if they see the levels change, this can trigger some more intensive investigation or research and lead to changes in the brand strategy.

Examples of brands that have succeeded in demonstrating their authenticity

Airbnb

Airbnb’s brand positioning is ‘belong anywhere’. The idea behind Airbnb (people essentially opening their homes for strangers to share) was incredibly reliant on building trust. More importantly, the trust needed to be two-way. The owner of the property (host) needed to trust the customer (guest) and the guest needed to trust that the offering from the host was authentic and genuine.         

To many, this seemed like an impossible level of trust and convincing people would be no simple task. Airbnb demonstrated their authenticity by implementing a system of support, connection and safety.

Further to this, they are continually standing up and shouting out about the things they value and believe in. Examples of this were their support for marriage equality and also their protest of the Trump travel ban with their campaign #weaccept. Not only did support for these issues align to their brand, but the message of acceptance is one that underpins the trust they have built in their community (both guests and hosts). Airbnb’s entire business model relies on establishing this trust, building relationships between strangers, which is essentially what every brand needs to do.

Bank Australia 

When reading Bank Australia’s vision and values you may well disbelieve it. Bank Australia was established in 1957, originally as the CSIRO Co-operative Credit Union. In 2015 it was renamed Bank Australia and continues its’ focus on ethical and sustainable banking - which is 100% owned by its’ customers.

The timing of the launch of their recent campaign was precise and resonated immediately with consumers who had lost faith in the traditional banks and were looking for a better alternative.

The campaign highlights how the brand is turning its values into action - for example by only investing in renewable energy and affordable housing solutions and not investing in fossil fuels.

 

Trust is earned through authentic interactions

At BrandMatters, we believe relationships matter, a positive relationship between your brand and your customer is fundamental to success. In a world where consumers are bombarded with choice, as a brand, you need to stand for something - otherwise, the consumer choice has no critical path and will end up being about price. Living and breathing your brand values (both internally and externally) will help you develop a strong bond with like-minded customers.

Creating buy-in from your employees - who in turn will become brand ambassadors - is a great first step (read more in our recent blog employers guide to re-building trust in a disillusioned world). Living your brand values internally - with a strong employee value proposition - is a great way to establish how strongly it resonates and will result in your employees becoming strong brand advocates, working from the inside out.

Starting with a strong set of principles, we can help you develop and articulate your brand’s purpose, and most importantly provide the tools to bring this purpose to life through authentic interactions with your customers.

It takes time, investment, integrity and consistency to build a strong brand. At BrandMatters, we often talk to our clients about a brand being more than just the logo or brand name, however, your brand name or brand name used in a logo, can become the most distinctive visual cues for your brand.

One option to protect the value and longevity of your brand is trademarking. A trademark's essential function is to distinguish goods or services of one company from another. They must therefore be of distinctive character and can't just be descriptive of the goods or services sold.

The Australian Government's IP Department defines a trademark as:

“A trademark can be a letter, number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture, aspect of packaging or any combination of these.”

As a branding agency, we always strongly recommend a full due diligence process is undertaken on any new brand name or logo. It confirms registrability and identifies any potential threat or infringement that may occur.

 

How registration works in Australia

Trademarking in Australia is governed by IP Australia and comes under Trademark, Copyright and Australian Consumer Law.

Trademarks are registered under classes for both goods and services categories: 34 classes for products covering pharmaceuticals to furniture to food and drinks; and 11 classes of services covering telecommunications to auditing to freight transport.

Classes help expand the volume of trademarks currently licensed – identical or similar trademarks can be registerable once evaluated and confirmed that they are in non-competing industries, for example and hypothetically “Star Plumbing” or “Star Theatre”.

 

What can’t be registered?

It’s best to avoid disappointment. Given the millions of brand names, logos and website URLs in the world, there is a slim chance the name an organisation has fallen in love with is available. Decades of trademarking, defensive trademarking (where organisations register variants of their trademarks) and proactive registration of every possible URL variant means brand agencies need to find inventive circumvents to create brand names that provide not only true market distinctiveness but also trademark registrability and URL domain purchase.

This provides a substantial challenge.  So, what are some pitfalls to avoid from the start? There are some exclusions that can’t be registered:

  • Descriptive brand names, eg “Orange Juice”
  • Names that reference quality or outcomes
  • Geographic references
  • Common surnames
  • Offensive or profane language
  • Commonly adopted words
  • A combination of the above.

 

The right to challenge

The intent of copyright law is to ensure clear use of names, logos and other intellectual property where there are no conflicts. This process takes time. Once an organisation has submitted a trademark application, IP Australia provides the initial pass to proceed based on its own preliminary checks. The application then moves to a period of “challenge”, where other entities can put forth a case against registration of the pending trademark where they feel it is similar or substantially similar to their own. If the pending trademark passes the challenge period, the trademark can operate in the intended market and category with the legal protections in place for the trademark.

 

Why trademarks are important

A registered trademark provides a brand with exclusive rights to use, license and sell the trademark, ensuring the brand is free of any usage issues within the target market and jurisdiction.

And this registration prior to launching in the market is critical. It’s tempting to take the chance and launch a brand without the trademarks being registered. And there might be many reasons for this. First mover advantage. Merger & acquisitions. Numerous other time pressures.

But launching into the market without registration is fraught with risk. The real threat is where, in the absence of the due diligence process, a brand’s name or logo are identical or substantially similar to that of another in the target market or an adjacent market, the market’s geography or another geography.

This opens the brand to the risk of legal recourse from the entities that own the identical or substantially similar trademarked brand name and logo. At best, the unregistered brand and branding will need to be pulled from the market. At worst, it can be argued as constituting misleading and deceptive conduct with inevitable legal ramifications.

 

Brands going international

Registering a trademark in any jurisdiction provides a brand exclusive legal right to use, license and sell within that jurisdiction for the goods and services for which it is registered. Where the rights are for one jurisdiction, eg, Australia, this is straightforward.

However, when brands enter international markets there are a number of other considerations beside ensuring distinctiveness and registrability.

It’s important to ensure from the outset that the desired trademark is registrable in all intended markets. Piecemeal registration, for example registering first in Australia and then in other jurisdictions, may result in availability in Australia, but non-availability in other markets.

A further consideration is that some names and logo marks are culturally specific, and don't always translate as well in the context of other markets. With the availability of names restricted and the use of made-up brand names circumventing this problem, what may sound like a smart brand name in Australia may in fact sound rude, profane or embarrassing in another language.

 

Assurance from the start

Taking the time to conduct a full comprehensive search via IP lawyers is an essential part of due diligence in ensuring an intended mark can be deployed in all intended jurisdictions. Identical, substantially identical, mis-translations, cultural considerations and URL availability all play into the registrability of the desired trademark both in Australia and in other geographies. Best to avoid disappointment, and check from the start.

It is never too early to protect your brand with a trademark, especially when you are planning to invest significant funds in brand awareness and drive your brand positioning in a crowded marketplace. There are a number of resources available to find out more about trademarking – IP Australia is a great starting point. At BrandMatters, we build strong, unique, relevant brands that will become your organisation's most valuable asset – so protecting this is vital.  

Since the Royal Commission Final Report and throughout the hearings Commissioner Hayne has repeatedly come back to two connected areas: remuneration and culture. The inwardly focused remuneration schemes that prioritised sales and profit over customer benefit have caused a great many of the sector’s systematic problems and created a ‘win at all costs’ culture. So what can they do now?

 We see four key factors that summarise the journey to the situation we now find ourselves in:

  • A consistent market and media focus on individual industry player market performance and shareholder returns.
  • A highly protected market with little competition and almost insurmountable barriers to entry.
  • A deeply honed and sophisticated sales infrastructure, with short term incentives layered right through the organisation.
  • An under-resourced and slightly intimidated regulator – ill-equipped or unwilling to detect or handle the sheer scale of potential malfeasance that has occurred over the decades.

 

In case you need some evidence that things need to change 

  • As reported in Mumbrella 22 January 2019, Brand Finance annual report highlights how Australia’s big four banks suffered a $1.1 billion drop in brand value, led by ANZ.
  • ClearView estimated it had breached the anti-hawking provisions, somewhere between 300,000 and 303,000 times in just over three years.
  • $6 billion of commissions paid to financial advisers with respect to life insurance over a five-year period.
  • In the past six months since the Banking Royal Commission commenced, consumer satisfaction ratings with banks has dropped from 81.2% to 78%, the lowest satisfaction rating banks have seen in more than seven years.

 

Some suggestions as to how the financial services industry can respond

First and foremost, there must be a united front. What’s needed is a true and authentic commitment from the entire industry to work towards rebuilding consumer trust. A collective action and a collective promise made, shared and then kept. Admittedly much easier said, than done.

The industry would benefit from an entirely new approach, a new norm to be created where customer centricity is the key focus – in the knowledge that from truly satisfied customers profit will prevail, and shareholder returns will come. A new focus on serving and improving the lives of customers will prove they can be profitable and trustworthy at the same time.

Again, very idealistic, but that is how dramatic the shift needs to be.  An institution that can put its customers first, can have a broader purpose, can nurture and create a new and positive culture. One that focusses on delivering for customers and that isn’t all about internal remuneration.

The regulator and the Government also has a role to play, through ongoing relaxation around regulation and licensing allowing greater levels of competition in the industry. This will force the major players to be fairer and more responsive to their customers’ needs. We are already seeing new entrants and disruptors joining the market including neo and fintech banks, like Volt and 86400.

The regulator also needs greater resourcing and financial resourcing, so it can stand up to the fiscal might that exists in some of Australia’s wealthiest companies. The regulator could also lead a new shared vision, code of practice and industry wide charter to create shared value for a much wider group of consumers, investors, and the broader community. It could also lead an entire industry wide – as well as individual focus – around remuneration structures and incentive schemes. This needs to fundamentally consider the link between quantitative sales targets and compensation, to minimise misconduct and help individuals ensure that they prioritise the meeting of customer’s needs.

 

Some suggestions and guidance around culture

A key to success is recognising that organisational culture is constantly evolving. Embedding culture, reinforcing the right behaviours and aligning conduct and risk management practices need to be an ongoing and everyday practice within everyday business. We need to ensure over time that complacency does not creep back in when this moves from the headlines.

As always, leadership matters. Senior leadership must embed conduct and culture messages and expectations from the top down, and from middle management through to customer facing staff. Measures must be in place around how all levels of employees are trained, promoted, supported and measured.

 

Finally, at an individual brand level – it all comes down to purpose

Financial services brand research highlights the need to start with the biggest piece in the complex world of brand – vision. A reason to exist, a reason to get up out of bed, to serve customers. A vision that is compelling and drives a positive internal culture, doesn’t matter if you’re B2B or B2C. A focus on culture that serves and encourages the appropriate behaviours through every strata of the organisation – including middle management and especially client facing staff. For financial services brands that means creating a vision that creates buy in from all employees to say ‘hey, we are here for a broader purpose than simply profit’ – we must be here to do more than just create value for ourselves and for our shareholders.

Is the industry up for this level of change? Well, the jury is still out on this. However, there are already positive signs. The disposing of wealth and insurance businesses and other potential conflicts of interest, together with a renewed focus on their core functions should see the capacity to drive new and better outcomes for customers. This includes being far more sensitive to customers human needs.

In summary, this is a complex and daunting task for the industry and the individual brands, including Westpac, Nab, AMP and Commonwealth Bank. Simultaneously they have to re-build trust, along with managing new digital entrants, evolving customer needs, market expectations and overall competitive pressures.

For financial services brands, it is time to listen, learn and act. With significant rewards for customers, for brands and shareholders. In terms of a make or break moment for the industry, it feels like this is the moment to take positive action. If not now, when?