Displaying items by tag: Brand Strategy

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.

Wednesday, 05 June 2019 11:42

Traditionally, large organisations have gravitated to agency partners who match them in size and stature. In recent years, the need for a global presence and mass capabilities offered by the traditional full-service agency model has dissipated and there has been a trend for a more tailored approach - where organisations are seeking agencies who understand their niche or industry.

BrandMatters specialises in B2B brand research and brand strategy. In particular, we have worked with many organisations in the financial services and professional services industries.

The team of senior marketers at BrandMatters have all come from client-side brand and strategic marketing roles. Over the years, specialising has enabled the team to develop deep expertise in their specific discipline and become subject matter experts in specific industries and B2B branding. They have an understanding of the unique challenges faced by these organisations.

BrandMatters’ portfolio of clients showcases over 16 years of experience dealing with complex brand architecture challenges, huge changes in market landscapes and the challenge of communicating a brand’s purpose both internally and externally. 

For Paul Nelson, BrandMatters’ Managing Director, it is clear that research is the key to brand strategy for B2B organisations. The role of brand in B2B organisations has often been seen as secondary. Over the years, B2B branding has evolved and has become more of a driving force behind organisational strategy and businesses providing value over and above their core product or service offering. Brand can act as an anchor that grounds the business in its values, beliefs and future goals. It defines a vision and a set of behaviours that drives the internal culture of a business and results in a consistent experience of clients and customers.

When communicating your message in a B2B environment, a brand needs to ensure the message is highly logic driven rather than solely relying on the emotive levers pulled in traditional B2C marketing communications. In general, B2B marketing strategy needs to deliver a product or service that results in increased productivity or reduced costs for the target market. Undertaking both qualitative and quantitative research gives businesses the insight needed to make strategic decisions about their brand direction and it often brings out other underlying strategic business-related opportunities and threats that need to be addressed.

Through brand research, BrandMatters is able to distil valuable insights that delve deep into the customer psyche and uncover the truths about brand perception, market challenges and consumer needs which are often common across each industry but can also be unique to each organisation.

Independent research allows clients of B2B organisations an opportunity to be heard. This, in itself, is a valuable demonstration that their opinions matter, and that their needs are being addressed.

Choosing the right brand agency to work with can be a challenge; you need to consider your budget, but you should also feel comfortable that the agency understands your industry or niche. In a world of mass marketing and a one size fits all approach, consumers and businesses are thirsty for personalisation and a brand that truly understands their needs at all stages of the buyer journey.

Many larger agencies are starting to divide and conquer - realising the benefits of smaller, niche agencies to satisfy the demand of specialisation. At BrandMatters, we work with clients of all sizes and the general consensus, regardless of their size, has been that we punch above our weight. The strategic insight delivered via in-depth research has proven to be incredibly strong ammunition for success.

CEOs and CMOs of some of Australia’s largest and most successful financial services brands have said that having an agency such as BrandMatters as their partner has given them the confidence to make large and complex business decisions. These strategic decisions often guide the organisation forward in a new direction or confirm and cement their existing direction. In some cases, it has been clarity of direction that was sorely lacking.

The small but experienced team at BrandMatters are experts in delivering research in a way that helps:

  • Shine a light on the current situation
  • Uncover the distinctive attributes that will make your brand relevant and attractive to your target market.
  • Articulate these distinctive positioning attributes in a way that is easy to communicate throughout the whole organisation and gain buy-in.
  • Execute the plan with confidence and drive success.

Across all industries, there is a trend for consumers to be attracted to a more distinctive brand that is tailored to their needs. Customer experience has become such an essential ingredient in your future brand strategy regardless of the size of your brand. Understanding exactly what customers want and need is the key.

Customers - whether B2B or B2C, want to be heard and appreciated. They also want to be understood, and in complex industries, this is the special skill of a specialised agency. BrandMatters helps businesses listen, learn and then demonstrate their understanding.

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?

In any successful relationship, trust is built up over time, and every interaction can have a positive or negative impact on the level of trust in that relationship. The relationship between customers and brands is equally built on trust and determined by every interaction a customer has with that brand. Customer loyalty is a key measurement and driver in brand building - understanding what brings the customer back is at the heart of success. Brands need to focus on their interactions with customers, throughout the customer journey, so as to ensure they build trust and loyalty.

When it comes to analysing your brand’s customer experience, it is important to first understand your brand: what you stand for, what is your offering and what sets you apart from your competitors. BrandMatters has developed a simple Brand Diagnostic Tool to help you get a clear picture of your brand and identify the areas you need to improve upon.

Simply satisfying your customers is no longer enough, brands need to create strong and long-lasting relationships with their customers. To demonstrate how brand and CX come together, BrandMatters have developed a diagnostic system to measure how these components come together.

The following 6 criteria were used to evaluate a brand:

  • Customer is in control – Customers feel that they’re in control of their journey and able to make their own decisions along the way.
  • Provides good value – Customers receive what they expect, with no hidden fees or surprises, ensuring all service goals are reached.
  • Available and accessible – Customers can reach the service/product through the channels its customers expect, as well as being available at all expected touchpoints.
  • Easy to use – Information is easy to find and where you expect it to be, ensuring the CX is as intuitive as it can be.
  • Supportive – The brand provides the right information at the right time, explaining each of the steps and helps the customer along the CX journey, making the customer feel supported.
  • Tailored – Information is relevant to the audience and its expectations - it anticipates its needs and design its interactions to meet these.

To understand how this works, the BrandMatters' team have selected some of the brands they believe succeed in creating positive customer experiences in various ways. We applied scores across each of the 6 criteria to see how each brand scored in relation to each other across the criteria.

Our team chose a cross section of brands in various sectors with a few Australian brands included.  The brands we assessed include – Airbnb, SBS, Uber, Birdsnest, Service NSW and Harris Farm were charted across a CX Circumplex Summary.

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The above circumplex depicts all of the brands we assessed and how they rated against each of the attributes.

When drilling down on each brand – there were a few highlights to be mentioned in terms of customer experience for each of the brands

Yasmin’s CX review on SBS

Compared with all of the other free to air channels, and even compared to Netflix and Foxtel, I find SBS exceeds my expectations as far as educational, inspiring programming is concerned. The fact that is free to air, as well as available on demand (with not too many commercials), means it is accessible to all Australians regardless of geography, age or cultural background. 

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ I can choose which shows to watch and how I watch them (live vs SBS On Demand)

+ Their programming is all free (compared to Foxtel, Netflix etc) there is a range of varied programming that appeals to many diverse consumer groups. It is also tailored and addresses minority groups, special interest and educational subject matter.

+ Online content (such as email, blogs etc) is also great – lots of value-added content relating to subjects of interest to their audience (eg: recipes, interviews, news articles, business articles).

Belinda’s CX review on Harris Farm Markets

There are many reasons why I love Harris Farm Markets. They have recently upgraded the store near where I live, and it has exceeded my expectations as far as a grocery shopping experience goes. Competing with Coles and Woolworths can’t be easy – especially from a purchasing power perspective.

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ The store is interactive, lots of staff roaming around allowing you to try before you buy.

+ Freshness and quality wins over price in terms of value. The Imperfect picks is also a good option for price sensitive customers.

+ The offering of extended grocery options (all environmentally friendly alternatives are great).

+ Their focus on sustainability – they were the first to ban the plastic bag.

Paul’s CX review on Uber

Slightly predictable and cliched, but I can’t go past Uber – especially in the context of their competition, traditional taxis. They do have alternative ride sharing competitors, but I haven’t found a reason to trial them yet.

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ Price estimates, wait times advised, rating system allows quality control. Conversely, with taxis, I have no idea on anything – wait time, car quality, driver quality.

+ In terms of value for money – at least it is transparent (the surge pricing can sometimes mean the value for money attribute can become an issue).

+ Easy to use, intuitive app. Automatic payment post service completion.

Mikaela’s CX review of Airbnb

I have personally used Airbnb on multiple occasions, and it has always exceeded my expectations, from the moment I start searching for my next ‘home’ to the moment I am asked to review my stay. When we break it down into the six attributes it’s easy to see why:

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ Airbnb provides an array of filters from number of rooms and price range, to whether you’d like a spa and fireplace – allowing users to feel in control of finding the exact personalised experience they are searching for.

+ Extensive range for all occasions.

+ Notifications of your up-coming trip and reminders all through the app,

+ Airbnb has recently extended their offering into experiences which is a natural extension.

Edwina’s review of Birdsnest

I have recently discovered the Australian based online clothing store, Birdsnest. I purchased my first item a few months ago and was extremely impressed with the experience - it really felt like a personalised shopping experience and even down to how the items were delivered felt tailored and exceeded my expectations. 

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ An easy to navigate website, with outfit “suggestions” linked to specific occasions, eg travel, work, weddings. Style “capsules” recommend outfits for specific looks, eg casual looks, boho looks, weekends away.

+ Clothing value is matched by the quality which is often not the case with online clothing brands. A bonus surprise was a bunch of discount vouchers that arrived with my purchase – a smart marketing initiative to encourage repeat business.

+ Stock is regularly refreshed, kept in a central location which means it is all shipped together.

+ Interactive in terms of online shopping experience – recommends clothes for your body shape as well as matching accessories.

+ Good return policy plus offers secret discounts for repeat business.

+ Showcases a variety of models wearing the clothing (rather than just size 6 catwalk models).

Purvi’s review of ServiceNSW

I normally don’t look forward to dealing with the admin work I need to do for government agencies as they tend to be unintuitive, bureaucratic and take up a lot of my time - but I was pleasantly surprised when I recently renewed my license at ServiceNSW.

Summary of positive CX attributes:

+ I could choose multiple service offerings and choose whether to do them myself or with some assistance or completely assisted and over the counter. Every point was explained, and I could opt-out at any point.

+ Allowed me to easily compare the different price options and choose the best one for me.

+ I can use the service digitally, over the phone with a translator, in a branch, in a branch – but online with someone walking me through the process. It is very accessible, and the in-store experience is designed to help me learn how to use it online.

So, what do brands need to do in order to deliver on, and exceed their customers’ expectations?

Get to know your ideal customer

Uncovering powerful consumer and market insights and building your brand strategy from there means you will be one step ahead when it comes to building out customer experience and ensuring your brand remains consistent and clear. Through brand research, you can uncover your consumer’s preferences, their habits, their emotions and their desires.

Once you have a deep understanding of your customer, you can develop customer personas. A customer or buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer – based on the facts you have gathered from research and understanding of your real customers. The development of personas helps you continue to attract and appeal to your ideal audience and build a deeper connection.

The more in-tune you are with your target audience the more likely you are to build a strong relationship with them and develop loyalty and advocacy.

Prove yourself and be consistent

A brand is a promise kept, so ensuring your brand delivers on the promises you make is critical. Developing and implementing proof points that resonate with your customers is vital. Consistently demonstrating these proof points to your customers is an important part of your brand strategy.

Measure and evaluate your success

Continual evaluation of your brand’s performance across these key customer experience drivers is essential. The best brands don’t just make good products or provide good service, they exceed expectations along the entire customer journey. 

This is not something exclusive to big budget, long standing brands - in fact many new brands such as Netflix and Spotify are really paving the way in putting CX first and considering the ease, accessibility, customer-centric drivers to propel their brands forward and win the heart of their customers.

At BrandMatters, we specialise in helping you get to know your customers. Through our proven methodology where customer, market and competitor insights are gathered, analysed and then utilised to develop winning brand strategies.

BrandMatters are experts in brand strategy and have a deep understanding of the interactions between brands and CX.  Get in touch to discuss how you can truly understand your customer and drive deep brand loyalty.