The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
How do service organizations, specifically large service organizations lose sight of the customer and the shifting demands of a dynamic market?
Everybody says they’re in business to serve the customer, but the people who are actually customer facing and customer serving are often those with the least experience, the least knowledge and the least authority because that lowers cost-per-serve. Unfortunately, it also lowers quality, depth, flexibility and engagement, compromising the brand experience and making service a commoditized set of processes that frontline staff are judged on their ability to conform to.
The situation should logically resolve itself as people become more valuable to the organization, and therefore gain what has been missing when they were on the frontline – experience, knowledge, authority, influence and networks. But what actually happens is that those people are shepherded into talent programs that promote them further and further away from a direct relationship with customers – which is an increasing juxtaposition in itself – and their focus moves. It becomes more and more introverted.
Market-based innovation then becomes increasingly difficult, because the people now empowered to make change decisions are locked into an internal bubble that seals their own market impressions firmly in the past. They are also fighting battles and priorities that actually have increasingly little to do with where the money comes from.
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education
We need to move on. That’s my take-away from a piece by Tara Walpert Levy. We need to move on from a mind-set based on reach and drop-off, and replace it with one centered on engagement and accumulation. “Historically, our media plans have focused more on exposure and broadcasting than engagement and response…,” writes Levy. “We focused on reaching as large an audience as we could and hoped or planned that of that 100%, we would eventually whittle down to the, call it 5%, of people who actually cared and mattered for our brand. We focused on reach because our ability to measure engagement…was lousy.”
Not any more. Instead of opening the jaws of the sales funnel as far as they will go, Levy calls for an engagement pyramid that flips the funnel on its head. Start with what has always been seen as the end of the filter – the 5% who will be most interested - she says, engage them, get them talking and let the growth begin. Her thinking directly echoes that of Joseph Jaffe whose book of that name some years back first drew my attention to the need to pay attention to the “right” end of the funnel and use commitment as the multiplier.
The thing all brands with a social presence need to be paying attention to, Levy says, are the dynamics of Gen C (the content generation). For this tribe, content is the basis of conversation. It’s the prompt everyone in this generation is looking for in order to have something to share. Gen C are using social networks and content platforms to define their sense of self. They are what they see, what they make and what they distribute. Here’s a great insight: “When they share a video or an image, they’re not just sharing the object, they’re sharing the emotional response it creates.”
And this selfie generation don’t just define their lives this way, they record them as well. One in four upload a video every week and nearly half upload a photo every week. The way I see it that makes almost every Gen C participant a potential media company because so many people are now documentary makers. They are documenting their lives in words, pics, tweets, opinions and shares.Read More
A great piece in AdWeek on the failure of single-item brands is a reminder of a question that comes up a lot: whether to dive deep or go wide. Specialty vs diversity.
Both are attractive. For some brand owners, the opportunity to offer a detailed and nuanced offering within an area is the embodiment of singularity. In a complex and cluttered world, this argument goes, there’s power in being known for one thing. There was a lovely story in The New York Times International recently about Michael Vachon who was writing software until he discovered that there was a real interest in upstart American distilleries in London. Cue Maverick Drinks, catering for a renewed interest in American spirits. It’s a great story based on a growing need. So success, right?
Yes, but as the AdWeek article points out, vulnerability also. A fashionable rush on a specific item is usually followed by an equally unfashionable rush as consumers move onto whatever captures their attention next. That’s the shortfall of being a bright shiny object. At some point you fade. If you’ve expanded resources and footprint in the meantime to meet current and anticipated demand, the sudden departure of consumers in droves quickly leaves you on the rocks. The disappearance of Crumbs was the latest in a long line-up of one-hit brands that have gone the same way.
Diversity can also look very attractive. Here, the attraction is to expand the offering into new markets in order to trade on current equity and to attract new customers. Again, the theory has its merits – capitalize on your reputation and provide your customers with more opportunities to engage with you more often. There comes a point though when brands can expand so far beyond their core business that they either mean nothing to their consumers anymore (because they’re trying to be all things to all people) or they lose sight of where they began. Starbucks, famously, lost sight of its core business of coffee in its bid to establish footprint before self-correcting.Read More
Do you remember when you were a child the first time someone made you a paper plane? If your recollection is anything like mine, you couldn’t believe how it left your hand and made its way across the room. Before long though, it lost height and velocity, and fell to the floor.
One of my more cynical friends has this joke about how much media budget is needed to keep a brand going successfully: “Give me all the money you can burn and it will go like a rocket!”
It’s easy to see a brand as an expense that relies on getting attention to make its presence felt and to make the expenditure worth it. Detractors see it that way too. They’re very quick to opine that unless they’re constantly fed money to keep them in front of consumers, brands simply fizzle and fall to earth.
We don’t share that view. Particularly now, with all the different ways that we access and talk about brands, we see them less as rockets kept airborne by media schedules, and more as planes that need air flowing over their wings to help them maintain lift.
Those currents are made up of a number of elements that collectively generate value. They include:
The currents work in different combinations and to different levels of intensity and effectiveness at various pricing and positioning points across every competitive sector. And when they are working well, brands maintain their elevation, even climb. The key point here is that success is not just about the money you spend on your brand, it is about the lift you generate and maintain through this combination of factors, some of which you control and some of which are beyond your control.Read More
We shouldn’t even think of the term “customer service” as being about something that is valuable to customers. In fact, customer service is worth next to nothing. The reasons are simple. We live in a service-focused age, and the people who buy from you know they’re customers. So the term “customer service” does not describe anything customers don’t expect and it certainly doesn’t envelope anything of particular value to them.
Every business is a service business in some sense these days.
Secondly, and more importantly, customer service is actually the means to the real goal: sustained and profitable customer relationships. Please note that distinction. Customer service is how brands deliver customer experiences. It is the process and the framework whereby a brand looks to engage with prospects and buyers. It’s how a proudly distinctive and likeable brand forges relationships with customers through actions that mirror its core values and set it apart from its competitors. And it’s those experiences that count. Not the process itself.
You’d think we’d all agree on that. You’d think everyone could see that experiences are everything these days given how similar products are, and that developing and delivering unique experiences is the logical basis for preference. Yet so often, too often, distinctiveness and experiences are the last things that customers get.
And I suspect that’s because, for many brands, what customers do get continues to be organized as a numbers game internally, oriented around technical and operational capability.Read More