Ben Wise on Branding

Watching the world through the lens of the brand

What Else Is Influencing Your Brand?

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Great brands have a deep understanding of not only the functional attributes that drive consumer behaviour but also the emotional attributes. Unfortunately, this is still a step too short.

Despite all of the consumer surveys and focus groups your brand may have conducted to land on the perfect set of purchase drivers, this testing is done in a controlled environment. And the real world is anything but a controlled environment. The perception of your brand will change based on other factors in the lives of your consumers.

To set your brand apart, you need to understand what these factors are and how you can influence them.

The shopping experience at The Beer Store provides a perfect example (for readers outside Ontario, there are only really two places to buy beer, The Beer Store and the government operated liquor store).

It starts with having to choose what you want from a giant wall that shows only logos and prices. There are literally hundreds of options, but customers aren’t able to take their time and pickup or examine each product. Then the unfortunate customer places their order at the counter which gets yelled into a microphone for the whole store to hear. With a large lineup forming behind you, it is not surprising that very few people ask any questions of the clerk. Finally a heavy case of beer is send via conveyor belt from the warehouse in the back, thus completing the purchase.

Needless to say, this is not a very pleasant experience and one that some consumers have found very intimidating.

If you sell your beer through The Beer Store it is essential to take into account these external influences on your potential consumers, who might be frazzled by the time they make their purchase. What can you do to make this experience easier? How can you make it easier to purchase your product in this situation? Here are a few quick ideas:

  • Focus on the unaided awareness of your brand to ensure consumers can order it without finding it on the wall
  • Keep your logo simple so it is easily recognized on the wall of brands
  • Include different packing options in your marketing communications so consumers know what to order

There are likely many more ways to improve the shopping experience and thus positively influence consumer behaviour, but it requires you to understand their state of mind at the time of purchase.

What do you think? How do external influences impact the behaviour of your customers?


Written by benwisebranding

July 6, 2010 at 9:46 pm

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Customers Divided

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It is often mistakenly assumed that rich consumers spend more money across the board than the less affluent. It is at your peril that you believe this piece of conventional wisdom.

What is actually happening is a division within each individual consumer. Essentially, consumers are deciding what is important to them and what is not. People are then paying premium prices for those items they deem important, and cutting back in other areas.

This is why you see so many fancy cars in the parking lot outside a Wal-Mart!

Here is a quick example. Some people take great pride in their clothing and are willing to spend more money to have the latest fashion. They have identified clothing as a high priority in their life. These same people might decide that fresh food is far less important, and pick up pre-made meals from Wal-Mart. If Whole Foods (an upscale grocery store) targeted these consumers, it would be a waste of their time.

What does this mean for your business?

Segmenting your consumer base is one of the first steps in marketing campaign. There is certainly benefit to doing this on a demographic basis, but you can’t stop there. Chasing everyone within your target demographic will spread your resources too thin. Some additional research to find out the attitudes and behaviours within your target demographic will vastly improve efficiency, your bottom line, and the strength of your brand.

What do you think? How do you understand the behaviours of your consumers?

Written by benwisebranding

June 25, 2010 at 4:40 pm

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Do Customers Mean What They Say?

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In the past year or so, an Organic food grocery store opened in a location I regularly pass by. Unfortunately, they have now closed-up shop and are being replaced by a…wait for it…Dollarama. These are two businesses that could not be more opposite.

Organic food is a high-end premium product, while the Dollarama- well, let’s just say isn’t.

What are consumers loyal to?

I find this fascinating as it perfectly demonstrates the difference between stated intentions and actual behaviour. I’m sure that market research would show the area to be perfect for an upscale grocery store and that most respondents would say how important organic is to them.

But when push comes to shove, consumers aren’t willing to part with their hard-earned cash for organic food.

More than almost anything else, consumers are (or should be) loyal to themselves. Consumers are selfish, always looking for brands that best meet their true needs. While stated desires may show a willingness to sacrifice (ie spend more) for organic products, actual behaviour proves this is not the case. At least not on a scale that makes a physical store financially viable.

The key to success for brands is in finding a value proposition that addresses stated as well as actual needs.

What do you think? Are your customers stated intentions different from their actual behaviour?

Written by benwisebranding

June 7, 2010 at 10:28 pm

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Why Google Is Dropping Microsoft

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A couple of days ago, Google announced that they are phasing out Windows from the business operations. The reason? Security.

I don’t buy it!

This article from ComputerWorld does a great job explaining why security isn’t really the issue for Google. Basically, when hackers go after a company, they choose the company based on something other than their OS. Not to mention that the vast majority of the world’s largest companies find Windows to be secure enough for them.

So Why is Google ditching Microsoft?

The obvious reason is that Microsoft is increasingly coming into direct competition with Google – search engines, smart phones, web browsers. Before the end of the year, you’ll be able to add operating systems to that list. But what has changed to prompt the sudden shift?

Google’s next big push is getting computer users to embrace the cloud as their main source of software, particularly for enterprise users. This means moving from Microsoft’s highly lucrative Office suite to a cloud based solution. While Google Docs has been around a while now, it still isn’t perceived as a strong enough software package for enterprise users.

Google Is Leading By Example

Google’s move away from Windows and MS Office shows that there are other solutions viable solutions available to large enterprise customers. The interesting part is not that Google has switched, but it will be watching who follows suit.

What do you think? Why is Google dropping Windows?

Written by benwisebranding

June 2, 2010 at 5:14 pm

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Growth Through Word-Of-Mouth

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It is no secret that word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools for brands (assuming people are saying good things!). The most obvious way to get good word-of-mouth is to provide a product or service that is worth talking about. Be remarkable. In Seth Godin’s words, be a “Purple Cow”.

But when put into practice, there are strategies to maximize the power of positive word-of-mouth. I’m not talking about the obvious things like providing easy ways to share, like a ‘share this’ link on an e-commerce site. That is a tactic, not a strategy.

The strategy for word-of-mouth is about who you target. The trick is to target niches that are naturally adjacent to each other. Adjacent niches are ones that:

  1. Desire similar benefits,
  2. Talk to each other regularly
  3. Trust recommendations from each other

Without targeting adjacent niches, your brand will be forced to build its reputation and brand equity from scratch for each new market.

If you are a baker, your first niche could be selling to local restaurants. An adjacent niche would be locally owned supermarkets. Both are looking to provide customers with delicious cakes, and local business owners (that aren’t in direct competition with each other) are likely to talk to each other and trust one another. From there, the next niche could be supermarkets in a neighbouring town. Soon enough, you will build up a reputation and develop the critical mass required to launch your brand on a much bigger scale.

Some brands are already big enough that they don’t need to bother with niche marketing. But for the rest of us, targeting adjacent niches can leverage word-of-mouth and bring much faster growth.

What do you think? Does your brand have any adjacent niches that could leverage word-of-mouth for faster growth?

Written by benwisebranding

June 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm

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Don’t Engage If You Can’t Engage

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Self-professed social media gurus will be quick to tell you that brands need to engage with consumers online. Get on Twitter and Facebook and consumers will love you for it.

However, before jumping in, brands need to ensure that they have the true commitment required or they may end up hurting their brand instead of helping it.

Last week I wrote a post on Workopolis’ brand refresh. Someone from the PR firm reached out to me through Twitter asking if I would like to speak with someone from Workopolis about their brand. As well, a Workopolis employee commented on the post. My first instinct was they were doing a great job by reaching out and showing a willingness to engage in a dialogue with me about their brand.

But I soon learned that the company lacked follow-through. I responded to both saying I would love to speak with someone further about the brand. It has been almost two weeks and I still have not heard back.

I wasn’t expecting a response to the original blog post and was delighted when I received one. I was, however, expecting a response once they reached out to me and found myself disappointed.

This goes to show both the potential and the danger of social media for brands. The commitment in terms of time and human resources are high, as are the risks. If a brand isn’t ready to use social media properly, they will continue to put themselves at a greater risk of harming their brand.

What do you think?

Written by benwisebranding

May 28, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Apple Is All Grown Up, No Longer the Underdog

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It has been hard to miss the news that Apple’s market cap surpassed Microsoft yesterday, making it the most valuable tech company in the US, and second overall, behind Exxon Mobil. Earlier this week, Apple also announced that they will be ending the much-loved ‘Get a Mac’ ads (check out their 10 best ads).

I thought it was perfect timing that both of these happened in the same week, as they both portray the reality that Apple is all grown up and can no longer play the role of underdog, which was so clearly portrayed in the ‘Get a Mac’ ads.

For years Apple has played the role of the underdog to perfection. Fighting against industry giants like Microsoft and Sony, Apple managed to maintain this ‘little guy’ market position despite their rapidly growing top and bottom lines.

Luckily for Apple, this change in position has been fairly gradual over the past couple of years as they increasingly occupy the market space around cool, entertainment, and ease of use. As their soaring market cap can attest to, these are obviously powerful attributes for a brand to be associated with.

However, Apple does face risks. While they were once the beloved scrappy underdog, they will now face competitors who can credibly play that role. Apple has already taken some bad press for the mysterious process of getting apps approved (or denied!), and may encounter further resistance as other app stores catch up and offer a credible alternative.

The biggest risk Apple faces, however, is inflated expectations, everywhere from Wall Street to Main Street. After a series of industry changing innovations (at least 6 by my count), consumers will be disappointed in any new product that isn’t a home run.

What do you think? Can Apple’s winning streak continue?

Written by benwisebranding

May 27, 2010 at 8:13 pm