More than ever before, it has become important to know what marketing does to make a brand achieve business results. Usually, marketers argue that they have raised awareness and that the number of anticipated purchases has risen due to the number of leads gained. However, as MasterCard's marketing manager said in an interview with the Sports Business Journal, „the CFO and CEO couldn’t care less about those metrics. They want to know what it has done for their business“.
The total value of media spending in the Czech Republic was about 70 billion CZK in 2015, increased to 80 billion CZK in 2016 and exceeded 100 billion CZK in 2017. And that number continues to rise. On the other hand, brands are struggling with declining confidence in advertising and low loyalty. Most campaigns promise us, the consumers, a lot, only for us to subsequently learn that reality doesn't measure up to the promise. Our expectations, which have been formed by advertising, soon dissipate. All that's needed is a visit to a branch office, a chat with a company employee, trying the product, speaking with an automated info-line, experiencing low service quality associated with delivery or huge disappointment with how a complaint is handled. In the end, does anyone remember a brand that really cared about them after the purchase?
This is because a large part of corporate resources - financial, human, and creative - are put into the creation of external communication instead of focusing on the company itself: on the health and prosperity of the brand. When preparing campaigns, companies prefer to look for their potential next customers instead of being aware of who their current customers are. Regardless of how good a product is, in today’s world, traditional "push"-style self-presentation will make it more and more complicated to sell the brand. Customers expect good experiences and carrying approach. These needs are often underestimated due to the priority of financing the hunt for new leads. In a fast-paced world full of other possibilities, this brings a natural loss of interest.
„Seventy-five percent of brands 'could disappear and no one would care'. If you look fifteen or twenty years back, people were seeking reassurance from their brands. Today, there are so many choices. It's a different kind of fight.“ MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar
In the book FIX: Break the addictions that are killing brands, the authors point out that traditional marketing practices can, in the long run, kill a brand rather than help it, especially if business leaders give preference to pushing sales targets over the very essence of the brand, its culture, and the fulfilment of customer expectations.
As examples, they give two specific adverts from the American Super Bowl (which has the most expensive TV spots of all) - Volkswagen and Denny's (a network of franchised restaurants with global reach). In 2011 the former produced an extraordinarily successful Darth Vader-themed spot for the new Passat, which was considered the best and most entertaining spot ever made for the Super Bowl. It received a number of awards, as did the agency that realised it. However, sales of Volkswagen cars in the USA continued to decline and its reputation deteriorated. Experts agree that the company missed the boat about the product itself, its prices and, especially, its customer experience. Even a funny campaign couldn't redress it and stop the collapse.
The opposite example is that of the Denny's restaurant chain. Their spot - which wasn't so exceptional in creative terms - ran in the 2010 Super Bowl, and in 30 seconds it invited the whole of America for Grand Slams breakfast. What is more interesting however is the work that preceded the advert. The idea for the spot came several years before the realisation. The marketing director decided that, before the brand came to the attention of millions of Americans, it had to put its own house in order. They focused on improving several areas, spending a year adjusting the menu and several years training staff. That they did a good job and the money spent on expensive advertising was not thrown out the window, was shown in the years following the Super Bowl campaign - the company managed to stabilise its management, reduce its debt, increase sales and improve the franchise model. The company's total annual revenue rose from 22 million USD to 112 million USD. (Fix, Chapter 1: Great Brands have cult followers)
Before deciding to spend money on external promotion, a brand should be sure that it is capable of fulfilling what it promises. It should think very seriously about what it's going to do differently. It should focus on improving its own business:
Put simply and plainly, instead of putting time and money into persuading you about how great a product is, it's better to use these resources to make it truly great. Then you can create a real experience with it and challenge potential customers to try it out. If it's truly great, they will be happy to talk about it, share and recommend their experiences themselves. They do the work that the brand would otherwise pay a lot of money for. This method helps to keep money with the brand while investing them in the brand itself, rather than pay money external media houses in an effort to get the greatest possible reach. People simply notice products that stand out.
„We’re looking to spend more on bringing unique experiences to consumers, as opposed to advertisements. Experiences matter, and that’s what we are trying to curate and develop.“
MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar
Discovering what "it" is that makes a brand truly exceptional and outstanding is an issue that companies have to deal with. Probably everyone knows what they are doing. Some brands are also aware of how they do it. However, only a few really know why they do it. What is their real reason for being? In what way do they make the world better? And, because engagement is driven by more emotional values than rational ones, we, the consumers, will always be more concerned with what the brand stands for than what it sells.
It doesn’t have to excel in everything, but it must have at least one thing that customers expect from it and have this one thing honed to perfection. It must reach the state where they derive from its product or service some value that is important to them, and in a way that no one else offers.
And it is really very important that the brand practises what it preaches.
„There’s a consensus among marketers that brand experience builds loyalty.“ Chris Cavanaugh, Freeman CMO
At a time when customers are more promiscuous than ever before, brands should focus their marketing efforts on what happens after the customer buys something, and not just the point of sale.
Focus on customer experience with branding. It is important in deciding if they only be a customer who will buy somewhere else next time, or if they become a true fan, who trusts the brand for what it is and what it represents to them. Cult fans are much better than ordinary customers. They invest their emotions and are almost blind in their devotion. They become brand ambassadors.
The authors of Fix describe the six most common features among iconic brands with a higher-level customer engagement:
1. They are in some way remarkable. They offer their customers some extraordinary value, something that's worthwhile and that they talk about naturally.
2. They have a purpose. They know why they do what they do. They are more committed to devoting more marketing time to explaining why they are here and less time to explaining their products and services.
3. They inspire from the inside out. They understand that the best things start inside. Their main ambassadors are employees, especially those who are in touch with the customer, such as vendors, resellers, customer service. And each of them works with engagement and passion for the brand and its activities.
4. It is possible to establish a relationship with them. They personify. The brand is like a personality. They use human qualities to create a high degree of emotional rapprochement. And they do it through tangible activities: everything from product packaging and employees to phone calls, invoices, and business cards. They see opportunities to communicate their brand attributes in everything around them.
5. They engage. They lead an equal dialogue with both customers and employees, creating an atmosphere of truth and empathy. They have learned to listen, pay attention and engage people by giving them space for self-actualization, and thus the feeling that they own a piece of brand.
6. They are pervasive. They permeate all aspects of people’s lives and stand beside them. They have left the road of annoying self-presentation and naturally appear wherever and whenever they are needed.
When brands ask the right questions, they open up the opportunity for a whole new life. By relinquishing their dependence on traditional marketing in a highly competitive environment, they create a space for customer engagement through experience marketing.
„Fans want to be part of the game, they want to be inside the ropes and you need to show them you can help get them there.“ MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar
Inspire yourself! Change your strategic decisions to improve customer satisfaction and increase sales with the book FIX: Break the addictions that are killing brands.
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Jiří Macháček, Innovate Captain & ExM Trainer