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Where Do Most Brand Stories Come Unstuck?

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

We spend a lot of time finding the right words—the ones that will differentiate us from our competitors and compel the right people to covet and click. And yet even though we’ve assembled the perfect words customers can still sense a disconnect. It isn’t our words in isolation, but the intention behind them and the values shaping them that makes a story either gel or fall apart.

When you see an advertising campaign that feels inauthentic or witness appalling customer care in action, it’s usually not because the company didn’t find the right words— but that they weren’t clear about their intention.

We can’t expect to speak and act in alignment with our values if we haven’t agreed on what those values are, why they matter and how they will manifest in the day-to-day operations of our business.

Most brand stories come unstuck in the doing, not in the telling.

Image by Chris Ford.

The Brand Awareness Checklist

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

In a competitive, commercial environment the logic is the more people who know about your business the more successful it will be. So we prioritise making more people aware. But if ‘awareness’ is your problem then asking how to get more of it is the wrong question to begin with. The better place to start is by understanding why the right people don’t already know about your products and services.

The Brand Awareness Checklist

1. Did we make a product people want to buy and then talk about?
2. Why exactly will they want to buy it?
3. Who are our ideal customers?
4. What do they care about?
5. Where are they spending time online and offline?
6. What motivates them to buy products and services?
7. Where are they researching and shopping?
8. Are we where they are, providing the tangible and intangible value they want?
9. What’s our ‘first ten’ strategy?
10.How will we make sure those first ten come back and bring another ten?

You can only reap the rewards that come by getting beyond the last question on the checklist when you’ve successfully answered and addressed the first nine. There is no shortcut to mattering.

Image by Ivan Rigamonti.

Are You Pressing The Right Buttons?

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The guy who knocks on the door at 5 pm is armed with an iPad, a sales pitch and an assumption. He denies he’s trying to sell something. ‘It’s not a sale—it’s a reduction.’ He asks if I’ve looked at the back of my power bills lately. Tells me the prices have risen and he’s just switched a couple of neighbours in the street who wanted to avoid the increases, to his company. When I explain how happy I am with my energy provider, he presses on, mentioning price twice more as the reason people are switching. The assumption being that every person he speaks to will be motivated by price regardless of their experience—that everyone shares a similar worldview.

The salesman is doing his best within the limitations of the strategy his company has adopted. What this energy company doesn’t know about the potential customer (practically everything apart from where they live), affects their success rate. The story the company is telling today leaves it open to being easily disrupted by a new, cheaper competitor tomorrow.

If your growth strategy relies on pressing your customer’s buttons, then it pays to know which ones to press. The flipside, of course, is that if you’re just differentiating and competing on something that requires less insight and effort, then it won’t be long before someone else uses a similar strategy. The harder a story is to replicate the more valuable it is.

Image by Thomas Hawk.

A Simple Truth About Business Growth

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

We’ve all seen what happens when a business is poorly scaled. The cult restaurant adds more tables and loses its magic. The software is ruined when too many features are added. The bespoke tourist attraction becomes tacky.

Growth doesn’t come from looking for more opportunities to expand, it’s a result of finding better ways to serve. This doesn’t mean thinking small and staying small. It means being more thoughtful about the need to go bigger, instead of going big for the sake of being big.

Image by Roberto Trobretta.

Difference By Design

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Yesterday I was registering a domain name online when I noticed the company had tweaked the user interface from cart to checkout. Now when you confirm the purchase, the default option is to register for three years, instead of one. The steps to reverse this are not obvious or easy—which I guess means sales are up by 66%—especially with new or inexperienced customers.

I’m left trying to imagine the meeting where the head of the business development thought this was an excellent growth strategy and a software engineer implemented the change against her better judgement. Would they consider it acceptable if a sales assistant at a bricks and mortar store tripled their father’s bill by adding two additional items to his basket without permission—just because they could?

The data is clearly telling the company they’re winning, but at what cost? We make a difference by design, not by default—when we put our hand on our heart and question whether this is the right thing to do.

*Note: Since I (and no doubt other customers) drew this to the company’s attention they have rectified the situation. They also denied ever having defaults for domain registrations unless required by the Registry, because this would prohibit them from functioning as a Registrar. Again this goes back to the earlier point. Integrity doesn’t require rules.

Image by David Joyce.

Unlock the magic in your story now.

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