Does Your Brand Walk the Walk?

k-10-ice-3210-20370-lyj0923-02-brandingWhat happens when brands talk the talk but don’t walk the walk? Well, recently, employees from one of Canada’s largest and most-recognized telecommunications company have made claims that the company does not represent the values it stands for in one of its most successful campaigns.

If you follow my blog closely, you would have read by now the importance I stress on branding and having a brand that is true to what you and your company believe in. But if your brand lacks synergy with the reality of your operations, as is with the case mentioned above, there can be real and damaging consequences to your business.

In my 20 years as a marketing leader and expert, I’ve helped craft brand identities from tried and true methods but have also bared witness to countless brands that have failed to resonate with consumers due to various reasons.

So, what can a brand misalignment mean for your business?

  1. Upset Customers, Bitter Employees
    In today’s digital age, there’s no hiding from a disgruntled customer. Social media and review sites have paved the way for upset customers to air their bad experiences with the click of a button. According to AdWeek, 81% of customers conduct online research before making a purchase. A good brand will ensure that the sales experience is a pleasant one and is based on the entirety of a customer’s experience with your company; not just your logo.

    Additionally, employees have influence over your brand’s perception as well. With websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed, future hires and even customers can get an inside glimpse on what it’s like to work for a company – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  1. Bad PR
    There’s the old saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I would humbly disagree. Remember when the documentary Blackfish was released and SeaWorld’s stock dropped by half since 2013, even though they “protect animals and the wild wonders of our world”? Or how about when Target failed to secure their customers’ data from a breach resulting in a loss of at least $148 million and leading their customers to “expect more” from the company? For a small business, a drastic hit in revenue caused by bad PR would likely mean closing shop.

Luckily, even the most established of brands can revitalize themselves. Here’s how you can ensure you walk the walk when it comes to your brand:

  1. Be True to Who You Are
    A brand can make any claim they want, but they need to be able to back up their claims if and/or when they are questioned on them. If your company is known for its excellent customer service or award-winning products, use it to your advantage! Basing your brand on real, positive experiences of customers will give you an edge over the competition’s brand ambiguity.
  1. Brand Values Start From Within
    Your employees are an extension of your brand. Much like how you would turn to customer perception for assistance in developing your brand, your internal staff should also play a role. Ask them what they think the company stands for, and find a common theme that you can pull from to establish a relatable brand for all stakeholders. The more your employees feel included, the better they will represent the brand in their roles!

No matter the size of your company, a successful brand will ensure that its values are felt throughout the company. In the end, baseless or contradictory claims will only cause more harm than good. If you need help creating a cohesive brand identity, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today!


Rethinking Your Brand: When Your Audience Doesn’t Like Your Brand

Last week, Canadians were glued to televisions across the country as they watched The Toronto Blue Jays take on the Cleveland Indians in what became their final playoff game of the season. As exciting as that was for us Canadians, a separate story was emerging, focused on something other than the sport itself, specifically the name “Cleveland Indians”.

This team’s name has been involved in controversy for many years, but this year in particular it all came to a head. The term “Indian” is a derogatory term that just isn’t used anymore, as it is very insulting to our First Nations people. The Canadian public was so offended by the team’s brand that even an activist filed a request to ban the team from using their name and logo in the remaining games on the grounds of racial discrimination.

I draw your attention to this issue because as a marketer, it highlights the importance of a brand. The Cleveland Indians’ brand is obviously alienating people, and as public opinion influences buying decisions, this in turn affects the baseball team’s bottom line.

While this is an extreme case, the concept of rebranding to adjust to social values isn’t unheard of. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded to KFC in 1991 as health concerns around fried foods as well as rumours of genetically modified chicken were growing. By taking the words chicken and fried out of the brand name, it allowed them to distance themselves from these unpopular public opinions, diversify their product offerings and thereby strengthen their relationship with existing customers ad appeal to a new ones.

If your audience is weighing in on your brand, and it’s creating a negative buzz about your brand as it is with the Cleveland Indians, then it’s time to revaluate your brand strategy. The first step in doing this is conducting market research.

While your brand might not be offensive or politically incorrect, make sure it reflects the values your customers expect to see from your product or service. For example, if you’ve always been known as the leader of a certain product, check to see if your competitors have met your match, or if your loyal customers value the fact that you are a leader.

Hire a marketing agency familiar with your brand, or work with a research firm to conduct market research on your customers and find out more about what they value, why they choose you, and what your brand means to them. Getting feedback directly from your audience will allow you to not only identify who your audience is, but also the types of messaging and values that have meaning to them.

Your brand must be aligned with your organization’s mission, vision and values, so conducting research with your customers to help with your audiences will allow you to create a brand identity that will benefit both parties.

Your brand is your promise to your customer. It represents your organization’s values and sets you apart from your competition. It is who you are. Rebranding your company to align better to the values of your customers is a big first step to improving the connection and relationship you have with your audience. And ultimately, don’t we all want loyal customers who value what we do?

Second Place Is A First-Rate Strategy

With almost 20 years in this business, it’s not that often that I come across a TV commercial that actually gets me excited, but Classico’s pasta sauce competition commercial has done it. It’s not because of the creativity or the out-of-the-box thinking, but because of the strategy! The commercial establishes a pasta sauce competition, the opponents being a group of Italian “Nonnas” and Classico pasta sauce chefs. When the winners are announced, the Italian Nonnas take home the gold, while the Classico group stands cheering. It ends with a voiceover that says:

“Homemade pasta sauce will always win, but with inspiration from the regions of Italy, we’re a close second.”

WOW! I wasn’t expecting that ending! And that is why the commercial is so effective. The commercial has the ad sponsor, Classico, celebrating the fact they didn’t win a pasta sauce competition, and promoting the fact that their brand was, indeed, second place in the pasta sauce game.

Brands usually don’t take this type of risk by admitting defeat, but by doing the unexpected and taking this risk, and creating a strategic approach, it’s a win-win.

Classico hasn’t created a major marketing campaign for over 10 years, so this ad needed to create some serious dialogue. After conducting some market research, Classico found that their consumers frequently make homemade pasta sauce on the weekend and believe that a store-bought pasta sauce will never live up to something made from scratch. They also found that; while their consumers appreciate homemade sauce more, “for those nights when they want to deliver a great meal, but don’t have a lot of time, they want a high quality pasta sauce alternative.”

Knowing this, Classico launched their “Second only to yours” campaign. Admitting their sauce will never beat a delicious homemade sauce appeals to consumers looking for brand honesty, and as I discussed in last week’s blog, honesty is key in a marketing campaign. Classico knows their consumers value high quality sauce, so by informing them that while they are not going to beat their homemade version, they are still a close second, appealing to this busy target market.

In 1962, this strategy was also met with great success when Avis embraced their second-place status as a way to hype the brand’s customer service with the tagline, “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder.” They retired the slogan last year after finally slipping into third place behind Hertz, 50 years after the tag line was created.

As we can see, this risky strategy worked well for both companies. Classico’s ad has now become a viral video, and Avis produced a popular slogan that was used for half a century. However, if everyone started a marketing campaign claiming they were number two, we might be in trouble. These two case studies are great examples of how well-researched marketing strategies can go against the grain and pay off big time.

The Blurred Lines Between Advertising and Social Media

When Ronald Reagan’s Chesterfield cigarette ads premiered, did we really believe that he smoked a pack a day? Probably not, because we knew it was an advertisement. When we see pictures of Kylie Jenner posing with her FitTea on Instagram, do we think that she drinks it every morning to maintain a healthy weight? Maybe.

The introduction of social media has blurred the lines of advertising and real life significantly. Before we had Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, we were able to recognize advertisements easily. Now, it’s difficult to determine if our favourite celebrity really does like Coco White Teeth Whiteners, or if they’re being paid to say they do.

Influencers on social media have thousands of people following their every move, so it makes sense that companies would want them to advertise for them. The problem is, a lot of influencers are not informing their followers that they are being paid to post. As a result, Ad Standards Canada has revised its rules regarding advertising with blogs, celebrities, and social media influencers. Bloggers are now required to include statements in their posts that acknowledge they are working with a company to advertise a product, and social media influencers will be required to include hashtags like #sponsored or #ad to ensure the public knows they are being paid to post.

After working in the marketing and communications industry for over 20 years, I am able to spot an ad on my social media feed easily. Unfortunately, a lot of other Canadians are not as media literate and are therefore feeling tricked after they have purchased a product discretely advertised on social media.

One of the main functions of marketing is increasing brand loyalty. Customers are unlikely to purchase a product or stay interested in a brand when they find out they have been lied to. Customers look for authenticity in the brands they follow, so acknowledging that a celebrity is being paid to promote your company is just better business. While famous celebrities might not actually use your product in their everyday lives, if your overall marketing strategy is strong enough, people will want to buy your product.

If you or your organization is considering social media advertising with an influencer, make sure your customers know they are being marketed to. Having a celebrity face is a great way to increase interest in your product, but honesty is key to maintaining customer loyalty.

5 Reasons Email Marketing Adds Value to Your Brand

mail contact

One of the most valuable content marketing tools that can showcase a business’ brand to their customers regularly and share relevant information is email marketing. Email marketing is a cost-effective solution that gives businesses the power to reach customers in a place most people visit every day – their inbox.

According to a study by MarketingSherpa, 91 percent of adults in North America like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with. As a business owner, I believe that building successful email marketing campaigns has never been more important than it is now.

In a recent conversation with a client, I was surprised to hear how he defined email marketing. His email strategy was simply sending notices out to clients, and that was very different than what I, as the owner of a marketing agency, perceive email marketing to be. It then occurred to me that everyone’s definition of email marketing is different, as I believe that email marketing is a constant communication and relationship-builder between you and a client.

No matter what your definition is, email marketing is without a doubt a value-add to your brand. Here are a few ways email marketing can strengthen your brand and create strong, lasting relationships with your customers:

  1. Building credibility
    • To build strong customer relationships, it’s important to have an effective tool to communicate with the people who matter most to your business. Email gives you the ability to stay top-of-mind and keep people engaged.
  2. Generating Leads
    • Email gives you the opportunity to capture new visitors’ attention and nurture relationships with helpful and informative content. You can also share your updates on your own social networks to bring new people to your business.
  3. Learning what works
    • Email marketing gives you the metrics you need to see how your emails are performing. These insights help you market smarter and give you the advantage of better understanding the needs and interests of your customer base.
  4. Reaching your customers on any device
    • With nearly two-thirds of all emails read on a mobile device, email marketing is one of the best tools that can help a business take advantage of the growing popularity of mobile technology.
  5. Looking professional
    • Email templates aren’t just easy to use; they are also designed to make sure you look professional and consistent when you reach your audience’s inbox.

If your business doesn’t have an email marketing strategy, and you don’t feel you have the time or skill-set to write them, consider hiring a marketing agency. An agency can create the content as well as an email schedule for you that are integrated with your brand and business direction. 

Do you use email in your business? If so, what is the value to your business?

5 Tips to Evaluate Whether an App Adds Value to Your Brand

CWM_Sept 22When we talk about apps, we often focus on the consumer application. Without a doubt, apps have provided a lot of value in the B2C market, but as a business owner who deals mainly with B2B clients, I wanted to address the value of utilizing an app for the B2B market.

If you’re a B2B owner thinking of creating an app for your business, in addition to asking yourself if there is something specific that you can accomplish with a mobile app that you can’t with your website, you’ll want to evaluate the need for an app in terms of adding value to your brand.

I’ve outlined below a few areas to consider when evaluating whether an app will bring value to your brand:

  1. Provide a direct marketing channel

A mobile app essentially narrows the gap between you and your customer. It reduces the steps that your customer has to go through to reach you. You can use an app to make it easier for customers to pay bills, place orders, book meetings, or get rewards.

  1. Showcase products and services

You can use an app to showcase your products and services. This would be especially useful if you have a comprehensive product offering. Customers can shop for parts, accessories, and features through the app. The great thing about apps is the ability to send notifications to the user’s smartphone or tablet device. The benefit of that is that you can increase the likelihood of your customers discovering featured products and services.

  1. Customer service and support

An app can also be used to provide customer service and support directly to your customers. You can build a messaging feature that allows customers to reach you directly. You can also offer resources, such as instruction manuals or help guides, which can help your customers access your products or services.

  1. Brand extension

Increasingly, mobile phones and tablets are becoming the primary tools for accessing the Internet. The change has been most profound in the consumer market, but as these mobile computers become more powerful, businesses are increasingly relying on them to do work. An app can extend the reach of your brand by making it easier for these mobile users to access your business.

  1. Stand out from the competition

Mobile apps at the small business level are still rare. If you can add value through the app, then the app can be leveraged as a point of differentiation from your competitors.

The greatest benefit of an app in the B2B space is the ability for customers to engage with your brand by offering them a benefit that they then tie to your value proposition. An example of this is through reward apps. Reward apps allow businesses to know more about the buying habits of their customers by giving them reward points towards free merchandise or services. If there is a perceived value of your app by the customer (i.e. reward points), then there is a greater likelihood that it will succeed!

Do you see the value of creating an app for your business? If so, will you take the next steps to creating one? If not, what is holding you back?

Is Your Brand Honest?

Men_HandshakeWe’ve all become aware of the recent media incident involving an employee of Hydro One acting inappropriately, resulting in his swift dismissal due to their code of conduct policies. Although it has raised several social issues, it has also given many of us pause to rethink the importance of brand honesty.

Strong brands are built on a business’s values and beliefs, and as a business owner in the marketing industry, I know how challenging it can be to stand behind those values and beliefs, particularly when faced with an issue in the public eye.

While it’s clear a brand exceeds far beyond just a logo, and integrates into the lifestyle of your consumers when they interact with the brand, we need to be mindful of and be committed to upholding our brand values even when it may not be the most popular thing to do. The public’s perception of Hydro One now as opposed to a couple of weeks ago lays bare just how important brand values can be and the role they can play with your audience.

McDonald’s relies on the public’s opinion and/or perception of them to sell their products. They are often in the media with bad press related to the quality of their food, which may be influencing a public shift to healthier fast food alternatives elsewhere.

To combat this perception, McDonald’s created the “Our Food Your Questions” campaign, which introduced a series of videos to address some of their customer concerns. The campaign features hundreds of video questions from actual “real people”, which are then answered from third-party suppliers to McDonald’s. Questions like “Is your McChicken actually made from chicken?” and “Is your burger 100% beef?” are posed, and are then answered by chicken and beef farmers respectively.

Although it appears that these videos are honest and unbiased, I am not convinced that they have changed customer perception of their food quality. I find myself wanting to believe but still questioning the sincerity of these farmers and testing labs.

Changing the perception of a brand is no easy task. Acting swiftly and with conviction as in the case of Hydro One sends a powerful message not only to their employees (i.e behaviour outside the workplace is just as important as in the workplace), but also to us as consumers. Regardless of how you feel about their decision, there is no denying their brand honesty – to stay true to their values and beliefs.

How do you think consumers perceive your brand? What challenges are there in changing the way people perceive a brand? I look forward to discussing this further!