Brand Strategy Beats Price Tactics

My nose may not have been bloodied and my body dragged off a plane, but I faced my own travel crisis this week. And that experience proved that one company’s ongoing, consistent brand message — embedded deep in my psyche — was about to finally pay off.

Enterprise brand strategyMy nose may not have been bloodied and my body dragged off a plane, but I faced my own travel crisis this week. And that experience proved that one company’s ongoing, consistent brand message, embedded deep in my psyche, was about to finally pay off.

It all started at the airline check-in counter. Delta, an airline that has never done anything to endanger my loyalty, presented me with a dilemma: My one-stop flight to Ottawa was in jeopardy because the first leg of the flight was delayed, meaning I would miss my connection.

If you’ve ever tried to fly to Canada, you already know there are limited options. And despite Ottawa being Canada’s capital city, Delta only offers two daily flights from Detroit.

I HAD to be in Ottawa first thing Tuesday morning to help my son move out of his dorm, and make our afternoon flight home. The Delta agent could not have been more helpful as she tried to rebook me multiple ways to get me there. Finally, I agreed to fly to Atlanta, then onto Montreal and would rent a car to drive the 2-hours to Ottawa.

Rearranging my car rental proved to be the bigger challenge.

To be honest, I haven’t been a loyalist to any particular rental company … until now. I typically use a website like Travelocity to compare prices across all brands, then rent from the cheapest option. So, when making my original rental, Budget had won the price war.

So there I was, sitting on the floor at the packed airline gate, my flight to Atlanta about to depart, and I’m frantically trying to rearrange my car rental before my cell phone dies. I call the Budget desk in Ottawa and tell them my dilemma. They suggest I call the Budget desk at the airport in Montreal. I make that phone call but am serviced by one of the most incompetent of all customer service agents.

He speaks so quietly I can barely hear him, so I say (politely I might add) “I’m in a noisy airport and can barely hear you, would you mind speaking up?” Apparently he has no volume capabilities because I continue to strain to hear him.

After explaining (again), that I need to rent an SUV at the Montreal airport and return it to the Ottawa airport, and after he repeatedly says “You’ll return it to the Montreal airport, right?” I ask to speak to his supervisor. He puts me on hold and then — wait for it — after a few seconds I’m listening to the dial tone. Gee, what a surprise.

The gate agent begins the boarding process and now I’m in full panic mode.

I Google car rental options at the Montreal Airport and while lots of options pop up, I see that Enterprise has a 4-star rating (Budget has 1 star). And that’s when the Enterprise brand tag line (“We’ll pick you up!”) quickly translates in my brain to “We’ll do anything for you!”

And sure enough, my Enterprise experience was fabulous … from the minute I got them on the phone, explained my need, to the drop-off in Ottawa. And, they did go the extra mile since their rental desk closed at midnight, and I wasn’t landing until after midnight, they left the rental agreement and keys with at the National car rental counter which was open until 1am. WHEW!

Calm, cool and cooperative during my personal crisis, I want to shout from the rooftops, “Thank you Enterprise, for picking me up when I was down … way down.”

And the company’s long-invested marketing strategy and messaging paid off big time for this customer. Forget shopping for the cheapest option. Forget renting from the Budget folks. Enterprise will be rewarded with my ongoing loyalty.

Take Along, Share and Simplify: Essential Verbs to Enhance Your Brand Strategy in 2015, Part 2

Back in November, I shared with you two essential verbs to enhance your brand strategy: amaze and respect. Now I have three more verbs to share with you for your 2015 brand plans:

Back in November, I shared with you two essential verbs to enhance your brand strategy: amaze and respect. Now I have three more verbs to share with you for your 2015 brand plans:

Take Along
Pomegranates have always had a rough reputation in the world of fruit: How do you eat them? How do you peel or cut into them without getting that staining red juice all over the place? And, once you figure that out, how do you remove all those beautiful ruby seeds (actually called arils) out easily? Pomegranates are the antithesis of take-it-everywhere, eat-on-the-run bananas.

But 10 years ago, the folks at POM Wonderful took it upon themselves to make pomegranates more accessible to Americans and introduced the nutritional wonders of pomegranate juice in a big way to our health-obsessed country. Customers found POM Wonderful Juice delicious to drink, fun to hold and loved the antioxidant boost. Sales soared. Pomegranate juice became a part of healthy lifestyles.

Over time, the brand builders at POM took on this fresh fruit’s primary pain point among customers—extracting the seeds without a huge mess. There had been a brief instruction on the website, but then POM took it a step further—it was simply done for customers! POM introduced conveniently packaged arils in easy-to-tote cups so customers can use them in salads or just pop them in your mouth like you might raisins. Voila! Ease, convenience, antioxidants … all portable.

Brands that gain the coveted access into their customers’ daily lives do so by creating products that are in some way meaningful and easy to use. This “take along” effect (also mastered by others quite successfully like Starbucks and Republic of Tea with their traveler’s tins of teas) keeps a brand top of mind. Is there any way this “take along” verb would help your brand become a bigger part of your customers’ lives?

Share
GoPro’s founder and CEO, Nicholas Woodman, writes this:

We help people capture and share their lives’ most meaningful experiences with others—to celebrate them together. The world’s most versatile cameras are what we make. Enabling you to share your life through incredible photos and videos is what we do.

The verb share centers GoPro’s brand mission. Woodman elaborates, “Like how a day on the mountain with friends is more meaningful than one spent alone, the sharing of our collective experiences makes our lives more fun.” In today’s visually dominant world, the products that GoPro creates enhance its customers’ experiences and make shareability easier than ever.

As stated on the website: “Our customers include some of the world’s most active and passionate people. The volume and quality of their shared GoPro content, coupled with their enthusiasm for our brand, are virally driving awareness and demand for our products.”

Does your brand make sharing possible in some easy and virally visual way? How can you differentiate your brand through creative sharing strategies?

Simplify
In brand building exercises, it is quite common to play with questions like “What if your brand was an automobile … or a celebrity or a color? What would it be?” Those activities are often thought provoking if most of the conversation centers around the why that particular model/person/hue was chosen.

Along those playful lines, here’s another question to ponder: “What if your brand was a magazine … in this case Real Simple?” Real Simple is one of women’s favorite magazines because it truly demystifies almost everything … from cooking several course holiday dinners to removing wine stains to entertaining outdoors to mentoring. Here’s how the brand describes itself:

Real Simple is the everyday essential for today’s time-pressured woman, the guide she can trust to make her life a little easier in a world that’s more complicated by the minute. With smart strategies, genius shortcuts, and shoppable solutions, we help her simplify, streamline, and beautifully edit her life, armed with calm, confidence—and the power of the right lipstick.

Real Simple’s articles are practical and informative and surrounded by lots of white space and often summarized in the back of the physical magazine on perforated tear off cards that their readers can slip in their wallet and take to the store or save in an easy to find manner. Real Simple is part knowledgeable friend, part cheerleader, part organizer and the verb simple is a brand filter for all they do. In our complex, hyper speed, information-overloaded society, Real Simple is an oasis of uncomplicated and straightforward answers.

Customers crave simplicity (just take a peek at Google and Apple’s strategic success). Is “simplify” a conscious part of your strategic plan in 2015? How can this verb be incorporated more holistically across all your brand touchpoints?

Take along, share and simplify … three more robust verbs that have the potential to set your brand apart this next year. Think through these verbs in relation to your brand mission. Fast forward and consider how your customers might feel if these were a part of your strategy, and then, go ahead do something with these verbs!

Amaze and Respect: Essential Verbs to Enhance Your Brand Strategy in 2015, Part 1

No doubt your strategic plan has powerful verbs in it already: verbs like activate (previous customers), entice (new customers), cross-promote (merchandise across channels), engage (customers with content) and increase (profitability). I expect those verbs are baked into most plans. But brands that make a difference in the lives of their customers often add a few unexpected verbs into their strategic planning and their actions.

Harvard Business Review recently featured a cover story that promoted three key verbs as critical to marketing success: THINK, FEEL, DO. Does your 2015 brand plan include those verbs?

No doubt your strategic plan has powerful verbs in it already: verbs like activate (previous customers), entice (new customers), cross-promote (merchandise across channels), engage (customers with content) and increase (profitability). I expect those verbs are baked into most plans. But brands that make a difference in the lives of their customers often add a few unexpected verbs into their strategic planning and their actions. As the new year quickly approaches, I invite you and your team to consider a few of these:

Amaze
The brand builders at Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online retail mortgage lender and the second largest retail home lender in the United States, have mindfully incorporated a powerful verb in its tagline: Engineered to Amaze.

The verb amaze is a driver in all of the company’s brand touchpoints—from the short video clip of Quicken Loans’ amazingly simple mortgage process on the home page to the text query (“AMAZE” to 26293) to the Zing! Blog where “Amazing Insights on Home, Money and Life” are offered to customers.

Breaking out of the maze of bureaucracy and painstaking processes that the mortgage industry is known for is what drives the leaders of Quicken Loans to create products and services that are amazingly useful to customers. Delighting its customers with a fast, efficient, friendly loan process distinguishes this brand and is part of the reason J.D. Power ranks Quicken Loans the “highest satisfaction in primary mortgage origination” for the last four years.

What do your customers find amazing about your brand? What new strategies might you adopt in the upcoming year to be even more amazingly useful to your customers?

Respect
Where does the verb respect fit in your brand’s DNA? For Jeffrey Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield, the two co-founders of Harry’s, an online men’s shaving boutique, this verb dominates their strategy. Here’s how the two describe their service:

Like most of you, we’ve long had to choose between over-priced, over-marketed razors that disrespect your intelligence, and low quality, cheap razors that disrespect your face. We knew there had to be a better way, so we created Harry’s as a return to the essential: a great shave at a fair price.

Respecting customer intelligence, respecting the customer’s face, lathering in an edited and simplified shopping experience (like one of these men did in his first business—Warby Parker) and creating a meaningful charitable connection all adds up to a new venture that elevates a daily chore. Harry’s believes “a great shave is powerful, preparing you to conquer the world in your own way, every day.”

It’s apparent that this respect for their customer’s time, attention and wallet coupled with respect for the activity of shaving informed all Raider’s and Katz-Mayfield’s brand launch decisions. The co-founders conducted their own shave tests and found all existing products on the market lacking. In addition to finding a European manufacturer to make a different type of blade, it led them to reconfigure the razor handles and craft two unique and exclusive Harry offerings: The Winston and The Truman, inspired by old pens and knives.

“With Harry’s,” Raider says in a Fast Company interview, “I think we care about customers a lot, but it’s more about respecting them and giving them a product they really like, but not overwhelming them with choice-just sort of giving them a shaving tool we think will work really well.”

Plain and simple, how well does your brand respect your customers’ attention, time and wallet? In 2015, how can you be ever more respectful?

Tune in in early December for the final three verbs you should use to enhance your brand strategy in 2015!

Are Your Videos Champions of Your Brand?

If you advertise in an ordinary way, it’s safe to expect ordinary results. However, when you take the extreme and it doesn’t work, then what do you do? Answer: Consider your branding checklist! Video production is nothing short of being an ambassador of your brand’s strategy. Video, just like with your other advertising tools, is something that has to be maintained regularly. Most times when a campaign has failed, it’s because of confusion with your brand.

If you advertise in an ordinary way, it’s safe to expect ordinary results. However, when you take the extreme and it doesn’t work, then what do you do? Answer: Consider your branding checklist! Video production is nothing short of being an ambassador of your brand’s strategy. Video, just like with your other advertising tools, is something that has to be maintained regularly. Most times when a campaign has failed, it’s because of confusion with your brand.

Let’s ask a couple of valid questions that you will want to consider to help keep you inline with your video production when it comes to using this as part of your marketing mix.

Keep these questions in mind when producing your company’s videos:

  • How are you communicating?
  • What are you communicating?
  • When and how often do you communicate to your customers?
  • Who are the most important people to communicate to?

Video is meant to solve a direct and specific problem. If your project is meant to create more brand loyalty, then that needs to be in your message. How often you solve problems is just as important. If the last video you created on your website was from last year, or before there was digital film, perhaps a fresh new approach could lead to better results. The other element most people forget when branding through video is the emotional aspect. Were people connecting to the video because they could relate to it? If your video has not been resonating with enough people through your campaign, you haven’t given them enough reasons to love you. Your video production needs to focus on that problem and how your brand solves it.

Since your brand helps people solve problems, don’t be afraid to get creative, but remember to stride for champions of your brand. Many things can achieve brand loyalty, use humor, and hire talent that people relate to. Your goal should always be cultivating loyalty. Don’t forget to measure that loyalty by checking your analytics before and after. You can also request a survey by the viewers to see if you’re hitting the mark.

If what you’re doing isn’t working, then don’t be afraid to change it. Don’t get stuck on results of one idea. If the first video didn’t work, try something different. Marketing is an on going process. As a business owner, you have to get used to regularly changing marketing tactics. Don’t be afraid to be flexible and update your videos often. If your competition is changing their video content often, then why isn’t it a part of your plan?

Let’s talk about your competitors for a minute. Are they going after the same business you’re going after? Don’t they have the same customers that you have? If they have video production that clearly defines their brand, then wouldn’t you think your responsibility to your clients is to do the same only better? If the videos that they have on their website are done professionally with clear messages, then why would you cut costs and provide your clients with 3 minutes of you talking in front of a messy desk from your iPhone using a flash light or the lamp you picked up in the 80’s? Let’s face it, you’ll have to step up your game, or you will lose.

If you’re going to recruit someone in video production to help brand you, it is imperative to find someone who can deliver the following:

  • Someone who clearly understands your core values
  • Someone who will be loyal to your brand
  • Someone who can be a champion of your brand?

The more you demand that this is done with every employee and vendor, the more success you’ll have.

Now for your slice of humble pie: Ask yourself if you’re living by these standards?

Do you embrace your own concepts? Are you passionate about your brand? How loyal are to you to your own company? Do you have a solid plan for your brand and are you sticking to it?

Coming up with a concrete knowledge to your brand strategy and gripping your marketing plan will not only bare you results, you will have a more rigid foundation to launch this and the rest of your campaigns with confidence and security.