Just How Useful Is Your Brand?

In his new book, “YOUTILITY: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype,” Jay Baer states it simply: The only way to win customers is to make your brand “truly, inherently useful.” He cautions brands not to get focused on the wrong things—like trying to be amazing over actually being helpful. Being helpful is harder. I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps it’s a good time to “thinkabout” this important facet of your brand. Can you list 10 ways your brand provides real value to your customers? Take it further: Can you list 10 ways your brand helps your customers in ways that are significantly different than your closest competitors? Now, take it even further and get to the very heart of brand usefulness: How do you really know what matters to your customers these days?

In his new book, “YOUTILITY: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype,” Jay Baer states it simply: The only way to win customers is to make your brand “truly, inherently useful.” He cautions brands not to get focused on the wrong things—like trying to be amazing over actually being helpful. Being helpful is harder.

I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps it’s a good time to “thinkabout” this important facet of your brand. Can you list 10 ways your brand provides real value to your customers? Take it further: Can you list 10 ways your brand helps your customers in ways that are significantly different than your closest competitors? Now, take it even further and get to the very heart of brand usefulness: How do you really know what matters to your customers these days?

I like Baer’s newly created word YOUTILITY as it is a clever shortcut and brand sound byte for grappling with two areas of important brand introspection: customer-centricity and usefulness. Recently, I saw one company execute this dual focus wonderfully: The Lincoln Financial Group with its multifaceted “Take Charge” initiative where customers are positioned as Chief Life Officers. Here’s how they describe this award winning, consumer-facing campaign:

You’re In Charge®
When it comes to your financial future, you’re in charge. You are the CEO and CFO of your life. You are your own Chief Life Officer®. You want to get the most out of life for you and your loved ones—a life filled with passion, where possibilities are embraced and promises are kept. We’re here to help you make it happen … on your own terms.

Dave Wozniak, head of advertising, Lincoln Financial Group elaborates: “Through education and awareness, our goal is to help people take charge of their financial futures. We believe the Chief Life Officer campaign presents an engaging way to share an important message, which is that everyone should feel empowered to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

Lincoln Financial Group knows what matters to its customers because it asks them—often—and in creative ways. The company believes deeply in research and being extremely customer focused. One example of how Lincoln Financial does this as an active part of its brand DNA was during the past holiday season. The company took cameras to the streets of New York City for part three of its “M.O.O.D. on the Street” video series to find out why being in financial control is so important during the holidays. The Lincoln Financial crew asked customers simple questions on this topic and shared their answers in a straightforward video available on YouTube.

The simply put “What does financial independence mean to you?” question provided insights into customers’ pain points. These learnings were not only incorporated into Lincoln Financial Group’s messaging campaigns, but helped the company create a series of useful financial planning tools to help customers address these real life concerns.

Jamie DePeau, SVP-CMO of Lincoln Financial Group shared this in a recent interview: “Listen to your customers. Too often firms become so internally focused that the voice of the customer is over looked, or worse, not even included in the development of marketing programs. That is a tragic mistake.”

So, with inspiration from The Lincoln Financial Group, why not thinkabout your brand’s YOUTILITY and how you can make your brand even more amazingly useful to your customers this year!

Setting Sustainability Goals: DMA Takes Industry Aim at Bottom-Line Benefits

One of the challenges for advancing sustainability in everyday business practice is that investments made toward the “triple” bottom line must indeed generate payback in three ways: financial, environmental and social. Many times, “people” (social) and “planet” (environmental) may get an obvious nod, but “profit” (financial) is difficult to articulate.

One of the challenges for advancing sustainability in everyday business practice is that investments made toward the “triple” bottom line must indeed generate payback in three ways: financial, environmental and social. Many times, “people” (social) and “planet” (environmental) may get an obvious nod, but “profit” (financial) is difficult to articulate.

As a member of the Direct Marketing Association Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility, we are focused on articulating triple-bottom-line benefits in each and all of the activities we undertake on behalf of the business. Two such Committee initiatives have been given specific recognition by the DMA Board of Directors as industry-wide sustainability goals: (1) a commitment to apply preference, data hygiene and proper postal preparation to reduce Undeliverable-as-Addressed-Advertising (UAA) mail by 25 percent by 2013 and, by doing so, generate savings approaching 1 million tons in carbon equivalents (announced July 2008); (2) a commitment to increase recycling collection rates for catalogs and direct mail, as tracked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to support growth of recycled paper markets (not publicly announced by DMA yet, but approved by the DMA Board at its recent October 2011 meeting).

The triple bottom-line benefits of each of these two goals are worth articulating. They include (but are not limited to):

Public Goal 1: List Hygiene & Carbon Reduction

  • Less mail waste is generated as more mail is delivered as properly addressed (financial);

  • Preferences as indicated by consumers are respected and honored (social); and,

  • Unwanted or improperly addressed mail avoids entering the municipal solid waste stream (environmental).

Public Goal 2: Increased Catalog/Direct Mail Recycling

  • The more paper fiber that is recovered for recycling, the greater supply and availability of paper and packaging made from recovered fiber thereby decreasing pricing pressure on products made with recovered fiber (financial);

  • Less hostility toward discarded mail waste, as more material is put toward subsequent, useful purpose -and recycling programs are fully supported (social); and,

  • Less discarded catalogs and direct mail are destined for landfills (environmental).

Perceptions persist that sustainability initiatives are “feel good” activities that don’t support the enterprise. In contrast, DMA and CESR will be emphasizing in 2012 that sustainability is an industry imperative that will lead to measurable, accountable benefits to our industry’s collective bottom lines—all three of them. In this blog, I will discuss in more detail some of the specific efforts being undertaken to achieve these important goals.

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