Friday, January 29, 2010

A Coda on Internal Branding

Folks, I'm clearly behind in my reading - mea culpa.  I just read this lovely article on Internal Branding that was published in Business Week this past December.

Have a wonderful weekend and we'll chat next week.


Parissa Behnia

When Smiley Faces Make Everything Better...

Hi There!

Have you seen the American Express sad-smiley face commercial?  I adore it and can't get enough of it.  Since we're close, I'll admit that I've looked at it many times on YouTube because I marvel at its beauty, creativity, engagement devices and its complex simplicity.  

It's truly a well done commercial on a multitude of levels.  I'm relieved to find that I'm not the only one who feels the same!  If you Google it, you see that it made Time's Top 10 Commercials of 2009, mentioned in a few articles and now has a Facebook page.  Admittedly, only 80 people are registered fans but you get the picture.  I'd be interested to hear from you if you know of other commercials with Facebook fan pages.  I'm sure they are out there so please send them my way.

If you've seen the ad a million times like I have, you get drawn into the game of figuring out what the sad and smiley faces are...  all the while listening to the Card benefit claims reinforced by the voiceover: coverage if your purchases are damaged or stolen (via repair or credits to your account), Membership Rewards points for your purchases and peace of mind when you travel.

Did you notice the other engagement device at the end?  You know, the teaser with the Take Charge URL?  When you travel to the site, you immediately notice that the content is driven to back up the Card benefit claims I mentioned earlier.  If the commercial is a prospecting device, the site is a lead nurturing device.  It's not a mind reader -- yet -- but the prospect is free to navigate the site on his/her terms to learn more about the product based on the claims that resonated most, decide to take the plunge and apply for the Card.  There are a bunch of permutations and combinations and I'll let you play on your terms.

What do I find interesting about this experience?  There are some things that come to mind:
  • 360 and 365.  It's one of the many ways that AmEx is addressing 360 degrees of touchpoints 365 days per year that we discussed a little bit ago.  The TV viewer can't control when the commercial airs and the magazine reader can't direct what print ads are presented but he/she can determine when and where the site visit takes place.  
  • Consumer Control.  There is control as to how the site gets navigated and the number of visits just as there is control as to when the site visit(s) occurs. All in all, it's consumer driven marketing as opposed to AmEx driven marketing.  The consumer drives the order in which the messages are presented and absorbed.  It's true that AmEx introduces the thought but it goes absolutely nowhere if nobody bites.
  • Real People.  The landing page features stories from AmEx consumers.  Click on any icon and a clip pops up with a consumer's product endorsement.  Much has been said about online word of mouth chats between advocates and prospects.  I listened to a Loyalty 360 webinar this week about peer networks (Best Buy) and was pointed to Nielsen to learn more.  90% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know while 70% trusted opinions posted online and 70% trusted brand websites.  Banner ads and other corporate content ranked much lower.  Data like this set have likely driven AmEx to deliver something that feels authentic or based upon consumer experience in the absence of an online peer community a la Best Buy.
I've listed these three above as conversation starters; there are likely more and if/when I think of them, I'll post it on the blog.  In the meantime, please feel free to share your observations on this with me.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend!

Parissa Behnia

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Internal-External Brand Messaging Rendezvous

Happy Wednesday!

If you've read my posts on this blog, you know that I'm a fan of constant and consistent employee recognition for two reasons: a) it's the right thing to do as an inspired and inspiring leader; and b) the known positive tangible impacts it has on the bottom line.  Just last week, I attended a webinar presented by Maritz (courtesy of Loyalty 360) on this very topic.  I'm still trying to get a hold of a link to the webinar to share with you - please bear with me. 

One thing that struck me was data from a Maritz Customer Experience study: 43% of customers who defect do so because of poor customer service.  A staggering 77% of that 43% defect because of "employee attitude" and a gobsmacking 83% of that 43% defect tell somebody else because of the poor service (this does conjure up those Faberge commercials).  We've all had poor service bordering on the comical that we've told to friends or discussed in business meetings as cautionary tales. 

What are the implications?  Well, as we commit ourselves to refreshed brand marketing principles externally as discussed in my earlier posts, we should also commit to refreshed brand marketing principles internally.  Our employees are our brand ambassadors and as much as we marketers are committed to the personality and viability of our brand, it's truly our foot soldiers who deliver the brand promise to our customers daily.

If you fly Southwest, you know that the flight attendants, while totally professional, have been known to "flip the script" by telling jokes, playing games, wearing reindeer antlers around Christmas or singing.  Or, the customer service agents have been known to bend the rules every once in a while just because.  I recently had one of those "just because" moments myself on Christmas Day!  

Which brings me to David Holmes, the rapping Southwest flight attendant featured on TV, etc. Please watch the video if not for the sake of this post but to see the passengers' faces.  Why does David rap and why do customer service agents bend the rules once in a while?  It's about understanding that the Southwest brand embodies freedom and empowerment.  Southwest management has done an excellent job of stressing internal brand promise and how that translated into the external brand promise.  

This article from CustomerThink says it better than I ever could: "Southwest Airlines was one of the earliest companies to recognize the value of the employer brand and its impact on customer loyalty and retention. By aligning internal brand positioning with external brand positioning, the company created one of the highest customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction rates in the industry."

Southwest is not shy about the importance they place on internal-external brand matching -- they are proud of it.  So much so that David was to the annual shareholder meeting to do the GAAP rap.  Worth watching for the looks on the retiree shareholder faces and for noting that David Homes was introduced as the "rhythmic ambassador" -- a tacit affirmation to shareholders that this internal-external brand matching is a business practice that will continue.

Great stuff.  I wish all businesses could follow the Southwest example.  Thanks for reading today.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you!


Parissa Behnia

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Last of A New Look at Brand Marketing Principles

Gentle Readers, I must quote the immortal Frank Sinatra here:

"And now, the end is near,
And so I face the final curtain.
My friends, I'll say it clear;
I'll state my case of which I'm certain..."

Yes, it's Part Five - the last of the five part series (inspired by this article) about the need for marketers to take a look at how they support and boost their brands at all times.  Clearly, I've enjoyed it and I hope you have too.  The feedback's been great but please do leave comments on the bottom in addition to the emails!

Be Interesting

We've all heard that idle hands are the devil's workshop.  In this instance, an idle brand is likely to meet a similar fate. 

Our brands should be interesting.  No disagreement.  I would even say a bit self explanatory but...  are we as brand marketers keeping our brand interesting?  Are we freshening it up as often as we should?  Do we do enough to make our customers want to come back for more?  If not, we need to start dusting off the resumes and networking because not caring for our brand means trouble.   

A bit melodramatic?  Yes.  The point being made here is to not rest on our laurels, become complacent and assume that just because our brand means something today that it will mean something tomorrow.  

That said, let's think about some practical examples of brands that are interesting and examples of brands that are complacent.

Interesting: Apple.  I know I've brought this up in an earlier post but it doesn't stop it from being a good example.  Every customer touchpoint and product lives up to Apple's spoken and unspoken brand promise(s).  Some would also offer Lego as an example and it's a good one.  There are adult fans of Lego forums all over the place.  If you're still playing with Legos as an adult, you are one engaged brand loyalist.  Come to think of it, the same brand loyalty can be found in Trekkies.  It's true!

Complacent (and Suffering): Sears.  It breaks my heart that Sears doesn't have the same halo that it used to have.  The highlight of our family trips to Sears stores was a visit to the candy section so we could get a bag of gummy fish to take home.  Sears was where you went when you needed ANYTHING including a Craftsman house that you could get via mail order.  It meant reliability, value for money, customer satisfaction and security.  Sometime in the last twenty years or so, Sears became the proverbial Emperor with no clothes because it no longer wished to remain interesting and meaningful to its customers.  Sears had it the other way around and thought that its customers were to remain interesting to the mother ship.  Fatal error.

I've enjoyed covering these topics with you and I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.  I've got some great new items coming your way over the next couple of days so please stay tuned!


Parissa Behnia

Monday, January 25, 2010

A New Look at Brand Marketing Principles - Part Four

Hello and Happy Monday!

I hope you all had a great weekend - I spent half my day yesterday grocery shopping and the other half immersed in football.  Well, a tradeoff of football and reading a very good book.

I hope you've enjoyed this series of posts thus far.  As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed the article when I read it the first time and as I've been writing, I find that I have absorbed more.  Repetition is truly a great teacher in this instance and while I'm excited for the next batch of posts coming your way after this series is complete, I will be sad to see this end.

But, we've work to do yet. So, I'm wiping the tears and bringing you this next thought:

Think 365 Not 360

We're all pretty familiar with the 360 concept.  I cut my marketing teeth at American Express in the storied days of when direct mail was king: every campaign consisted of two pieces mailed six weeks apart with the same message and offer.  These sequential, one dimensional messages are not as effective and we're in a more sophisticated time where multiple related ideas are relayed in multiple and sometimes interactive channels.  So, these days, direct mail is accompanied by text message, banner ads, Facebook apps, SEM, SEO, twitter and a host of other marketing tools (insert your favorite here).

The article says that all this is well and good but that these tools need to have some sort of foundation or structure to be a part of every day life.  The argument goes that brands need to provide entertainment while providing utility constantly.  It's a tall order but if there are no touchpoints in this age of constant touchpoints, the brand will quickly lose "top of mind" status with the customer.  Brands need to do more with more.  

Here's a practical example: Lady Gaga.  I know it's a weird choice but consider that she has leveraged and extended her huge popularity beyond Warhol's 15 minutes by re releasing albums with different covers and new tracks, never wearing the same outlandish outfit twice, walking around for days at a time with a teacup/saucer and completely changing her concert design.  She's masterfully fought for and stayed in public consciousness by maintaining a conversation with the public across multiple touchpoints.

Want a fun practical example?  Please watch this TMobile commercial from early last year.  Cell phones have gone from being those huge monstrosities used by the elite to being ubiquitous.  Everyone has a cell phone these days though they are all not made equal - see iPhone).  I love that TMobile leveraged the flash mob concept to make a tool of everyday life into something fun and dynamic.  I think the commercial does wonders for the brand.  If you don't believe in the power of that one commercial, shortly after that aired, 13K people gathered in London's Liverpool Street station in a copycat sort of move engineered by a group on Facebook.  Here is an article from the Telegraph describing the scene replete with naked dancers.

Fun stuff.  

My one quibble with the article on this Think 365 Not 360 is actually in its wording.  I think the point is Thinking 365 While Thinking 360.  To me, it's not an either or.  We must be engaged in meaningful brand conversations all the time to reinforce our brand message and utility to the consumer.

What about you?  What's your favorite example of a brand that thinks 360 degrees 365 days of the year?  I would love to hear from you on this score.  Send an email and let me know your thoughts!


Parissa Behnia

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A New Look at Brand Marketing Principles - Part Three

And... we're back!

I've received some great comments via email and LinkedIn on the first two posts covering this topic: Create New Realities and Design Blindness.  Thanks!  If you missed those, you can read them here and here.  Today's post is the third in the series of five on this topic.  I really do recommend reading the original article in Adweek to give credit where it's due.

Becoming Brand Led

If we are not brand led, then our brand will be meaningless.  The premise in this part of the article is that while being all data driven in the delivery of what's "meaningful" there is the danger of losing "essence" of the brand and for what it stands.  The brand in addition to your exceptional product is what differentiates you: not solely one or the other.  Understanding and owning your brand allows you to drive the "right" types of innovation that fits what your company/product/service is about.

Here's a practical example: the Olympics start next month.  Imagine the opening ceremony of the Olympics with all of the majesty, pomp and circumstance that you would expect.  Everyone's pumped and excited to watch all of the athletes walk in the stadium.  What if the athletes still walked in by country but no one was carrying flags?  How would you tell one from the other?  How would you know which group is the bobsledding powerhouse versus which group is the curling powerhouse?  In this case, the flag is the representation of the country's athletic branding and the athletes are the "product" each country "brand" is offering.

That's all well and good...  

BUT.  there are truly some brands and products out there that I don't feel need the symbiotic relationship the article calls for: widgets, dishwashing gloves, ponytail holders.  

I'm sure there are others that don't need to be brand led - what would you say?  Let me know your thoughts on what you've read thus far.  Please send email or leave a comment on the bottom.

Stay Tuned for Part Four!


Parissa Behnia

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A New Look at Brand Marketing Principles - Part Two


Hope all is well and thanks to those thoughtful emails in response to Part One - particularly the one from the guy who never liked to follow the tried and true.  I'm betting in this age of change being the only constant (in addition to death and taxes), he's one step ahead of all of us.  Keep those emails coming! 

After I updated my LinkedIn status with the link to that last post, I sat in on a Loyalty 360 webinar yesterday on the linkages between employee engagement and customer engagement.  It occurs to me that these days the product and its delivery - inclusive of what the delivery method is and how it is delivered - is also part of the refreshed approach when marketers Create Better Realities.  This post covers the second point in that Adweek article I read recently.

Design Blindness

Let's face it - things happen really quickly these days and marketers no longer have the time or luxury of sitting in our silos whilst we let "design" happen independently.  It has become even more crucial for us to be more collaborative and more engaged in what is being designed as well as how it's designed to better prepare it for public consumption in this multi media world we're living in.  To be sure, Sales/Marketing and VOC research have always had inputs traditionally, but the onus is on us now to take a huge leap into the design pool (c'mon, the water's fine!) to ensure success.  

The point is that marketers are to be left and right brained thinkers and have a more holistic approach to their craft as they move forward.  Also, when we adopt "design thinking" and own it as our mission, we will quickly see more innovative business solutions.  

Couldn't agree more.  BUT...

I'd like to, with your permission, take this one step further.  I would argue that this is something that goes both ways.  Just as Marketing is to be more engaged in design, I think the onus is on product engineers, ideators, etc., to adopt more holistic approaches as well.  I'm certainly not suggesting that everyone should be jack of all trades and master of none; rather, in order for a smoother design and delivery process, marketers and engineers/ideators need to find a common spoken language so that the flow of information to one another is quick and efficient with the result of a truly outstanding product truly designed with the target end user in mind.

Coming up soon - Part Three!  Thanks again for the thoughtful comments.


Parissa Behnia

Monday, January 18, 2010

A New Look at Brand Marketing Principles - Part One


I've been reading a lot of interesting articles lately for this blog and for my own personal education.  There were some great articles in The Economist from earlier this month about women in the workforce which I highly recommend.  I ran across this article in Adweek which I thought would be a good conversation starter.

The author's basic premise is that we can no longer rely on old ways of brand marketing and that even the tools we used a few years ago are obsolete much like homes with land lines!  In other words, we can no longer say that "black is the new black" when we devise marketing initiatives.  He offers five new approaches to brand marketing in this new decade and in this as well as subsequent posts, we will review them together.  So, let's get cracking, shall we?  

Create Better Realities

What's likely not surprising is the internal brand perception does not necessarily match customer brand perception. The article quotes a recent Y&R Brand Asset Valuator which found a 90% erosion in brand differentiation over a 10 year period.  This becomes an even more urgent problem when you consider that consumers own the marketplace of opinion via social media whereas marketers owned them previously in the traditional channels.

The proposed solution is that the product is also the marketing tool.  The product gets shaped by itself, the customer experience, vibe, service, etc.  In other words, it's multi textural and multi sensory.

Who does this really well?  One example leapt to mind immediately: Apple.  Walk into any Apple store, visit, download anything from iTunes, covet your friend's iPhone (and embarrassingly hide your Blackberry) and you've officially been enveloped in the Apple experience.  The product is the marketing and the marketing is the product.

I wish I'd thought of that...  If you've got any other examples, please send them my way. "Design Blindness" is the topic of the next post - stay tuned!



p.s.  If you've not done so already, please consider a donation to Haiti earthquake relief.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Happy 2010 and More Snippets on Engagement

Hello All!

Sorry for the seeming radio silence - we got caught up with the holidays and I was particularly distracted by the host of excellent articles about leadership and branding that I've had a hard time deciding which to write about first.  It is a veritable horn of plenty!

One of the blogs I like to follow is John Ellett's - something I came across while I was surfing LinkedIn for new information and ideas.  I highly recommend reading his blog not only for the marketing insights but also for his comments on effective leadership.  I've learned a lot in the short time that I've been following him.

One particular item that resonated with me is "Have a love affair at work" where he references another lovely blog post about John Wooden, the famed UCLA coach with a winning percentage of 81%!!!  The ideas in here underscore further how critical it is to keep your employees engaged and how critical it is to give credit where it is due.  The very basis of John Wooden's success is the personal relationship he built with his players that complemented his role as coach. 

I've a host of other items to share with you so please continue to stay tuned.



p.s.  Do watch this ESPN interview of John Wooden about loyalty.  It's worth the Dick Vitale ad they force you to watch first!