Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
What Perk needs to do is to do some soul search to find the right brand manthra. Once that is found then resist all temptations to deviate from the core manthra.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
In most of the marketing literature, branding strategies are usually skewed towards large businesses. The nature of these strategies also demands heavy and sustained investment in brand promotion and brand equity development. Often such high decibel brand promotion strategies create an impression that branding is a game for large players.
One of the fundamental question before any marketer is whether to brand or not brand. Although marketing literature suggests that there is an option for no-branding, for all practical purposes a firm cannot escape branding. No-Branding decision is where the firm chose to sell its offerings as generic products or commodities. But even in such a scenario, the firms which are marketing such generic products are distinguished by their company name which should be considered as a brand.
For example if you are a salt manufacturer supplying to retail outlets, although you are not selling branded salt, your company name will act as a brand for your customer ( retailer). Even though such firms are not into selling branded products, they have a corporate brand. Through their sales personnel and transactions, these firms are already building their corporate brand.
One of the most important advantages of branding is that brands help to identify and distinguish the seller. Even when selling commodities, the buyer needs to identify the seller and developing a corporate brand helps in getting repeat business from the customer.
Commit to Branding
The first step in creating an effective brand is a conscious decision to invest in branding the business. Whether it is a corporate name or an individual brand name, the decision to invest in branding will bring in a big difference. Branding is much more than putting a label in the cover of the product. Branding is a long term strategy which involves development of a brand vision and creation of brand personality.
Branding need not be expensive
Investing in branding is not about the money set aside for brand promotion but the level of involvement of marketers in developing the brand consciously. Small and medium enterprises have the constraint of limited marketing budget which forces them to overlook the importance of branding their products/business. But when we look at the long term perspective, taking baby steps now will go a long way in establishing a powerful brand in the future.
Big brands are built over a period of time. It is possible for small enterprises to build powerful brand through a consistent investment in smart branding practices. It is advisable to set aside a small percentage of revenue for the purpose of brand development alone. Consider this budget as a Systematic Brand Investment Plan rather than an expense.
Develop and protect the brand elements
Once a decision is made to build a brand, the next step is to develop powerful brand elements.
Brand elements include name, logo, symbols, mascots, color schemes, taglines etc. These brand elements should be prominently displayed in every communication that goes out from the firm be it visiting cards, gifts, brochures etc.
The next logical step is to protect the vital brand elements like Brand Name, Logo, etc. This is very important to prevent plagiarism and to challenge the rip-offs and copy cats.
Explore promotional opportunities
The fragmentation of media is in fact a big blessing for small brands. The proliferation of media has given lot of low cost promotional opportunities for small brands. The competition among the media has kept the advertising rates low especially for second –rung media. Small brands can make use of regional media options in a much more effective way than large brands operating in a national scale. Local newspapers, radio stations, cable TV channels offer excellent cost-effective vehicles for small brand promotions.
Brand promotions through these low cost media may not give a substantial ROI or a significant impact in sales in the short-term. In the long term, such small media exposure will increase the visibility of the brand and benefits will start accruing.
Corporate brands which operate in a business to business environment should explore their brand promotions in a different manner. For business brands, sales professionals are the biggest promoters of the brand. It is important for small businesses to ensure that the sales force is communicating the right kind of message to the customer. Business brands should try to communicate their brand message through every possible contact opportunities.
Every business has some communication materials like brochures, pamphlets etc and these materials offer some amount of information about the company and products. When endeavoring to brand development, these materials are of immense value. These materials should communicate the core Brand Manthra to the consumers. It is commonly observed that these communication materials are only used as a product catalogue rather than a branding tool.
It is a myth that brand building is expensive. Brands are built over time and through consistent systematic investment. The new highly connected environment has opened up many cost effective promotional platforms which can be used by small business to build their brands.
Originally Published in Adclubbombay.com
Saturday, January 08, 2011
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Last day, my colleague got simultaneous service calls from 3 branches of a reputed car service firm. The call was made three days after he had given his car for service in one of the firms. Customer services failures like this is rampant in almost all sectors, which often make us wonder whether firms have forgot to understand the basics of customer service. While selling products or handling complaints, it is surprising to see a lack of basic customer service skills like empathy, responsiveness or responsibility.
Customer service is no rocket science. It does not take loads of customer data or complex CRM algorithms to provide exceptional customer service. What a firm need is the ability to understand customer’s needs and develop a human process to assist the customers in realizing their needs through the firm’s offering.
One of the fundamental requisite of customer service excellence is to treat customer service as an important strategic marketing tool. When a firm considers customer service as a marketing mix element; investment, involvement and control will be more focused. The task of ‘putting customers first’ will be considered a priority at the highest level.
In 1940s, Johnson & Johnson framed its famous credo, under the leadership of Chairman Robert Wood Johnson. The Credo made a very bold statement that “We believe that our first responsibility is towards doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services”. The credo made the company imbibe a customer oriented culture which is now considered as a core competence. When the importance of customer service is impressed upon by the highest level of management, it becomes a culture rather than a peripheral activity of a division.
Customers always look for a single unified contact point at the company for all their requirements. Often it is the sales/marketing department that acts as the unified contact point. Although the unified contact point is supposed to facilitate two-way communication, in practice the contact is more skewed towards selling products rather than providing customer service. The management has to be careful that the contact point is given sufficient authority to fulfil the customer requirements.
The quality of customer service will come to test when customers have real issues or complaints. How well a firm approaches the complaints is the true determinant of the effectiveness of the customer service initiative. More often, consumers get stuck with their complaints because the contact point may not have the authority to initiate any corrective actions or solutions.
Customers may also have limited access to the higher levels of management. It is in this situation that firms should develop a system of escalation with regard to complaint redress. The process should have definite timelines which automatically triggers escalation of unresolved complaints to the next level of management. For example, if a complaint is unresolved (for whatever reasons) for more than 30 days, it will automatically get moved to the next level of the management hierarchy. The advantage of such a system is that over a period of time, the firm will be able to have virtually no unresolved complaints.
Another basic requirement for exceptional customer service is the human factor. Having highly motivated employees give a special meaning to the word – customer service. An example of extra-ordinary customer service was displayed in the Taj Hotel during the terrorist attack of 26/11. The entire world was thoroughly moved by the dedication of the Taj hotel staff who risked their lives to keep the guests safe from terrorists. These kinds of extra-ordinary actions can result only from a highly motivated and committed team.
While customer service needs to have a human touch, it is important for firms to back the human factor with robust processes. Processes help the firms to have a consistent level of customer service by taking care of the variability factor. Firms must build some amount of flexibility in the processes because one cannot anticipate all kinds of customer requirements and problems.
Companies should also be taking an effort to practice permission marketing while attempting to cross-sell to the customers. Permission marketing is a term coined by the marketing guru Seth Godin to denote the practice of getting prior permission of customers before attempting to sell.
Companies taking customer service seriously should understand that it cannot offer everything to every customer. It takes lot of courage and effort to identify the customer segment that the firm opt to serve. Once that profitable segment is identified, firms should not shy away from providing the best possible customer service to them.
Originally Published in Adclubbombay.com
Sunday, January 02, 2011
Teflon is an interesting marketing lesson for all of us. DuPont has proven its marketing acumen by establishing strong ingredient brands like Teflon, Lycra etc. These success stories will inspire many marketers to view branding as a serious strategic tool .