August 10, 2019

by Nigel Hollis

I often assert that everything a company does builds its brand – advertently or inadvertently. But it is all too easy to get fixated on one aspect of brand building, whether it is customer experience, creating buzz or price promotion. Real marketing effectiveness requires finding the right balance of investment across three stages of the buyer life cycle.

Whatever your industry, it is sometimes too easy to get indoctrinated by accepted marketing best practice. If all your competitors are doing something, it must be right. As a result, entire industries get locked into a particular form of competition to the exception of others. This mindset is often encouraged by the ease of measuring response to that activity, so banks repetitively test new offer packages, travel companies get locked into offering last minute deals and consumer packaged goods brands get addicted to price promotions.

The problem with this consistency is that it encourages competitive stalemate. No one brand gains advantage because every brand is competing using the same tools. The only way to win is to offer better benefits, better deals or better prices. This is why when one brand does step back from the fray and assess what is really working, they end up doing something different from their competition. At the risk of repetition, let me once again call out Premier Inn, Direct Line and the AA as examples of brands that have bucked the industry standard and grown strongly as a result.

In these three cases, the brand in question focused more on brand building – creating a stronger predisposition to choose the brand before people even started thinking about making a brand choice –than direct sales activation. However, because the case studies tend to focus on advertising is very easy to overlook another important component of their success: customer experience. Premier Inn refurbished its rooms before promising “Everything's Premier but the price”. Direct Line improved car repair turnaround time through a partnership program with garages to improve customer satisfaction.

Why is this important? Because aligning experience with the brand promise means you are more likely to have happy customers. Our Customer Experience research finds that people who believe a company delivers what it promises say they are two times more likely to stay with that company and three times more likely to recommend it than those who do not. But word of mouth only goes so far, a brand still needs to publicize what it has to offer and highlight the positive aspects of its brand experience (reminding users of good things in the process). Part of the AA’s success was that it shifted the focus of its communications to center on its core experience, its breakdown service, and the emotional relief that service brought when people could get on with their lives quickly and easily.

You can read more on how to achieve the right balance for effective marketing in our new report “Mastering Momentum: Grow your brand over the short and long term”.  Meanwhile, why do you think it is so easy to get locked into just one form of brand competition?



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