by Jim Joseph
President, Lippe Taylor Brand Communications
Author of “The Experience Effect”
I started my marketing career at Johnson & Johnson, and back in the day we used to say that there are two kinds of people in the business world. Those that “get it” and those that “don’t get it.” It would always make us laugh!
With the economy and all the things that the world is going through, I’d now like to amend that. There are still two kinds of people in the business world, but I’d like to call it differently now: those that “change it up” and those that “keep it the same.”
For me, playing the game the same ‘ole way gets, well, boring, for you and your customers. We need to change it up, add some spice, and do things a little differently to stay ahead of the game. It’s not just a way of thinking; it’s a mode of survival in tough economic times. I’ll maintain that if you “keep it the same” in today’s world, you will go away. Quickly.
We need to change it up if we want to stay successful. Provide different offerings, offer usual savings, deliver unique benefits, and go after new target audiences – whatever the case may be to change and drive our businesses.
Innovation isn’t easy though, otherwise it wouldn’t be innovative! It’s hard to break from the pack, do things unconventionally, and change a paradigm. That’s why so many industries follow their conventional standard flow. “It’s just the way it’s done, keep it the same.”
So as people who are wired for change, how do we get change done? How do we get started on a path of change?
You may be surprised at my answer: start with three basic fundamentals of good marketing!
First of all, really define your brand. Or in some cases, redefine it. Put strict definition around your business and your brand: what it stands for, what it offers, what it can offer. This may require you taking a long hard look at your current equity and offerings. Maybe you can keep it the same or maybe it’s time to evolve. The world has fundamentally changed and so has the way that we purchase and consume goods. Make sure that your brand is still relevant in a new world order. Perhaps your brand should evolve to the next level, to make sure that it truly delivers something unique. I’m not suggesting a wholesale redesign, or maybe I am. Take a hard look in the mirror and decide if your business should change it up.
One way you will know for sure: are you growing? No excuses here. Are you growing? No disclaimers. Are you growing? If the answer is a simple no then it’s time to evolve your brand and its offerings.
Secondly, get to know your target customer and re-evaluate who they are, because they are growing and evolving. The events of this last decade have shattered the American dream and have put almost every institution we know in doubt. Consumers have changed as a result, including us. My bet is that your business has not kept up. So get to know your customers again, and find out how they have changed. You can’t offer a brand and market it without a deep understanding of your target audience. If your business is no longer growing, then maybe you are no longer relevant to your customer. You won’t know that unless you study them hard and get to know them again.
You may find out in the process that your target customer is no longer good for your business. That might be what you need to change. It may make more sense to go after a new target, a more lucrative one, and one that matches your brand offerings better. True consumer understanding will crack that code.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money in research, either, so don’t let that hold you back. You can learn plenty for very low cost. You can also get an eyeful and an earful by just participating with your consumers. Watch their television shows, go to their movies, and follow them in social media. You’ll learn a lot, and you’ll be able to adapt your marketing and your business to them.
After all, it should be more about them than it is about you.
And lastly, figure out how your business can improve your customers’ lives, beyond just the functional benefits that are easy to identify. If you can’t add value to the crazy lives that your customers lead, then your brand truly is no longer relevant to them.
There are so many choices available to people now, it’s gotten overwhelming. I think Starbucks alone has something like over 80,000 drink options. We’ve collectively over-marketed them! So if you aren’t helping your customers to live their lives or to accomplish their goals, they will make another choice.
It’s no longer enough to just provide a functional benefit. All your competitors can do that too, and there’s always one that will do it better, faster, or cheaper. So you need to build an emotional connection with your consumers, make them really want your brand because of the experience that you uniquely offer, above and beyond the functionality of the product.
Because after all, it’s really the experience that your customers have with your brand that will determine it’s long term success. Without a relevant and consistently positive experience across every interaction, you really have no brand. Whether that experience comes in the form of the packaging, the website, the advertising, or even participation in social media. It needs to consistently come from a meaningful brand equity and brand promise.
Think about it. It’s the functional benefits that will get customers to try your brand for the first time. It’s the positive experience that they have with the brand that will get them to come back. And then it’s the consistently relevant experience and resulting emotional connection that will make them loyal, and get them to tell their friends and colleagues.
If you evolve the brand experience over time to match your customers’ changing needs, as the economy changes or anything else for that matter, than you will have long-term growth.
And ultimately you will have changed the game.
Jim Joseph, President of Lippe Taylor Brand Communications, is an award-winning marketing professional who specializes in building consumer brands. His client experience includes blockbuster brands like Kellogg’s, Kraft, Cadillac, Tylenol, Clean & Clear, and Wal-Mart. Joseph’s new book, “The Experience Effect,” talks about building business through delivery of a consistent and memorable brand experience. He can be reached at JJoseph@LippeTaylor.com.