Tuesday, 27 May 2014

'Share of life' - the new marketing metric?

Not a week seems to go by without a piece of research focused on major brands.  The latest is the BrandZ list of the world’s most valuable brands. In a shock move, Google has displaced Apple as the world’s most valuable brand while Ford has re-entered the list after some time in the wilderness.

One of the keys to Google’s success appears to be its ‘share of life’ – its ability to connect with customers by having many stakes in their lives through a proliferation of products and services.

I’m sure the marketing teams at Google are delighted with the result.  Meanwhile, the rest of us are left pondering what on earth this means for our brands and marketing activity.

From my point of view, ‘share of life’ is just a new, catchy way of saying that to be truly valuable brands need to be relevant to their customers - both now and in the future.  Brands need to keep pace with changes in customer needs/wants and behaviours.  And they need to ensure that their messaging resonates with their target audiences.

It’s a case of ‘adapt or die’ as far as I’m concerned.  In fact history is littered with examples of brands that have failed to keep pace with change.  Perhaps the most notable casualty in recent years was Kodak. With its long history, Kodak was synonymous with photography in much the same way as Cadbury is with chocolate, Hoover with vacuuming and Google with web searching. With the advent of digital photography, I would be amazed if the senior team at Kodak didn’t debate what it would mean for their business.  The reality is they either chose not to act, or failed to act quickly enough. The brand’s demise should act as a wake up call to all brands.

Google has spent a lot of time, money and energy in recent years in building its portfolio of products and services.  I dare say there was a major commercial imperative here – to build a revenue stream and commercialise its free search offer.  In doing so, according to the research, Google has managed to touch the lives of many people in many different ways and thereby grow its ‘share of life’. 

Growing a product portfolio is not an option that all brands have. So, let’s not get hung up on ‘share of life’. The key is remaining relevant your audience.  Something that marketers have known for some time.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Big data? It's the little things that count

There's much talk about 'big data' with its potential to better understand customer behaviour and tailor service and offerings appropriately. Great idea, but I can't help thinking that organisations would do well to master the 'small data' they have at present.

I've been a member of a well-known airline's frequent flyer programme for many years. In theory, they know a great deal about me and continue to gather data based upon my travel patterns, locations and preferences. Yet it never ceases to amaze me how they continue to get it wrong:

  • I flew to Glasgow on business earlier this week.  En route to the airport, I received a text asking me to rate the service I had received at the airport that morning - some two hours before my flight.
  • On the same day, my return flight was delayed by over an hour. I knew this in advance because I took the trouble to check. Did I receive a text alerting me? No.
  • I receive at least one promotional email a week encouraging me to book my next flight or take advantage of a time-limited sale.  Often the offers are for flights that I cannot possibly take.  Why? Because I already have a flight booked during the relevant period. Don't they know this?
  • One such email encouraged me to take advantage of a discount on flights to the US. This was just a few days after I had booked a flight to the US at the full price. Ouch!
  • They have made of point of asking for and recording my seat preference - window or aisle - yet consistently allocate the wrong seat on check-in
It's often the small things that count in customer service. These small irritations are missed opportunities to impress.  It's a pity that with all the data this organisation has, it consistently fails to think things through effectively.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Political parties need to learn lessons from successful brands

In twelve months' time the UK goes to the polls in a general election. Over the next year we can expect to see a fair amount of posturing and positioning by political parties in an attempt to win votes. Party political broadcasts, advertising campaigns and PR stunts will be the order of  the day.

Politicians of all colours will go all out to persuade a cynical British public that they are fair and reasonable people who put the interests of the country and its constituent parts first.  We can expect to see a caring approach, an emphasis on family and the average worker and, inevitably, pronouncements on the importance of education and the health service.  It happens every time.

Unfortunately, for many voters these attempts to garner support wear thinly.  Why?  Because political parties consistently fail to recognise that they are to all intents and purposes brands.  And like all brands, if there is a failure to deliver against promises or those promises are so blatantly out of sync with the product or service, the consumer sees through them.

Successful brands understand that their reputations are made and sustained by a continued, consistent focus on a combination of three main elements:
  1. Identity: a clear understanding of what the brand stands for or believes in, reinforced by a consistently expressed personality.
  2. Behaviour: how the brand 'acts' or 'behaves'.  In other words, the relationship it builds with its customers and the experience they have of interacting with the brand, its products, services and people.
  3. Performance: how well the brand delivers against its promise and the value it delivers.
The key message for politicians has to be that no matter how hard you work at defining what you stand for, if you fail to then behave in an appropriate way or fail to deliver against your promises, your reputation will suffer. It's something that great brands have understood for some time.  Isn't it time political parties took note?