August 17, 2015
Figure out how tightly connected your brand is with your consumer
At Beloved Brands, we have created a hypothetical curve called the Brand Love Curve. The more tightly connected consumers are to the brand, the farther along the curve the brand sits, with brands sitting anywhere from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally to the Beloved stage, where demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans.
While marketers dream of becoming a Nike, Coke, Disney or Apple, the reality is that most brands are closer to the “Like It” stage. That means you are doing a pretty good job, you’ve been able to carve out a bit of a niche and be a consistently chosen brand against proliferation of brands in your category. And you likely have good steady market shares, moderate profits and most brand indicators are reasonably healthy. It’s just that no one loves you. You’re likely not really doing enough to create a tight bond with consumers. It also means you might not be maximizing the full potential of your brand, you may be leaving your brand vulnerable to future attacks and you are leaving money on the table.
How do consumers see brands at the “Like It” stage
Consumers see your brand as a functional and rational choice. Your brand does a good job in meeting a basic need they have. They tried it and it makes sense so they buy it, use it and enjoy it. They likely prefer it versus another brand. The might not give it much more though. Consumers lack an emotional connection or have any real feeling for the brand. They see it as ordinary, which is just a little bit better than indifferent. Overall, consumers see you brand in the “it will do” space.
Why is your brand at the Like It stage?
There are seven reasons why you are at the Like It stage of the brand love curve:
- Protective Brand Leaders means caution: While many of these brands at the Like It are very successful brands, they get stuck because of overly conservative and fearful Brand Managers, who pick middle of the road strategies and execute “ok” ideas. On top of this, Brand Managers who convince themselves that “we stay conservative because it’s a low interest category” should be removed. Low interest category means you need even more to captivate the consumer. Nearly every category has some consumers that have the potential to love the brand–it’s just a matter of finding them and a willingness to drive more emotion into your marketing.
- We are rational thinking Marketers: Those marketers that believe consumers are strictly rational when it comes to the brand are inhibiting their brands. The brand managers get all jazzed on claims, comparatives, product demonstration and doctor recommended that they forget about the emotional side of the purchase decision. Claims need to be twisted into benefits—both rational and emotional benefits. Consumers don’t care about you do until you care about what they need. Great marketers find that balance of the science and art of the brand. Ordinary marketers get stuck with the rational only. Don’t get stuck with just features and claims–match them up to consumer needs and create rational benefits and then dial them up to emotional benefits. We recommend using a customer value proposition brand ladder below to help turn your features into benefits.
- New Brand with Momentum: The second stage of a new brand innovation is ready to expand from the early adopters to the masses. The new brand begins to differentiate itself in a logical way to separate themselves from the proliferation of copycat competitors. Consumers start to go separate ways as well. Retailers might even back one brand over another. Throughout the battle, the brand carves out a base of consumers.
- There’s a Major Leak: If you look at the brand buying system, you’ll start to see a major leak at some point where you keep losing customers. Most brands have some natural flaw—whether it’s the concept, the product, taste profile ease of use or customer service. Without analyzing and addressing the leak, the brand gets stuck. People like it, but refuse to love it.
- Brand changes their mind every year: Brands really exist because of the consistency of the promise. When the promise and the delivery of the promise changes every year it’s hard to really connect with what the brand is all about. A brand like Wendy’s has changed their advertising message every year over the past 10 years. Looking at the various ads for Wendy’s, do you see a big idea? The only consumers remaining are those who like their burgers, not the brand.
- Your brand has positional power–so you figure who needs Love: There are brands that have captured a strong positional power, whether it`s a unique technology or distribution channel or even value pricing advantage. Brands like Microsoft or Walmart or even many of the pharmaceuticals products don`t see value in the idea of being loved. The problem is when you lose the positional power, you lose your customer base completely. Case in point is the Microsoft brand which has struggled to go beyond their Windows monopoly.
- Brands who capture Love, but no Life Ritual: There are brands that quickly capture the imagination but somehow fail to capture a routine embedded in the consumers’ life, usually due to some flaw. Whether it’s Krispy Kreme, Pringles or even Cold Stone, there’s something inherent in the brand’s format or weakness that holds it back and it stays stuck at Loved but just not often enough. So, you forget you love them.
Indicators that your brand is at the Like It stage
From a business point of view, you likely see the brand has a lower conversion from awareness to sales, there is a high % bought on deal, low loyalty and you’re likely faced battling a strong private label share.
- Low Conversion to Sales. While the brand looks healthy in terms of awareness and equity scores, the brand is successful in becoming part of the consumer’s consideration stage, but it keeps losing out to the competition as the consumer goes to the purchase stage. It usually requires a higher trade spend to close that sale which cuts price and margins.
- Brand Doesn’t Feel Different: A great advertising tracking score to watch is “made the brand seem different” which helps to separate itself from the pack, many times speaking to the emotional part of the messaging.
- Stagnant Shares: Your brand team is happy when they hold on to their share, content to grow with the category.
- High Private Label Sales: If you only focus on the ingredients and the rational features of the product, the consumer will start to figure out they get the same thing with the private label and the share starts to creep up to 20% and higher.
How to get to the Love It stage
- Separate your brand from the pack: stake out certain spaces in the market creating a brand story that separates your brand from the clutter. The best brands have 3 choices: better, different or cheaper. When you struggle to be better, you need to find a way to be different so that your brand matches the winning zone below–where your brand’s clear point of difference matches up to what the consumer wants. Begin to sell the solution, not just the product.
- Build a bigger following: Invest in building a brand story that helps to drive for increased popularity and get new consumers to use the brand.
- Leverage those that already love the brand: Focus on the most loyal consumers and drive a deeper connection by driving the routine which should increase usage frequency. On top of that, begin cross selling to capture a broader type of usage.
- Love the Work: It is time to dial-up the passion that goes into the marketing execution. Beloved Brands have a certain magic to them. But “Like It’ brands tend to settle for ok, rather than push for great. With better work, you’ll be able to better captivate and delight the consumers. If you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.
- Fix the Leak: Brands that are stuck have something embedded in the brand or the experience that is holding back the brand. It frustrates consumers and restricts them from fully committing to making the brand a favourite. Be proactive and get the company focused on fixing this leak.
- Build everything a Big Idea: Consumers want consistency from the brand—constant changes to the advertising, packaging or delivery can be frustrating. Leverage a Brand Story and a Big Idea that balances rational and emotional benefits helps to establish a consistency for the brand and help build a much tighter relationship. Once you establish your big idea, line up everything under that big idea including your brand positioning, communication, innovation, in-store and the overall experience you create.
Brands at the Like It stage tend to get complacent. You need to drive the Love into the work, and find the balance between rational and emotional benefits.
Does being loved matter?
The big idea behind RETURN ON LOVE (R.O.L.) is that the work you do on the brand is first and foremost focused on creating a strong bond between your consumer and your brand. Once you have that bond, you can use it as a source of power versus all the stake holders of the brand: power over customers, suppliers, competitors and even the very consumers you have the bond with. The brand would also generate added power with the media, key opinion leaders and employees. Once you have power, you can drive growth and profit, using that power to drive up price, drive down costs, gain market share and enter new categories. If your finance person asks “so what is the ROI on this”, I’m not recommending you say “we are focused on ROL buddy, not ROI” but what you should say is “we are investing in building a bond with our consumer that will give us more power that we can then wield much greater profit for our brand”
With all the love and power the Beloved Brand has generated for itself, now is the time to translate that into growth, profit and value. The Beloved Brand has an Inelastic Price. The loyal brand fans pay a 20-30% price premium and the weakened channels cave to give deeper margins. We will see how inelastic Apple’s price points are with the new iPad Mini. Consumers are willing to trade up to the best model. The more engaged employees begin to generate an even better brand experience. For instance at Starbucks, employees know the names of their most loyal of customers. Blind taste tests show consumers prefer the cheaper McDonald’s coffee but still pay 4x as much for a Starbucks. So is it still coffee you’re buying?
A well-run Beloved Brand can use their efficiency to lower their cost structure. Not only can they use their growth to drive economies of scale, but suppliers will cut their cost just to be on the roster of a Beloved Brand. They will benefit from the free media through earned, social and search media. They may even find government offer subsidies to be in the community or partners willing to lower their costs to be part of the brand. For instance, a real estate owner would likely give lower costs and better locations to McDonald’s than an indifferent brand. Apple get a billion dollars worth of free media, with launches covered on CNN for 2 weeks prior the launch and carried live like it’s a news event.
Beloved Brands have momentum they can turn into share gains. Crowds draw crowds which spreads the base of the loyal consumers. Putting the Disney name on a movie generates a crowd at the door on day 1. Competitors can’t compete–lower margins means less investment back into the brand. It’s hard for them to fight the Beloved Brand on the emotional basis leaving them to a niche that’s currently unfulfilled. Walk past an Apple store 15 minutes before it’s open and you’ll see a crowd waiting to get in–even when there are no new products.
Beloved Brands can enter into new categories knowing their loyal consumers will follow because they buy into the Idea of the Brand. The idea is no longer tied to the product or service but rather how it makes you feel about yourself. Nike is all about winning, whether that’s in running shoes, athletic gear or even golf equipment. When Starbucks went for pastries and sandwiches their loyal consumers quickly followed.
The more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be.
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