brand reputation

Branding: Your Prices Must Support Your Image.

Your brand is defined by the quality and price of the services and products you sell.

Your brand is defined by the quality and price of the services and products you sell.

Always remember that your brand is built on the quality of the products and services you sell. Your prices must support your brand image.

If you wish to possess a brand image like Apple or Abercrombie & Fitch then your products/services & brand philosophy need to reflect that. It may require sourcing high-end items and pricing said items in such a way as to project a “top-end”, “elitist” and “luxury” image.

Likewise, if you wish to possess a more middle ground and “common man” brand image like Canadian Tire or Askews Grocers then you may need to make the products/services more accessible.

Now then the image above: $8.99 Wedding Ring sets? Anyone care to wager a guess on this high quality establishment?

If you guessed Walmart, you win the prize!

One The One Side Of The Spectrum.

Disclaimer: I shop at Walmart on occasion for certain items, so the next few sentences should be taken with a grain of salt.

Walmart has to some, become the corporate personification of Red-Neck-America or ‘Murica if you prefer. Cheap, mass produced goods for the lazy jogging pants clad being in all of us. Some websites even sport a “People of Walmart” section that features images of some of the “classiest” individuals found in their stores.

Of course we know that there is more to Walmart then this and not everyone who shops there allows their rear end to hang out of their pants, yet this is a very real part of the image they have garnered.

They have developed a brand image (right or wrong) for delivering goods at one of the cheapest prices available. That is their image and along with it comes the “People of Walmart” image. Where cheap goods are, cheap people go (and yes I am included in that crowd also, although I do not own a pair of jogging pants).

And On The Other Side Of The Spectrum.

Pricing determines a significant portion of your brand image. Are the products at Abercrombie & Fitch truly worth what they are priced at? No. Not at all. The huge markup on those products helps to pay for their expensive models, marketing and advertising, but more than anything, it helps keep their brand image as “Elite”. If not everyone can afford their products, then those who can, are given the opportunity to boast. That is the A&F brand image and their prices support that.

Remember when Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries made the statement that he would rather see his burnt then on the backs of less than attractive people? The interview went viral several years after it actually happened and ignited a firestorm on social media.

Other statements by A&F CEO and his managers include:

  • “Abercrombie and Fitch doesn’t want to create the image that just anybody, poor people, can wear their clothing. Only people of a certain stature are able to purchase and wear the company name.” – Unnamed District Manager
  • “I don’t want our core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing our clothing.” – CEO Mike Jefferies
  • “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong” – CEO Mike Jefferies

While completely arrogant (and a massive faux pas in our estimate) these statements indicate quite clearly what A&F’s brand image is. Elite. They made that obvious and their prices support it.

Pricing & Your Brand.

What do your prices say about your brand image? Do they support what you are trying to build? Why or why not? How do you change that?

Transition-Marketing-Services

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.

 

What Is Your Brand Promise? (Google VS Bing)

What Is A Brand?

A Brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.” [Source]

A Brand is more than just aesthetic however and it is impacted by several key things. To start out let’s quickly define three key terms. BrandingBrand Promise & Brand Reputation

  • “Branding” Defined as: The [aesthetic] marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. [Source].
  • “Brand Promise” Defined as: The primary, valued promise made by the larger institution. Also called a positioning statement or USP. The natural association or expectation (of service, product and/or quality) for a given business.
  • “Brand Reputation” Defined as: The position a company brand occupies (within the minds of consumers). How a brand is acknowledged and perceived by customers.

It is understood that any successful brand is built on these key principles. Each one is important in its own right and will impact the Brands success. Crucial to the building and success of any Brand is the “Brand Promise”. This promise is the commitment by which consumers grade the brand.

For example: At Transition Marketing our Brand Promise is to educate, equip, support and maintain the branding and marketing resources for small businesses.

The concept of the Brand Promise, is essentially a company’s commitment. It is their “philosophy” and the direction of their company. It is their promise to the consumer and their Brand Reputation is linked directly to this promise.

A brand’s reputation is just like any other reputation. It is like yours and it is like mine. It is developed slowly through the various experiences others have with us. The more we keep our word, the better our reputation is right?

Likewise it is a businesses ability to keep to their Brand Promise and to fulfill the consumers expectations, that determines how solid their Brand Reputation is. It gives the consumer the ability to “expect”.

To further use the example above: if at Transition Marketing our Brand Promise is to educate, equip, support and maintain the branding and marketing resources for small business, then it is our ability to fulfill these things, that will determine the word that goes out about us and the reputation that we develop.

Every product or service you purchase is purchased for a reason and that reason is almost always linked to the Brand Reputation & Brand Promise being made:

  • Purchasing no-name toilet paper? that is because it is less expensive, that is the brand reputation of the no-name brand. That is what is expected when the purchase is made.
  • Purchasing “Charmin” brand toilet paper? That’s because it promises a “softer experience”. It may be more expensive, but a lower price was never part of the promise. A quality “cleaning” experience, however, was.

Both brands in the purchases above will be graded on their ability to keep to their promise. That is the Brand Reputation and it will be reflected in your choice the next time you go to make that purchase.

Brand Reputation Illustrated: Google VS Bing

While recently browsing one of our favorite social sites, Reddit, we came across the image below (credit to user: /r/engineeringguy) . At first it made us chuckle, then we gave our heads a shake and realized just how serious what we were looking at truly was.

In the instance below, a user attempted to find the name of a movie based on the description: “spy movie with little girl”. The search results below speak for themselves.

Google VS Bing. The Search results tell a compelling story.

Google VS Bing. The Search results tell a compelling story.

The difference between the two search engines is night and day. I for one know which search engine I would want my children using. 

Google has long-held the title as the king of Search Engines. Other brands (Yahoo, Bing, Ask, Alta Vista) are more or less just a joke. However this is not about that. What is important to note here is the stark contrast in these companies ability to fulfill their Brand Promise. Let’s compare.

  • Googles Brand Promise: Search the world’s information, including webpages, images, videos and more. Google has many special features to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Fulfillment: A+. Google clearly fulfills their promise, providing clear (clean) and accurate search results that provide the user with the exact information being sought.
  • Brand Reputation: Google is well-known as the go to engine for search results. Few if any users use other engines as a primary search tool. As the go to for almost all internet user’s their “AdWords” business generate massive revenue.
  • Bings Brand Promise: Bing is a search engine that brings together the best of search and people in your social networks to help you spend less time searching and more time doing.
  • Fulfillment: F. Bing fails so miserably in the example above that summer school won’t even do it any good. I would not trust Bing’s services and would never recommend them to anyone.
  • Brand Reputation: Bing is joked about widely. It is the Search Engine equivalent of the Google+ social network and likely only used by Bing employees while being watched by their Bing employers. As such Bing generates a fraction of the revenue Google generates.

The example above is not to lambaste Bing (although it does a pretty good job). There are MANY variables to play into search engines and their ability to provide the answers we are looking for. However the example above is the perfect illustration of Brands making Brand Promises and the eventual Brand Reputation that occurs.

Your business will develop a Brand Reputation whether you like it or not. Customers will talk about your business. It may be positive, it may be negative and that is almost entirely up to you the business owner. You must take control of your business, its image and its reputation.

Every business requires a Brand plan. Business owners must take time to develop their brand and take control of their Brand Image. By carefully developing the brand, a business can go from simply surviving to succeeding.

Transition-Marketing-Services

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.

Building Consumer Trust Through Consistency

Transition Marketing Services

Which is it? Consumers need to be able to trust a brand and it’s products / services.

Trust in business is absolutely crucial, no more so than for small business, where losing just a handful of customers can put you into ruin. To build a reputation of trust, you must be consistent in all aspects.

Consumers need to know what to CONSISTENTLY expect from you and your brand. They need to know that they can trust you and your brand to deliver properly and EVERY TIME. It is almost always the seemingly small inconsistencies that plague the small business owner, ask yourself:

  • Are you faithful in the little things?
  • Do you have a reputation for treating all customers equally well, regardless of purchase?
  • Is your service always good or is it hit and miss?
  • Do they wait until a specific employee is there or does your entire team consistently service them?
  • Can they expect better prices consistently on specific items or is it a waste to even check your store?

The main question to ask yourself is can they trust their hard-earned dollars to your expertise?

Or are they simply wasting their time?

Build customer trust through consistency and you will build an effective brand. Be consistent. Be honest. Treat customers with respect and always do the right thing.

I’ve Got 99 Problems But A (Sales) Pitch Ain’t One

The Relationship Between Sales & Marketing

To clearly define the relationship between sales and marketing we must first define marketing

What Is Marketing?

Marketing is all about enabling.

  1. Enabling a business to find the right customers.
  2. Enabling consumers to find the right business.
  3. Enabling sales by demonstrating and displaying the value of specific products and services.

To break it all down to bare bones,  marketing, is about enabling businesses to survive and to thrive via the one thing every business requires – SALES

Marketing enables sales.

Businesses need sales to survive. No matter what a business does, it is always about driving sales. Cold calls, Customer Service, Branding campaigns, Advertising, Promotions, you name it – all of it in one way or another, is about making the sale.

Because for any business, survival depends on sales.

Marketing enables sales.

Ergo marketing enables survival.

Sales depend on the customer’s ability to perceive value. When enough value is perceived, a customer is willing to pay a specific amount based on that value. Marketing is about demonstrating that value. If a business can demonstrate enough value – enough reason – for customers, then they will make the sale. They will survive and they will grow.” – TMS

That is what Marketing is.

Now let’s dig further.

Marketing: Displaying Value.

“Value” is perceived in a number of ways and by a number of things. For simplicity we will break it down into two primary areas first (we will then break those down further).  The two primary areas are as follows:

  1. Value in a product or service.
  2. Value attached to a brand reputation.

1. Value In A Product Or Service.

Value in a given product or service is determined by a number of variables. Certain products are a necessity to everyday life: Toothpaste, Toilet paper, Food, Gasoline, Electricity etc. While other products are considered luxury items: Movies, Video Games, Vacations, so on.

Necessities: These sell themselves to a certain degree. When dealing with these types of products it is more about keeping abreast of the competition. Let’s use toilet paper to demonstrate a few of the controlling factors for sales on necessities:

  1. Price point. Are your rolls more or less expensive than the next guy?
  2. Quality. Two ply will fetch more than single ply toilet paper.
  3. Innovation. Is there something NEW or DIFFERENT that separates your product from the other available options? (Does it wipe for you?).
  4. Availability. Is the product in all of the key places people go (no pun intended)? Is it convenient to find? Is it in stock?
  5. Relationship. In small business especially, relationships are important. Develop camaraderie with the customer base, and you will be number 1 (pun definitely intended). They will CHOOSE to support you.
  6. Reputation. This is about branding and ties in to the value attached to you brand. Developing a brand reputation drives new and repeat sales. Branding is key to success.

With necessities, customers are going to purchase these products regardless. Will they purchase from you or do they have reason to go elsewhere? Success here is about giving them a reason to go to you.

Luxuries: These items are more about what customers are CHOOSING to purchase. It could be something new, perhaps a new snowboard, or a Kitchen Aid mixer. Or it could be an upgrade, moving from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5. Regardless, these items require more effort in demonstrating the value.

All of the same principles for “necessities” apply to luxury purchases as well. However the value is not as readily evident. People know they need to brush their teeth, the do not necessarily agree that they need a new 52” plasma screen.

With these types of items marketing can take a nasty turn, becoming more about coercion and less about value.

Coercing or deceiving customers about value, is one massive marketing FAIL. If the product is so bad that it requires deceit to sell it, then it should not be on the market.

As Seth Godin put it “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers”.

  • You can market junk, and do it well. You can make the quick sale, but you will NEVER develop a brand or any longevity.
  • This is a fact and it is increasing in truth as Social Media continues to enable brand transparency, CRM and more thorough customer feedback at a public level.

It is the marketing of junk that has given the industry a bad name. TRUE Marketing is not about deceiving the consumer base. It is about showing them great products.

Let’s assume then, that the product is a non-essential – a luxury – but a good one, one with value. Now it comes down to showcasing this value. That is where marketing comes in. developing the research, strategies, tools and resources to display the products greatness to the world.

The research is crucial. Knowing HOW to best market a specific business will save thousands of the client’s dollars. Market Research requires a careful analysis of variables that include (but are not limited to):

  • Business Location.
    • Location of competition.
    • Location of viable customers.
  • Product & Service Value
    • Define the value.
    • Who is it valuable to?
    • What similar products & services exist?
  • Target Market
    • Where is the market located?
    • Market demographics (age, gender etc.)
    • What are they spending money on?
    • What do they value?
  • Measure Existing Brand Strengths
    • What is there to work with? (don’t reinvent the wheel).
    • What are they doing right?
    • What can be leveraged?
  • Measure Existing Brand Weaknesses
    • Where is there room for improvement?
    • How are these being exploited by competitors?
    • How do we address?
  • Measure Competition
    • Analyze what they provide.
    • Who they provide it to.
    • How they do it.
    • How we can do it better

Small business budgets are, well… small. By determining the marketing areas of highest value, we can ensure the most return on the dollar. Taking all of these variables into account we determine what strategy and tools make the most sense for that specific business. For example:

  • Not every business needs accounts on multiple social media profiles.
  • Not every business requires billboard advertising.
  • Not every business can profit from advertising in women’s magazines…

Know Your Target: There is such a vast number of marketing and advertising options in existence, that many assume putting a business or brand on display would be simple. In fact, a common statement from small business is that “they are marketing, but not seeing the results they hoped for”.

Many are mystified.

The thing is that a product or service can be displayed, but if the right people are not seeing it, it does no good. Put another way, “if your business is selling marmalade to the elderly, don’t sink your budget into social media”.

If you boil the term “marketing” down to “displaying value”, then one can agree that it makes sense to ensure that this “value” is being displayed to the people who care.

2. Value Attached To A Brand Reputation.

Brand reputation is the result “BRANDING”. Many mistake “Branding” as no more than the consistent displaying of the same logo and uniform colour scheme across all advertising mediums. While this is an ASPECT of branding, it is only about 30% of it.

Branding is all about creating an image and an association – in the mind of the consumer – between a specific business and a specific expectation. For example, when one purchases a coffee from Starbucks, they expect a certain level of quality and service. Why? Because this is what they have come to expect. That is the BRAND REPUTATION.

To develop a brand image and reputation a business must first determine what their commitment is to consumers. This is their “BRAND PROMISE”. This brand promise, or commitment to customers is what the brand reputation is built around.

A brand reputation is controlled and affected my many things. It takes years of consistent effort to develop a brand and all of that work can be unraveled in a matter of hours.

Image source: liviubestphoto.blogspot.ca

The value in developing a brand can be seen in all of the major companies in existence today. Apple, Google, Samsung, Coke, Visa, Nike, BMW, Toyota, etc. They have all put in decades of effort to get to where they are today.

When developing a brand, one once again looks to research and measurements. We discuss this further in our post here:

Suffice to say that once a positive brand reputation has been developed, sales grow more easy. Consider Apple, they are widely regarded as suppliers of innovative, engaging and quality products. Since they possess a reputation for high value product, they will make sales with less effort.

A good brand reputation essentially paves the way for sales. Make no mistake though, this reputation takes time and effort to cultivate and under the right circumstances, can be quickly destroyed.

Branding should be a goal for any business of any size. It is not something left strictly to corporations, or established businesses. A small corner store can develop a reputation for quality service with a smile, and that in itself can drive sales.

Every business needs brand awareness, a brand image and a brand reputation.

SUMMARY:

BUSINESS SURVIVAL requires SALES.

SALES require MARKETING.

MARKETING is:  “the enabling of sales through display and exposure of product/service value.” – TMS

Demonstrate the value behind your product/service and demonstrate the value of your business/brand to the correct target market. That is marketing encapsulated into a very tiny nutshell.

If you want to make sales, provide the most valuable products possible to your customer base and market in a way that clearly displays this value to the people it matters to.

As Henry Ford put it “There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.” 

Okanagan-Small-Business-MarketingTransition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

Building Your Brand Through Service

How do you build a brand?

Branding is about more than just your image. A hot logo is only the tip of the iceberg.

Branding is about creating a consistent message for your customer base. One that communicates the same firm philosophy and image across the board.

Image plays a key role. A good Graphic Designer or Marketer will set you up with a full brand package that presents the same logo, same colour scheme, same concept across all of your promotional materials. That however is only the aesthetic aspect of Branding, and it is not enough.

Brand Association.

Branding is all about association – the associations that develop within the consumer. When it comes to this Brand Association, a business should be focused on two areas:

  1. WHO is the customer associating certain products, services and quality with? (is it your Brand?)
  2. WHAT products, services and quality are they associating with you? (is it good products and service or poor products and service?)

Five & Dime Branding Package by Bravo Coompany. Image Source: Behance.net

Simply put, when a customer looks to procure a specific product or service, do they naturally turn to you first? if not are you within the top three businesses they naturally turn to?

If you cannot with all certainty answer yes to either of these questions, then your brand may have some room for improvement.

Building Your Brand.

One cannot successfully build a brand over night. Brands build their reputation over time and as they do they build a faithful customer base. Their are two key way to speed up the development of your brand reputation:

1. Develop your business in key areas that matter to your consumer base. In other words, determine what matters to your customers and ensure that your business is focused on those areas first and foremost.

Can we build it? Yes we can! Build your brand through long-term consistent engagement.

Example: I boycott a certain Coffee Chain here in Canada – because they consistently get my order wrong – I am talking EVERY single time. They may release a new flavor of donut every month, which is fun, but what matters most to me is that I get what I ordered. As they cannot achieve this, they have lost my business. 

Determine what your key Target Market wants and aim for that. Do not get caught up marketing and branding yourself in areas that do not matter. It wastes resources and time.

2. Seek to broadcast your Brand’s message and success in these areas as often as possible through creative and consistent communication. There are numerous avenues through which to address and dialogue with your customer base – use them as often and as widespread as possible.

There is no better medium for building a brand, then happy consumers and nothing spreads legitimacy, like word of mouth. The more customers you reach with your brands QUALITY services and products, the more viral your brand will become.

Depositing Goodwill In The Consumer Bank

Branding Tip? Make a goodwill deposit of extra service into your customer bank EVERY chance you get.

One great example of Branding through quality service, that stands out for me, dates back to my days with the Customer Service Team of a large local manufacturer. Over the course of several months I had developed a good dialogue and banter with one of our wholesalers. There had been several key moments when he had asked for help to remedy errors on their part. Our company had no actual responsibility to assist, however we took on a little extra labor and cost, and gave him a hand.

Catch that? We were in no way beholden to help with his errors, it cost one of our reps some time and effort and it cost the business a few extra dollars – we could have easily said “sorry we cannot help you with this” and walked away with no hard feelings, instead we went the extra mile.

Sure enough several months after all of this, we missed a high priority shipment to this same wholesaler. I emailed with a profuse apology, explained the situation and waited to get slammed.

His reply was simple: “no worries you have investments in the bank of Jake (his name) and you are allowed to make a withdrawal every once in awhile”.

I was taken aback, our extra service had been remembered, we had “deposited” GOODWILL with him. Our Brand had established enough goodwill, good faith and reputation with him, that he stood by us despite our error. That is what effective Branding can do.

A good example of what not to do, comes from a recent interaction I had with an international courier service. I was forced to spend over 2 hours listening to their on-hold propaganda about their outstanding deliveries and service. This all spanned three different phone calls with three different answers to the same inquiry. The final straw came when I was told by the service rep that they did not know where the package was, and to just “wait and see if it turns up tomorrow”. 

Service is key to Branding. Build your service and you will build your reputation. Build your reputation and you have built your Brand.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing ServicesContact us for a free consultation.