2

Learn How To Inspire Employees To Become Brand Advocates

Your greatest brand asset is your employees. What are they saying about your brand? Are they inspired to share your brand virtues with friends and family? Do they tell incredible brand stories or bitch about work? Turning employees into brand advocates or ambassadors should be a significant priority for any brand. If your employees don’t care about your brand, why should any customer care?

Only 13 percent of the world’s employees are engaged in their jobs and workplace, according to Gallup Research. Employee engagement is a big problem. The number improves to 32 percent in the USA, but that still means 68 percent of American employees are unhappy at work. Unhappy or disengaged employees spell trouble for brands.

If an employee isn’t engaged in your brand, why should a customer be any different? Engaging employees must be the most significant missed opportunity for any brand. The Weber Shandwick Employees Rising report found that only 42 percent of employees can describe to others what their employer does. Just only 42 percent! However, that’s better than if you asked my kids what I did for a living.

Meanwhile, 70 percent of adults online in the USA will trust brand or product recommendations from friends and family, says Forrester did a study in 2013. Imagine if every employee recommended your brand to all of their friends and family, you wouldn’t need to spend millions on a marketing campaign. Sounds so simple? It isn’t.

With the advent of social media, every employee can be a brand advocate or brand destroyer. But as Jay Baer, author and President of Convince & Convert, says, “If your employees aren’t your biggest fans, you’ve got problems WAY bigger than social media.”

Brand Culture

The first step is to build a vibrant culture and collaborative environment for employees. Engaged employees feel empowered, trusted and valued, and those who lead them show confidence, provide feedback and demonstrate appreciation. However, the workplace must be truthful, open, transparent and fun.

Stever Robbins, a personal coach and podcaster, says, “Transparency and authenticity build a trusting relationship in which people are more likely to bring their full creativity, commitment, and motivation to work. How you treat your employees will be mirrored in the way your employees treat your customers. Treat your employees poorly, and they’ll pass that treatment along to your customers.”

Employee expectations are also changing. Gone are the days of just using the carrot and the stick to motivate employees. Today employees are looking for companies that will pay them well and provide a job that has a purpose. Daniel Pink, author of the book DRIVE The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, says employees are seeking more autonomy with a clear sight of goals that matters in the big picture of life. Millennials aren’t asking for much, are they?

Brand Purpose

A brand’s purpose should be the beacon that every employee understands and wants to follow within an organization. The pioneers of branding understand this and have levered their employees to the good of the brand. How do you instill employees with the feeling that it’s “their” business to the point where they take ownership through good and bad times? They must have a strong sense of what the brand stands for, understand where it is going and its ultimate vision. And know where they fit within the brand purpose.

Here are a few great examples of companies that have cultivated a strong brand culture and purpose to inspire powerful employee brand advocates:

Zappos

Zappos (now owned by Amazon), located in Las Vegas with roughly 1,500 employees, is one of the most massive online shoes and clothes retailers. Their campus-style-meets-frat-house environment gives everyone the ability to make their space their own, which doesn’t match any other office space I have ever seen. If you want privacy, this wouldn’t be the place for you. Every new employee goes through five weeks of extensive training, including call centre support and shipping. Once completed, they are offered $3,000 to quit. They do this to ensure new employees are willing and ready to support the Zappos customer value culture.

03_Zappos-employee
CEO Tony Hsieh says, “We believe that your company’s culture and your company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin. The brand may lag the culture at first, but eventually, it will catch up. Your culture is your brand.” Zappos number one core value is “Deliver WOW Through Service through its employees who are ambassadors of delivering a customer-centric experience.

Google

1278166_10152327906552139_2111488848_o

Google goes to great lengths to create an environment for employees with perks such as free gourmet food, beach volleyball courts, mini-golf courses, and adult playgrounds. The goal is to create an environment that lets employees feel relaxed and comfortable with vocalizing creative, even wacky ideas. But more importantly, Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, says the people who work at Google “believe in what they’re doing.” He also explains that “We have somewhat of a social mission, and most other companies do not. I think that’s why people like working for us…”

Starbucks

epa04318933 Employees celebrate during opening of the first Starbucks coffe store in Colombia, in Bogota, Colombia, 16 July 2014. EPA/Mauricio Duenas Castaneda

The world’s largest coffee chain Starbucks is another company dedicated to building a culture where its employees matter, and they invest in them. Historically, the retail industry isn’t known for employee engagement or retention strategies. Except at Starbucks. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz claims that their relationship “with our people and the culture of our company is our most sustainable competitive advantage.” Starbucks doesn’t leave its employees to become brand ambassadors magically. They have invested over $35 million into a ‘Leadership Lab’ designed to help store managers better understand the Starbucks brand and culture. In Schultz’s book Onward he explains that “[Employees] are the true ambassadors of our brand, the real merchants of romance and theatre, and as such, the primary catalysts for delighting customers.”

SAP

SAP-Power-Pose_caphoto10269

The German software company SAP has quantified what employee engagement means to their bottom-line. In their 2014 Integrated Report, they estimate that for every percentage point on their employee engagement index, the impact on their operating profits goes up between € 35 million and € 45 million. Their secret ingredient? Their employees understand the “why” behind their jobs and how their inspiration ties to a bigger vision. The reason why they come to work each day.

Southwest Airlines

SW-b1

Southwest Airlines has been around for over 40 years as a very successful airline in an industry that sees many airlines fail. As Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest, explains any airline can buy all the material things and copy our business model but “The things you can’t buy are dedication, devotion, loyalty—the feeling that you are participating in a crusade.” In 2013, Southwest updated their vision and purpose, and according to Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, “Southwest is a great place to work and brings the greatest joy because we have such meaningful purpose.” The purpose to “connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.”

Making Brand Advocates

No surprise, the strong and admired brands we know and love are also strong brands within their company’s walls. Employee brand advocacy is a competitive advantage. Therefore, engaged employees can make it hard for competitors to replicate and for customers to ignore.

Here are eight key actions to help employees succeed as brand advocates:

  • Strong understanding of the brand’s big picture and purpose
  • Linking their aspirations with those of the brand
  • Freedom to speak and share their brand experiences
  • Autonomy to enhance a customer relationship or fix a problem
  • Tools to help employees share the brand
  • Trust that the company is protecting their well-being
  • Feel appreciated and supported
  • Their contribution is supporting the brand purpose.

Firstly, brand advocates don’t appear overnight. Secondly, building a strong brand culture takes time and trust. And finally, and most importantly, it needs to start at the top of an organization followed by at all other levels. Building a robust employee culture is worth the effort. It will help make a durable brand cult and many happy customers.

Start by keeping a pulse on your employee culture and engagement. Chances are if you have a strong customer-brand, you already have a very dedicated employee culture. Just make sure you give them the tools and support to help them amplify your brand. If you don’t start building a culture that will support your brand vision, you are only renting your employees. And, in turn, your customers. As Hsieh said, “The brand may lag the culture at first, but eventually, it will catch up.”

May the employee brand force be with you!

2

The Power of a Brand – How to Extract Value from Nothing

Years ago in my economic classes I learnt that supply and demand determined the price/value of most products especially commodities. If this is true, why is bottled water more expensive than gasoline? This is the result of building a powerful brand.

034_BI1113_BetweenDrinks_slide

Transparency Market Research estimated that the global market for bottled water was worth about $157.3 US billion in 2013. In North America more bottled water is sold compared to milk or beer in terms of volume. Canadean research estimated that the global bottled water volumes would reach 233 billion litres in 2015. With all of Canada’s fresh water, they only produce less than one percent of the world’s bottled water (2.29 billion litres). However, United States remains the fastest growing bottled water market outside Asia.  Mainly due to more health conscious consumers shifting away from sugary carbonated soft drinks.

In many emerging markets, the scarcity of clean water makes bottled water a necessary staple rather than a value-added refreshment beverage like juice or soda. In North America, the water in your tap is generally the same stuff you buy in the bottle. The big difference is that tap water is constantly tested to ensure they follow the drinking water quality guidelines. Bottle water doesn’t have the same stringent guidelines, expect for not containing any “poisonous or harmful substances”. Let’s hope that the big brands follow some type of quality control.

Clean drinkable water is generally available throughout North America where bottled water companies’ position their brands on quality (healthy choice) and convenience (portable and handy). From this foundation the category gets complex with pricing strategies, water source and lifestyle attributes.

Magician duo Penn & Teller in their show Bullshit did a spoof on bottled water.  In a fine dining restaurant in Southern California they proved that the general public can’t tell the difference between tap water and $4 a litre bottled water.

 

ABC’s Good Morning America conducted a blind tasting experiment in 2001 where they sampled branded bottle water such as Poland Spring, O-2, Evian and the popular New York City tap water. The results shouldn’t surprise you – Big Apple water beat them all.

 

If  bottled water is the same thing as tap water the real difference is branding. Tap water is a commodity with no brand. It comes from any unmarked tap – hot or cold. You take the same thing, build a formidable brand image and you can extract a premium by the litre (or ounce) at a time. Here is the secret on how to create brand value:

Power of Emotional Connection

Byron Sharp, professor of marketing science at the University of South Australia and author of How Brands Grow, says building a brand is based on “physical and mental availability” suggesting most brand purchase decisions are made with the emotional brain. A brand needs to trigger instinctual responses.

Ammar Mian writer at SocialRank says the emotional tipping point for bottle water occurred in the early 1980’s when Perrier launched its ‘Earth’s First Soft Drink’ campaign. This campaign embraced the belief that their sparkling water comes from the purity of nature, straight from mother-earth. This emotional connection resonated with consumers who are more health-conscious and want an alternative to soft drinks. Other premium bottle water brands followed suit with images of purity, youthfulness, healthy and natural. Water can’t get any better than this unless you turn it into alcohol. Here’s more on Emotional Branding.

Power of Convenience

A brand must be easy to buy – when and where you want it – ideally everywhere. Not unlike tap water. Remember the days of drinking fountains? We though they were convenient – if we could find one. But it was like drinking from a water hose – only one quick sip if there was a line-up.

The biggest growth development in the bottle water industry has been the mass distribution systems. Dominated by the same companies that have covered the world with sugar water like: Coca-Cola (who has such popular brands as Dasani and Glacéau smartwater), Nestle (who has all the water champs such as Perrier, Pure Life, S. Pellegrino, Deer Park and Poland Spring) and PepsiCo (who has Aquafina).

Where is Evian in the distribution mix you ask? In 2002, Evian signed a distribution agreement with Coca-Cola Co., Inc. which ended in 2014. Then Evian found new wings with distribution partner Red Bull. And Fiji Water? Dr Pepper Snapple Group website states that they distribute Fiji Water in various territories.

Power of Fame and Attention

Getting people to pay for a free commodity like  water is hard work. It takes a great deal of investment to build a distinctive brand. Successful brands need big bank accounts to ensure the advertising messages get noticed and the brands stays top-of-mind.

Back in 2003 ( an article in The New York Times) TNS Media Intelligence/CMR estimated Aquafina spent $24.6 million and Dasani spent $18.8 million on media, while Evian spent only $800,000.

Ten years later, Evian is still spending around a million in measured media annually according to Kantar Media . Over the years, Evian has lost market share to the more aggressive competitors, sitting in 3rd place behind Fiji Water and Smartwater. Eric O’Toole, president-GM at Danone Waters North America (parent company to Evian), contributes the brand stabilization in recent years, in part, to the launch of the Baby & Me advertising effort. Great creative never hurts if you can’t afford to advertise year-round. See more on Creativity.

 

The soft drink industry is notorious for using celebrity endorsers to help push their sugary drinks (check out a partial list of famous celebrities and soft drink brands). The top bottle water brands use the same branding tool to build credibility and gain the coolness factor. Evian has used Maria Sharapova, the young and popular tennis champion. While the elite Fiji Water has uses the former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan. Glacéau smartwater has used actress Jennifer Aniston to create a buzz around their relatively new brand.

A Memorable Story

Great brands always come with a great brand story. Many bottle water brands have great stories that would put National Geographic to shame. My favorite is the Fiji story or as some say the Fiji myth. Fiji Water, natural artesian water bottled at the source in Viti Levu (Fiji islands). Its a leading premium bottled water in the United States and fastest-growing worldwide. Here is their story of the world’s finest water. It should be for the price of $3.50 – 4.00 per litre (3 times the price of gasoline). For more on Storytelling.

 

Stunning Design

Water has no distinct taste, no unique colour, and no smell. All water feels wet – physical there is no difference from one glass of water to another, so packaging is king. If nothing else is going to sell you, it must be the memorable packaging. The packaging must fit the great stories and celebrities who would never drink it, if it didn’t look good.

Packaging can help define a brand experience. Do you remember the first iPhone, iPad or iPod you unwrapped from its packaging? The simplistic and beautifully designed box with everything in its own place – clean and white. A perfect brand fit.

 

4c553cecf5940bb6a42c0ec059f3add4

Since 2008 Evian has been working with some of the world’s most prestigious designers to create a limited edition bottle each year. Evian has worked with such creative artists such as Diane von Furstenberg, Paul Smith, Christian Lacroix, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Elie Saab, KENZO and most recently with Alexander Wang (2016 limited edition bottle). Former zone director for the Middle East & Indian Ocean for Evian, Elias Fayad explains the limited edition concept: “Our water is untouched by man and perfected by nature, so we attempt to give the bottle an artistic expression.” In a September 9, 2015 press release from Evian, they explain each collaboration as “a renewed celebration of purity and playfulness and a reinterpretation of evian’s spirit through art and design.” I have to remind myself that we are talking about a simple natural resource that can be found anywhere on the planet – water.

Dreams or Nightmares in a Bottle

Water is living proof that anything can be branded and can be elevated from no value to high value with sufficient investments. It is through these investments and the ability to create a strong brand image that brand value is achieved. In essence, consumers are buying dreams in a bottle. Dreams to be on a pristine tropical island or a youthful energetic baby once again. Stories of spiritual purity, blissful health and a fountain of youth – the water of life. Potentially over $200 US billion worth.

2e8fcfabef
But there is a dark side to this story. While dreams are created and value generated from the replenishing resource, there is a social cost. Today, Wikipedia lists over 144 bottled water brands, and from the statistics, the market continues to grow. The Pacific Institute, which conducts research on water use and conservation, has estimated that bottled water is up to 2,000 times more energy-intensive than tap water. It is estimated that in 2006, U.S. bottle water consumption used the energy equivalent of 17 million barrels of oil and produced over 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide – in one year. There’s also the worry that we are shifting water consumption from one region to another, creating an imbalance with consequences to our planet and to our future.

Just because we have the ability to create formidable brands to extract more value, it doesn’t mean we should. As marketing and brand experts, it’s important we use our craft wisely. We must balance the benefits for the consumer, society and environment. We must be careful on how we use the power of the brand.

 

0

Is Your Brand Ready for Content Marketing?

The hottest new brand trend is brand publishing, or also referred to in a less aggressive way as content marketing. Some marketing experts are declaring this is the next marketing breakthrough – to become a brand journalist, replacing the fragile main-stream media outlets. I hesitate to think that brands would be very good at replacing media in trying to portray a balanced point-of-view (even media outlets struggle with this equality). But what brands can do well is be subject experts. They have a rich understanding of their customers’ wants and needs, and often have the resources and desire to explore content that media won’t cover. The challenge is keeping focus on helping the customers and resisting the desire to sell at all opportunities.

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers authors of the 1993 best-seller The One-to-One Future predicated the internet would allow brands to build personal relationships with consumers at scale. Marketing guru Seth Godin took this idea a step forward and said brands need to move from interruption marketing to “permission marketing,” defined as anticipated, personal, and relevant. Interesting that Seth Godin’s book Permission Marketing was published over 16 years ago. In 2008, Seth Godin said that content marketing is the only marketing left. More recently he said “Real content marketing isn’t repurposed advertising, it is making something worth talking about.”

The Business Case for Content

Here are some good reasons why you should consider becoming a brand publisher:

  • A Roper (2011) survey found that 74% consumers say they prefer to get information about a company in a collection of articles, rather than an ad. They also found that 65% said that custom media helps them make better purchase decisions.
  • A study done by AdKeeper and 24/7 Real Media indicate that the average industry click through rate is less than 0.09 for online advertising. Not very good for advertisers.
  • HubSpot, experts in online inbound applications, learnt through their lead generation data of over 4,000 companies, that those companies who blogged 15 times per month get 5 times more traffic than companies that don’t blog.
  • Custom Content Council (2011) says 72% of marketers think branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine; 69% say it is superior to direct mail and PR.
  • In a study done by AOL and Nielsen (2012), they discovered people spend more than 50% of their time online with content and an additional 30% of their time on social channels where content can be shared.
  • In a study done by Marketing Sherpa (2013), they concluded that content creation ranked as the single most effective SEO tactic by 53%.
  • Demand Metric global marketing research found that for every dollar spent, content marketing generates approximately 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing.

What is Content?

Content comes in many different formats, shapes and sizes. There is visual brand content such as videos, short video clips (Vine-like), imagery, selfies, charts, graphs and infographics. There is the written brand content such as PowerPoints, blogs, digital magazines, e-mails, text messages, articles, white papers, stories, tips, reviews, and the 140 character tweet. Last but not least, there is the audio brand content such as music, podcasts and audio clips. Depending on your audience visuals and video content can enhance your content viewership. According toSkyword articles containing relevant images gain on average 94% more total views than articles without images. Get the picture!

Content marketing is about engaging prospects and consumers with informative or entertaining content they’ll want to use or consume for its own sake, rather than pushing or interrupting them with direct sales or promotional messages.

Do Consumers Need More Content?

Every day there is about two million blog posts written, 500 million tweets shared, 1 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook including 250 million photos, 294 billion emails sent, 864,000 hours of video uploaded to YouTube, 70 million images posted to Instagram, and 18.7 million hours of streamed music on Pandora.  And oh by the way 50 million visits to PornHub, where over 216 million X-rated videos are viewed on a 24 hour period. Crazy cyber-consumption in one day.

So do we need more content? There is an unlimited appetite for great content. The trick is producing relevant, compelling and engaging content consistently, every day. Make sure you have the right channels to distribute and amplify your content to ensure you reach your audience. If you hit a home run they will reward you by ensuring everyone they know sees your content.

Best in Class

Today, there are many channels to allow brands to build time-sensitive, pertinent and quality information or solutions. Publishing is all about the scale of creation and distribution. Do you want to be a New York Times or the local weekly journal or just a trade magazine or a community newsletter? Brands that succeed do more than provide customers with what they are looking for. They make them want it! You have to build the right level of infrastructure to support the right level of content for your business and customer needs.

Red Bull is a great example of a brand that when above and beyond selling a beverage and became a publishing media outlet. James O’Brien of Mashable’ssays “Red Bull is a publishing empire that also happens to sell a beverage.” As a matter of fact, Red Bull’s publishing is another revenue stream for the company. Their content is all about adventure, extreme sports and fast-paced fun. No surprise their content focus mirrors the essence of their brand. Today, Red Bull has over 4.4 million YouTube followers, 43 million ‘likes’ on Facebook and 2 million followers on Twitter. Then of course there is the Red Bull TV which has over 156 shows, 85 live events and 1,118 episodes and countless viewers.

So Red Bull is the extreme example, which isn’t realistic for most brands. B2B companies like General Electric, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, and Deloitte have mastered the role of content with a library full of valuable information that is educational, informative, and relevant to their brand and target audiences. Hubspot has a great article that showcases 10 Exceptional B2B Content Marketing Examples.

How to Become a Content Publisher

Not unlike an advertising campaign or publishing a magazine, you need to start with a strategy that clearly defines goals and objectives, key target audiences, key messages, theme, budget and success measurements. Take baby steps, first look at converting existing printed material with some editing to compliment the right channels. Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications states “Brands need to master telling their stories indirectly. It’s about the brand, but the focus is always about the audience.” Building an editorial department of journalists that understand your brand isn’t a small task. But once you start publishing you have to continue to feed the beast day-in and day-out with quality content. Be realistic about how you will maintain the investment in resources and time to reach your goals.

Home Depot is a good example of creating useful educational content for the do-it-yourselfer by providing tips and advice without blatantly selling their products. They have 1,067 timeless, how-to videos posted on their YouTube channel.

How to Measure Success

Here some simple questions and tips to determine the success of your content publishing:

  • Have you turned your content into a valuable asset that supports your business objective?  Check out the 100 page YouTube & Google Playbook on how to build great content.
  • Are you able to publish new content consistently – daily or weekly? Build a calendar with the 3H content rules: Hygiene, Hub and Hero
  • Are you producing meaningful and useful content for all customers? Utilize various measurement tools and determine who’s consuming your content (followers & subscribers), and what are they doing with it (likes, sharing, retweeting, favorites, links, comments, etc.).
  • Is the content building on your brand’s vision and voice? Are you learning what content works or doesn’t work? Look at the content that is the most successful and determine why. Check out Buzzsumo to see what are the hot topics and if you can capitalize on any trends.
  • Are your metrics continually improving? Compare yourself against your competition and best in class. Do you have a loyal and growing following? Track your Klout score.

To succeed in a cluttered branded world, you need an army – or better yet, you need to support an army of followers. If you can give them content to solve their problems, inspire their dreams or provide them with a smile, they will reward you by sharing your wisdom. You must always provide extra value to guarantee engagement. Genuine content will always outperform glitz and selling content. Share your expertise and passion, it will be appreciated.