0

6 Insights That Could Impact Your Brand in 2017

As 2016 comes to a close, if you’re brand is still alive—congratulations you survived another challenging year. It’s safe to say that 2017 isn’t going to be any easier with persistent change at its core. But with change, or progress, our core brand values must remain firm and relevant. It’s important that we’re proactive in times of change and communicate our brand values before someone else replaces or steals our voice. This approach provides the necessary stability that people want and need. Here are six key insights to help ensure your brand succeeds in 2017:

 

Static websites, and bricks and mortar are dead

The traditional website will disappear much like brick and mortar retail outlets, unless they provide products conveniently where there customers are. The biggest advancement for the soft drink industry was the vending machine, which provided customers instant gratification of an ice cold Coke anywhere at any time. Amazon is obsessed with solving the pain between purchase and delivery with the goal of instant gratification.  3-D printing and drones will help solve some of the waiting time. Where possible, make the time between decision and gratification an exciting journey that the consumer feels in control of. This is the success of Uber.

Websites will fade into the background as solution sites, where Google will continue to grow in dominance, helping people find the best solution or hottest indulgence with total convenience. Consumers will expect greater product accuracy as personal data is shared. Your product should only appear if it fits the situation otherwise it becomes an annoyance. It is all about consumer gratification and control.

 

Secure a believable superstar spokesperson (notice I used the word believable and not credible)

The Trump-affect is real. Consumers will listen and follow celebrities before they’ll listen to a scientist or an expert. People respond to famous influences. If your brand is in crisis mode or needs to be heard consider a celebrity to get noticed. It isn’t about who is right, nor about the facts. Trust me; I didn’t think Trump had any change of becoming the next President of USA, but it shows what’s possible when a figurehead connects with an audience with a call to action.

 

 

Content is still king (including facts, truth, misinformation, lies, stolen data—it doesn’t matter)

Ensure your brand is consistently publishing your story in the digital world (news channels, blogs, social, etc.) proactively. Communicate your “why” and connect the dots so people understand your brand values.  Add value with content that makes people’s lives easier, more productive or more fulfilling. Don’t bore them with facts and figures.  Where possible, get other people to amplify your messages (this supports the previous point).

Be vigilant in listening to what others are saying about your brand. When necessary, defend your position or complement those who support your brand values. Be engaged in the conversation, even if it’s negative.

 

Your brand is as strong as your employees (attract and keep the best, and when necessary, mobilize the troops)

Attracting and recruiting talent is vital to any brand’s success—many companies fail to have a holistic approach to the entire employee lifecycle from attraction through onboarding and development. But from a communications perspective employees are the foot soldiers who can amplify the brand as ambassadors. Keep them informed and provide them with the tools to communicate the brand values to family and friends. Never underestimate this asset and build stronger ties with HR who can help in molding your army.

 

Think in hours and days (the five—10 year plan is too late)

A brand communications strategy should always be followed to ensure your narrative is told. But understand that conversation itself is fluid and your plan should allow adaptations. Think about where you might take advantage of key opportunities in 2017 or times when you’ll be on the defense. Continue to develop possible scenarios and determine various action plans. This makes the difference between an amateur athlete and an Olympian. Where possible, take the lead and play out your brand plan. But don’t forget to constantly listen to your customer and the market at large to ensure your brand hasn’t lost sight of its relevancy.

 

The printed word is losing power (audio, video and images rule)

Printed newspapers are disappearing fast are furiously as they struggle to manage their old-world structure and model. Consumers are looking for easily consumable information on the go. They want to be entertained, not just told. They want to multitask, not only read. If they can watch or listen to their solution or discover something significant within seconds, your brand will be rewarded. Understand the rules of a successful movie and your video will be Oscar material. The adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” still remains relevant.

Happy New Year!

If you assume 2017 will be more complex and turbulent than 2016, you will be prepared to take advantage of all opportunities—good and bad. Above all else, ensure your brand remains one that YOU love, and course correct from there. Good luck and may your brand be prosperous in the New Year!

 

 

0

Top Brands that Hit Home this Holiday Season

This holiday season, successful brands continued the tradition of wrapping themselves in a feel-good message, hoping consumers will be pleased with their “presence” (sorry, I couldn’t resist). As they should, considering the US retail industry generated over three trillion dollars during the holidays. This number is from 2013 and I am sure it’s even higher today.  This equates to about 20% of total annual sales – and for some brands the number is much higher.

 

Three Trillion Dollars in Christmas Shopping

That’s a lot of money (even if one-third is on credit cards). But how does a brand ensure it gets its fair share? The holiday season is the perfect time to tap into the human emotions of peace, love, kindness and hope. It’s beautiful, yet frightening. Consumers are vulnerable and have credit! And ironically, during this time of harmony, brands are busy fighting each other for attention and won’t stop until the last dollar drops. That might be the reality of retail, but good brands understand the true meaning—it is better to give than to receive.

The best way to capture the holiday spirit is through a highly emotional TV commercial or online video (a topic of a previous article “Why Great Brands Still Needs a Great Commercial”). In 2015, there were over 100 holiday TV ads airing on US TV, but so far this year, there have only been 47 holiday ads reported by research firm Ace Metrix. Holiday advertising seems to be big in Britain and Germany where brands produce run-away winners.

Ben Mooge, Executive Creative Director at Havas London an advertising agency which created the very successful ‘Heathrow Bears’ ad says brands have a responsibility to contribute to the Christmas spirit and not just overtly sell their products. He says “they need to contribute to Christmas, and not just ride on the jingly back of it.” If a brand is successful “they just help it feel like Christmas.”

 

Santa Brands

It’s all about giving sincerely and inspiring the feeling of the holiday season. For many families, traditions, like watching the Griswolds light up their house (Christmas Vacation), or witnessing Bill Murray get a second chance to get it right (Scrooged), take us to fonder times and helps to recharge the soul. So while we’re all killing ourselves giving, the reality is that we need to receive appreciation. It’s here where brands have a responsibility to help consumers by framing the holiday season and help us have an enjoyable Christmas (for a price). And when they strike a chord, I can hear those cash registers jingling all the way!

The very best brands who have seamlessly carved a place in our minds during the holiday seasons and continue to reap the rewards are such brands as: Coca-Cola, Macy’s, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Walmart, and WestJet, to name a few. But each year a new brand finds its holiday moment to shine and is rewarded by millions of views and likes from around the world.

Damon Collins, founder of Joint advertising agency in London who created the successful Amazon Prime holiday commercial ‘Imam and Priest’ says “There’s no time of year the spirit of human kindness is more relevant than Christmas. And there’s been no year in recent memory that the spirit of human kindness has been more needed than this one.”

 

Better to Give Than to Receive

The brands that are true to their values and avoid false sentimentality can build brand value during the holiday season. It’s more about sharing values and becoming part of the holiday traditions than trying to steal the show. As Cam Blackley, Executive Creative Director at BMF Advertising who developed the discount supermarket brand Aldi AustraliaMeet the Tinkletons’ ad explains that what doesn’t work is when “a brand cynically makes an ad riddled with fake Christmas sentiment devoid of an insight that is true to their values.”

 

Top Three Brands that Hit Home this Holiday

Without further ado, here’s my top three adverts for the 2016 holiday season:

  1. My favourite for 2016 is from Allegro, an auction site based in Poland. This commercial has all the ingredients for a wonderful holiday video including a dog.

(12,945,326 views)

 

  1. John Lewis, a UK-based department store, continues to hit the ball out of the park with their iconic holiday adverts. It too has a dog and other loveable animals.

(23,883,947 views)

 

  1. The top Canadian brand for me was WestJet. They continued to surprise and delight their customers, and focused this year on the people still recovering from the devastating fire in Fort McMurray, Alberta. A nice slice of Canadian values–giving.

(1,340,578 views)

Have a Merry Brand Holiday

If none of these have ignited the spirit of Christmas within your soul then I would suggest that you seriously consider becoming a member of the Ebenezer Scrooge Fan Club. Otherwise, I wish you all a wonderful holiday, sharing gifts and enjoy time with family and friends. Have a Merry Brand Holiday!

 

Honourable Mentions:

Heathrow https://youtu.be/oq1r_M5a6uI (4,802,852)

Apple https://youtu.be/aFPcsYGriEs (8,199,966)

ALDI https://youtu.be/aCZrWFrRgbQ (2,004,765)

Marks & Spencer https://youtu.be/V5QPXhStb5I (7,836,801)

Duracell https://youtu.be/iA7xYeiWg54 (17,651,693)

Please feel free to share your favourite advert for the 2016 holiday season and explain why.

 

0

Why Great Brands Still Needs a Great Commercial

6 Ingredients to Making a Blockbuster Commercial

 

The importance of sight and sound (preferable together) can’t be underestimated in the brand building process.  Walter D. Scott, Assistant Professor of Psychology in Northwestern University who studied the psychology of advertising says “the function of our nervous system is to make us aware of the sights, sounds, feelings, tastes, etc., of the objects in our environment, and the more sensations we receive from an object the better we know it.” The more senses a brand can touch the more memorable the brand message. No wonder the video expression of the brand is king.

 

There was a day when a 30 second commercial could change a brands image overnight as long as the viewing audience was large enough to create a tipping point. Ergo the NFL Super Bowl where 114 million people are anticipating the commercials as much as who is going to win the game. But this also comes with a hefty price tag of almost $5 million per 30 seconds or $166,666 per second. At this rate you better have a message that achieves a touchdown.

 

superbowlads

 

Not dissimilar to the movie industry, there are blockbusters that captivate the world, and then there are hundreds of movies that pass through the night with no residual effect or impact. The average Hollywood movie is about 150 mins long and cost about $200 million (or $11,000 per second or $330,000 for 30 seconds) to make.

 

According to the last published report on this topic (2011 Television Production Cost Survey) the average cost of a 30-second commercial was $354,000. If you project that number into 2016 prices, it’s fair to say the average cost is around $380,000. During those precious seconds, you’ve got to tell a story that’s so memorable it burns a life-time image in the consumers mind.

 

how-the-greatest-super-bowl-ad-ever-apples-1984-almost-didnt-make-it-to-air

 

Take for example the iconic 1984 Apple’s Macintosh commercial that ran only once on the Super Bowl, it is still being talked about today 32 years later. While the media buy was for one 30 second spot it broke the barrier beyond advertising into non-paid public relations as the commercial was on every talk show and news show. Oh and, by the way, they sold $155 million worth of Macintoshes in the first three months. A touchdown indeed.

 

Evoke Emotion

 

A successful brand video (TV commercial or online) must have one important ingredient to be successful – it must be emotionally engaging. You must feel it.

 

Being edgy helps to be memorable, but it must be relevant within the times.  Humour is often used to capture the heart with the help of a likeable character. Animals and babies are generally foolproof in pulling on the heart-strings. The most memorable commercials are those that solicit the “wow” factor by combining sheer entertainment with something you never thought of or have seen before. The two strongest reactions are a hardy belly laugh or an emotional tear. Every Telus commercial tries to put a smile on your face with their zoo animals or Budweiser with their puppy love commercials.

 

Extra Gum – The Story of Sarah & Juan

 

Kmart – Ship my Pants

 

Relate To People

 

Mitch Joel, president of Mirum and author of Six Pixels of Separation says brands cannot be human but acknowledges that brands are made of people who actually care about their customers.  Likewise, people like connecting with other people (including pets, but that’s another discussion). Mitch states “[successful] brands may never be human, but they can become more humane.”

 

Brands spend millions of dollars trying to be more human-centric with better customer-service, and constructing lovable brand personalities that convey human characteristics and values. What better way to add the human touch or face to a brand than seeing the brand as a person. The premise is simple. If you like the person you will like the brand. Some brands cheat or exploit their relationship by using a famous person’s celebrity status to instantly add millions of followers, but others build a unique personality from the ground up.

 


Old Spice Man

 

Apple guy vs. Microsoft guy

 

Be In Tune

 

In a study by Jacob Jolij and Maaike Meurs, the researchers found that “mood, as induced by music, is also reflected in visual awareness, both in biasing processing sensory input, as in the generation of conscious visual percepts in absence of structured visual input. In other words, the music you are listening to might directly alter the way you perceive the world.” The soundtrack is hugely important in stirring the emotions and feelings. Think of all the great movies like Titanic, Jaws and Star Wars. You can probably hum the tunes right now. Can you still feel the intensity? What would these films be like without a soundtrack?

 

The Dirt Devil – The Exorcist

 

Be Different

 

Everyone has a story that’s unique to them – as does a brand. Uniqueness make the story worth sharing. Inspire and awe your audience. The most memorable commercials holds a place in our memories forever. They are essentially pieces of art that display the latest designs, music and culture at that moment of time. In a world where art expression is everywhere, commercials must earn consumers attention and not expect it.  Ken Segall, who worked on Apple’s “Think Different” campaign, attributes the success of this commercial on its ability to be thought-provoking and disrupt the advertising world by creating “a commercial that is totally revolutionary in the world of advertising and is seen by a huge audience.”

 

Red Bull – Space Jump

 

Achieve Greatness, Responsibly

 

Any brand with tons of cash and a very creative agency can create an awesome commercial. But if it doesn’t match the product or customer experience, you are wasting money and could inadvertently damage the brand. The commercial can transform a brand image, but is must also support the core brand values and promise. Nothing is worse than setting high expectations with a great commercial to have people disappointed when they advertising promised isn’t delivered by the product. I think of Banks or Airlines who continue to over promise and under deliver.

 

the-california-raisins

The California Raisin Board created memorable TV commercials in the 1980s. They portrayed raisins as cool sunglasses-wearing Claymation characters singing and dancing to Marvin Gaye’s soul music. Using beer advertising classic technique of associating their product with music and fun. However, fun and music are generally associated with social events (where beer may be present). I’m not sure the same stories are shared around a bowl full of dried grapes…that will never be wine! In fact, raisin sales did get a small bump from the commercials but soon slumped. Maybe “the blues” would have been a better fit.

 

yo-quiero-taco-bell-chihuahua-copy1

In 1997, the Taco Bell Chihuahua was the fast-food chain’s big attempt to establish the dog as the brand mascot. While the ads were great fun and memorable, sales went into the toilet. I guess no one wanted to buy spicy ground beef from a dog. Maybe the same happen with the Subway monkey commercials.

 

10 – 600 Seconds to Shine

 

No longer are we confined to the 30 sec or 60 sec video format built by the classic TV commercial. The digital world has redefined the rules. However, most agency and brands are still stuck in the TV commercial format, primarily because television commercials still greatly influences a buying decisions. According to Deloitte‘s 10th edition State of the Media Democracy survey done in 2015, 63% of Americans stated that TV advertising still has the most impact on their buying decisions. This has dropped from 86% just four years ago. Meanwhile, millennials rely more on recommendations from their social media circle and online reviews.

 

Make a Blockbuster

 

Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore in their book, The Experience Economy, make a compelling case that today’s customers want and expect to be “positively, emotionally and memorably impacted at every level of their commercial existence.” The fastest and the most impactful way to make this happen is video. A brand video has the power to make customers cry, laugh or change their perception forever.

 

0

From B to B or Not to B? That is the Question.

Does a human being benefit from your Business-to-Business (B2B) product or brand? To survive the future you need to be a Business-to-People (B2P) brand. While your brand might be only an ingredient or strategic component supporting another brand, eventually it will reach a human being.  But more importantly, every brand affects the world we live in so at the end of the day, you are dealing with humanity. The most dramatic change to cause this shift is the free flow of digital information (and digital misinformation). The number of stakeholders you had to worry about in building and maintaining your brand was easily managed years ago but today this isn’t no longer true.  If you start now you can build goodwill along the value chain and maybe you can be immunized against negative attacks in the future. But the biggest reward is more profits.

 

b2b-advertising

Moving Brands from B to C

 

In a B2B study done by Siegel+Gale, they state that “Most business-to-business companies still debate the ultimate business benefit of building a strong brand…” The first problem is many business-to-business (B2B) companies don’t think they need a brand as they don’t deal directly with everyday consumers. If this was true there wouldn’t be so many memorable and powerful B2B brands existing today such as Boeing, SAP, Intel, Cisco, IBM, Siemens and General Electric, to name a few.

 

The line between B2B and B2C has blurred and the boundaries are quickly disappearing. The internet has created a new consumer that wants and needs to be informed. Joel York marketing software expert describes the consumer as “more connected, more impatient, more elusive, more impulsive, and more informed than its pre-millennium ancestors.”

 

But what hasn’t changed is the risk level between a B2B and a B2C. Most business buyers follow a rigorous procurement process that is steeped in analytics, data and facts. The buying process is based on a rational decision making process based on quality, features, functionality and price. Buyers review all of the product specifications and technical details, past history and performance measurements, etc. The purchasing process is longer and may require contracts and large quantities based on a specific time period. Where does branding fit into this process?

 

In a study done by Zahra Seyed Ghorban and Dr Margaret Jekanyika Matanda at Monash University they found that most procurement managers go through a hierarchical ‘Think-feel-Do’ sequence where brand perception is the starting point. One manger explains it as “Knowing the brand and having good perceptions, good attitudes, and associating to that brand all are prior to establishing relationship. The relationship comes after.” They also discovered that emotions played an important role in the purchase decision even in highly formalized B2B procurement processes. This would explain why Boeing launched its new 787 the Dreamliner to the general public with a record order of 50 aircrafts from All Nippon Airways. Since then, 59 airlines have ordered over 1,000 Boeing 787s, making it the most successful aircraft in Boeing’s history.

 

 

Cisco System’s Advertising Director Julia Mee says “the lines have blurred so much between B2B and B2C.” To survive B2B marketers must “Think about who the customer is and what do they want to hear from us.” At the end of the day she says “Our customers are thinking about us as just a brand—they are not differentiating it as B2B or B2C.”

 

No surprise it’s all about connecting and engaging with people on many levels not just a highly emotional video with pretty pictures and a great sound track. There still needs to be substance to support the brand image. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is a great example. If you visit their website they have everything there to satisfy the left-brain and the right-brain, from the engineer, to the purchasers, to the pilot, to the passenger in business class, to the poor guy at the back of the plane.

 

It must have been very hard for all of the Boeing aviation engineers to sit back and abstain from adding all of the technical mumbo jumbo into the sound track.

 

Moving Brands from B to P

 

There are several marketers like Bryan Kramer, a social business strategist, and Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP who believe that B2B marketing is no longer relevant. Kramer says marketers need to move away from the complex business vernacular full of acronyms, scientific and technical terminologies too complicated for the average person. His solution is to speak Human-to-Human (H2H) where the communication is simplistic and more emotional. Becher was instrumental in shifting SAP’s brand positioning from talking to other companies to focusing on people. “It’s not just ‘business runs SAP’; it’s also ‘life runs SAP.’ You can sum up the change as moving from B2B to P2P—people to people,” Becher said.

 

The trick is engaging people to wanting to consume your boring B2B brand messages. Volvo Trucks wanted to communicate their transport truck’s Dynamic Steering system to demonstrate the precision and directional stability. A topic everyone needs to know about – right? Well, check out the B2B video with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Over 83 million people have watched it!

 

 

The Web Video Marketing Council, together with survey partners ReelSEO and Flimp Media conducted a B2B Video Content Marketing Survey in 2015 with over 350 B2B marketers who confirmed that 73% of them believe that video positively impacts results and ROI. No surprise 96% are engaged in video content marketing. But remember human attention span is only eight seconds. You have a better chance to attract a goldfish which has an attention span of nine seconds.

 

attention-span

 

While many B2B companies realize they need to be customer-centric to compete in today’s market, few have figured out how to put this model into use. It’s important for B2B brands to understand it’s not just one video that will make the brand connection unless you’re Gangnam Style (2.5 billion views). You need many touch points to build a brand. The hardest part for most B2B brands is to focus on a promise that people care about. It isn’t easy for most large corporations, as they organically grow from one innovation to the next or acquire one business to another. How does a mega corporation align the many innovations, products and services to a common, meaningful message that people want to listen and relate to? One of the great values for B2B branding is to define the brands ultimate promise to everyone including your employees. The perfect test – if they don’t believe the promise who else will?

Doug Webster VP of Service Provider Marketing at Cisco explains “We can’t just say it provides 322 terabits per second of processing. What we need to say is that 322 terabits per second is enough for every man, woman and child in China to be on a video call at the same time.” I’m not sure I want to be on that call.

 

 

A Brands Social License to Operate

 

The need to expand beyond the traditional stakeholders (like customers, employees and shareholders) isn’t about growing the business, it’s more about ensuring the brand doesn’t face any roadblocks along the brand journey. The sphere of a business is getting more complex. Today, you need to concern yourself with a multitude of target groups.

 

As San Jin Park VP of Global Marketing Operations at Samsung Electronics said “the most prominent brands in the future will be those which build networks.” The problem today is the network is everyone. The social license isn’t controlled by the company, it’s the community-at-large that can determines a brand’s fate. A lack of trust in any brand, including a B2B brand, can result in regulatory delays, market access issues and unfavorable legislation, all of which affects the bottom-line. John Morrison author of the book The Social License: How to keep your organization legitimate says a number of factors damaging trust is transparency, accountability, clarity about benefits, and adequate due diligence. He cautions that “Consent is also an essential component. It is a mistake for any company to proceed on any activity without securing adequate social permissions.”

 

It will be the end-user and the general public who will determine your brand’s destiny based on your social license to operate. NGOs understand this. It’s no longer about science and legal requirements but about perceptions and how your brand is perceived.

 

Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seed is a great example of not gaining the general public’s social permission before launching a revolutionary technology on an ill-informed public. Had they talked more about the millions of people whose lives could be saved from starvation the brand outcome could have been significantly different. Intel made the brilliant move to tell the general public that you can’t buy a computer without the horsepower of a Pentium processor. Consumer’s bought their story and in turn only bought computers with an Intel Inside. On the other hand, Monsanto, one of the most hated companies, kept the end-user in the dark and subsequently NGOs defined what GMO was. Unfortunately, a great technology that can help feed the world is struggling because the public support just isn’t there.

 

At the End of the Day

 

If your B2B is ultimately focused on the betterment of mankind you should use every opportunity to get your brand message out and tell the world your story. Everyone wants to back a winner. Duracell understood this and tied their brand to life-saving tools that required a battery. Their very successful campaign “Trusted Everywhere” was based on the premise that devices that are important to consumers can be trusted to work when powered by Duracell batteries.

Every ingredient in the value chain has a brand story of why it’s important. If you can ensure your employees live the brand and you have a dialogue with the communities you live in, you have a great foundation. Getting your story out to a broader audience takes time, conviction and commitment. And in some cases its a snowball’s chance in hell!

 

 

2

The Touch of a Brand

In past articles, we’ve covered the sense of smell and sound and how they enhance the brand relationship. Here our goal is to explore the sensation of touch and its impact on branding. The sense of touch isn’t often considered in building a brand. For some brands this is a huge missed opportunity.

 

One of the obvious ways we use touch is shopping for clothes. Our first instinct is to touch the fabric to feel it against our fingers. The quick touch tells many things about the garment – its softness, wear ability, durability and quality. Think of the last time you visited a car dealership showroom when you inspected a vehicle. The first impression is how the door handle felt in your hand, how it opened and closed. If the interior was leather you assessed the quality by touching the seat or better yet felt the experience by sitting in the driver’s seat. Then grab the steering wheel. With every touch point our brains are processing the information and analysing the vehicle’s durability, craftsmanship and overall quality.

 

woman-touching-clothing_web

 

Touch is the first sensory system we develop in the womb and is the most developed by birth. If you ever raised a child you know that holding, rocking and rhythmic stroking are all ways to calm and connect with babies. Trust me, I had many sleepless nights using all of these techniques to make my loved ones fall peacefully asleep hopefully as humanly possible.

 

The somatosensory cortex of your brain, which processes touch information, dedicates a large numbers of neurons to your fingers, lips and tongue. What this means is these areas are more perceptive and finely attuned, maximizing the sensory richness and brain intimacy.

 

touch sense

 

Greek philosopher Aristotle concluded that man was more intelligent than other animals because of the accuracy of his sense of touch. The sensation of touch influences what we buy, who we love and how we heal. We use touch to gather information, establish trust and social bonds.

 

Dr. David Linden said in his book, Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind that the “genes, cells and neural circuits involved in the sense of touch have been crucial to creating our unique human experience.”

 

braille

Test Your Touch

 

Let’s try a touch test. Imagine that you are in a pitch-dark room with no light and you’re handed a bottle. Through the power of touch you determine what I have given you.

 

You feel the cold glass bottle in the palm of your hand. You sense a distinct curvature of the glass in an elongated shape. Moving your fingers along the side you notice subtle smooth groves like ribs that flow up & down the bottle. Through the glass you can sense the content. It feels cold and wet as the glass sweats droplets of water on your hand. You remove the cap with a pop then move the bottleneck towards your lips. You feel the coldness against your bottom lip and tongue. The effervescence of tiny little bubbles dance and tingling against your lip and mouth. You smile with excitement and embrace the bottle’s opening with your lips like a wet kiss. It’s the real thing!

 

If we really conducted this experiment you would have quickly determined that the glass bottle was indeed the most famous shaped soft drink bottle in the world – the iconic contour fluted lines of the Coca-Cola bottle. In 1915 Coca-Cola challenged several glass companies to design a bottle that could be recognized by feel in the dark. 101 years later this unique design still succeeds with its objective.

 

Two Types of Touch

 

We’re not going to talk about appropriate and inappropriate touching if that’s where your mind went. If you want to explore the topic of sex and branding check out my article on Using Sex to Build a Brand.

 

The first type of touching is the sensory pathway that provides us with facts about touch such as pressure, location, texture, vibration and temperature. The coke bottle test is exactly this type of touching. Linden explains it as “figuring out the facts…uses sequential stages of processing to gradually build up tactile images and perform the recognition of objects.”

 

The second pathway processes social and emotional information, with human touch, for instance; a simple handshake, a hug, a caress of the arm, or a pat on the back. Friendly touching communicates trust and cooperation. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study stating that people are making judgments and base their initial opinions of you based on a simple handshake. Linden explains “In both kids and adults, touch is the glue that makes social bonds.” Further echoing this idea is Dacher Keltner, Ph. D. and professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley who explains “that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.”

 

What does this have to do with building brands? Both types of touch are very important in helping build brand perceptions and trust.

 

Tactile Branding

 

This is all about what the brand or components of the brand feel like. Jeremy Hsu in his article Just a Touch Can Influence Thoughts and Decisions on Livescience.com says “hardness may evoke concepts of stability, rigidity and strictness. Roughness can lead to thoughts of difficulty and harshness, while heaviness conjures up impressions of importance and seriousness.”

 

In a study conducted by Joshua Ackerman, an assistant professor of marketing at MIT in Boston, Mass., he had participants sit in a hard and soft chair as they negotiated the price of a new car. Guess who was less willing to move on their position? If you guessed the poor people in the hard chairs where the hardest negotiators, you’d be right.

 

Apple is a great example of a brand that has embraced the importance of touch. Their smooth, rounded edged, metal and glass iPads, iPod and iPhones convey a sense of ease and simplicity. They also make sure their customers have ample opportunity to touch and feel the merchandise in their interactive Apple stores.

 

If your brand isn’t an actual product but more based on services, understand that anything you physical give a customer, like a brochure, contract or correspondence, is tactile and communicates your brand by touch. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon says “The physical world is the best medium ever invented and betting against it has always proved wrong.” No surprise that Amazon takes pride in their shipping experience with custom printed boxes and custom packing tape with a program called “Frustration-Free Packaging.”

 

Packaging can be paramount to a brand experience. Again, Apple shines with its packaging. Their new Apple watch packaging is a masterpiece, making the watch seem bigger and weighty to help deliver the “a-ha” moment of expectation.

 

watch-sport-package.jpeg

 

Ever wonder why a diamond ring box is as important as the ring itself? The jewelry box must communicate the feel of love and commitment while showcasing the ring in all its glittery splendor. The most popular materials are velvet (commonly used on valentine day), silk and leather. All soft and sensual to the educated and expensive touch.

 

ringbox

 

Bed Bath & Beyond organizes their customer experience around touch as their store layout is designed to allow consumers to feel their way through the various sections of towels, curtains, linens and rugs, etc.

 

In the book Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind The Stuff We Buy, the author Martin Lindstrom shares an example of ASDA supermarket chain in UK where they displayed their store brand toilet paper so shoppers could actually touch the tissue and compare textures with other brands. The sales for the store brand T.P. “soared.”

 

kitten_soft_logo

Human Touch Branding

 

The power of interpersonal touch can be euphoric or at least communicate the feeling of warmth, safety and reassurance. The outcome of this feeling motivates consumers to spend and consume more. No brand has been immune to the changes digital technology has given to the consumer relationship, but technology will never replace the human touch. Brands live in a highly competitive and fast moving environment where creating meaningful connections with customer is almost impossible. More and more brands forgo the bricks and mortar for a digital brand connection. If your brand has any chance to reach out and touch a customer in a truly meaningful way – the human touch is a true differentiator.

 

Research conducted by Ackerman found that waitresses who touch restaurant patrons (mainly men) earn more in tips, and customers (mainly men) innocently touched by female bartenders drink more alcohol. The key point here is woman touching men. Are we so gullible? You don’t have to answer. The research is clear.

 

Have you ever checked into a Starwood Westin Hotel? Once you have completed the check-in transaction they make sure they move away from the counter that divides you from them and stand face to face in front of you. There is a moment of peace and warmth when they welcome you and hand you the passkey. The touch is minimal but the effect is powerful. But the best part is tucking into the Heavenly Bed with its luxurious 100% Egyptian cotton sateen sheets. Now I am in heaven and been touched by a angel.

 

687-48

 

The Last Touch

 

The simple use of touch can be profound when used properly and authentically. The sense of vision might dominate many aspects of branding, but the subtleties of touch can increases the brand perception immensely. In the book In Touch with the Future, authors Alberto Gallance and Charles Spence state that more companies have started utilizing the growing field of cognitive neuroscience to help guide product development and marketing decisions.

 

Look at everything your brand is doing to build relationships – where do tactile touch points fit to heighten your brand relationship? Are you maximizing the human touch points? You must clearly understand how your customers interact with your brand to ensure the right touch points are consistently in place to strengthen the brand experience.

 

Think about the key moment when the customer interacts with your brand for the first time. Are they excited to open the box or remove the wrapping? Do they need to read a 10 page instruction manual before they start engagement with your brand? Have you made it idiot-proof for them to turn it on? Is the packaging inviting? Does it feel expensive or simple and clean? Does it reinforce their purchase decision?

 

IKEA has an obsession with efficient packaging to lower transport costs and ensure their products are affordable. CEO Peter Agnefjäll explains “We hate air at IKEA.” But it is a balancing act in efficiency and customer satisfaction. Allan Dickner, packaging manager at IKEA admits that they have destroyed products because they were driven by efficiencies and not customer needs.

 

One word of caution as people get older their sense of touch decline so does a lot of other senses (like hearing, seeing, and smelling). Today, there is a large portion of the population that is aging. If older people are your target audience you might need to reengineer or increase the intensity of your brand’s sensory touch points to make the emotional connection remain with your brand.

 

Whether or not a customer physically interacts with your brand today, consider the influential power it plays to reinforce your brand relationship. It might be time to reach out and touch someone.

 

et_ouch-e1263754353161