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Brand Overkill – Why Less is More

Everything is a brand today. Brand experts even tell us that we must build our own personal brand. Everywhere we look we are being attacked by brands. We are lucky to get through a day without being bombarded with over 5,000 brand messages (Yankelovich study) of which only about 12 get any brain attention. There is over 4 million new brand names every year added to the brand shopping list. There is a serious problem of brand overload. Is it really important to have over 50 different shampoo brands and hundreds of specialized types to give you the perfect bouncy, curly, wavy, shiny or smooth tresses?

 

 

The biggest problem facing companies today is the world is running out of pronounceable brand names. We are making it almost impossible for consumer to keep up. The World Intellectual Property Organization report that in absolute terms, trademark demand quadrupled from just under 1 million applications per year in 1985 to 4.2 million trademark applications by 2011. In developing countries such as China, India and Brazil the rise in trademark applications is exploding. In the last four years there has been approximately 16.8 million new trademark applications.

 

Are we reaching a point of saturation where the proliferation of brands are doing more harm than good? Our memory banks just can’t keep up.

 

Barry Schwartz, PhD, a Swarthmore College psychologist and author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less explains “there’s a point where all of this choice starts to be not only unproductive, but counterproductive – a source of pain, regret, worry about missed opportunities and unrealistically high expectations.”

 

 

Have we reached a state where a brand is no longer able to differentiate itself from other brands? How many deep brand relationships do we really want or can handle in our busy lives? A Gallup research study (2004) suggests that on average, Americans say they have about nine ‘close friends’ and the older you get the number maxed out to 13 close friends. Can we expect any more from a consumer concerning a meaningful relationships with brands?

 

The Beginning of Brands

 

We can blame Japan for starting some of the world’s first and oldest brands such as Kongo Gumi which was established in the year 578 and Hoshi Ryokan founded in 718 according to William O’Hara book Centuries of Success. Kongo Gumi is a construction company that built Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and castles. But after surviving 14 centuries (1,428 years!) as a family business it closed its doors in 2006. There wasn’t a huge demand for  building temples anymore which occupied 80% of their business focus. Hoshi Ryokan is a Japanese inn located in Komatsu for over 1300 years. You can book a room today on booking.com. In a study conducted by the Bank of Korea they discovered over 3,146 companies that are over 200 years old in Japan, 837 in Germany, 222 in the Netherlands, and 196 in France.

 

Brands Come & Go

 

But brand age doesn’t guarantee brand success. Jim Collins, a co-author of Built to Last—Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, says brands must follow a set of unchanging and sustainable principles of who they are, yet constantly change in what they do and how they do it. Today, we have many examples of brands who knew who they were but didn’t have the courage to change what they did such as old favourites as Kodak, Blackberry, Blockbuster, Nokia and Hummer. Check out the article Lessons from the Brand Graveyard.

 

If you go back to the Fortune 500 in 1955, 88% of those brands no longer exist on the 2014 Fortune 500 list. Brands continually get destroyed by mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies or break-ups. There is a healthy churn in brands coming and going. Steven Denning reported in Forbes that fifty years ago, the life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 was around 75 years. Today, it’s less than 15 years and declining all the time.

 

That being said, there are about 250,000 new brands launched globally each year which keeps the world’s advertising agencies very busy. Lynn Dornblaser, an analyst at market research firm Mintel who tracks new products, says the typical failure rate of new product launches can be anywhere for 85% to 95%. That’s a lot of new business cards and advertising wasted. Schneider Associates and research partners SymphonyIRI Group and Sentient Decision Science did a consumer survey (2010) that found 45% of participants couldn’t name a single new product brand.

 

The Virgin of Everything

 

But all of these setbacks in launching a new brand hasn’t stop brand extension and introducing new products.

 

Many brands have tried to extend their brands from the classic offering to capture new markets and target groups – some successfully and others with less clarity. I call it the “Virgin of Everything.” Sir Richard Branson has taken the irreverent and fun Virgin brand and has stretched it across 350 different products from life insurance to lingerie. David Taylor blogger on Brand Gym said in his article Virgin: the worst or best of brand extension? that this was a “brand ego trip, where the brand gets too big for its boots.”

 

Then there are sub brands of brands with unique attributes, quality and value levels. For example, Coca Cola with its line of Classic Coke, Diet Coke, Caffeine Free Coke, Caffeine Free Diet Coke, etc. Nothing is simple today. Too many choices.

 

Brand Apathy

 

Everything in life is moving faster and faster. Nothing is predictable and digital technologies are changing everything except our brains. Humans still have only so much memory power and capacity to retain and process information. Bob Nease, behavioural scientist and author of the book, The Power of Fifty Bits explains that the brain can process 10 billion bits of information each second but when it comes to the “decision-making part of the brain [it] only processes a maximum of 50 bits per second.” This is a major bottleneck in the decision making process that won’t change anytime soon. Just think, we have a bandwidth issue in our brains. The proliferation of brands and branding messages means fewer chances that new brands will find a permanent place in a consumer’s mind. Steve Jobs said on his return to Apple in 1997 that “For me, marketing is about values. This is a very noisy world, and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. So, we have to be very clear what we want them to know about us.” Almost twenty years later Jobs’ comment is even more relevant today. A simple route to the consumer’s head and heart doesn’t exist anymore.

consumer path 2

 

We can get a new product brand to market faster and more efficient than ever before. We have more channels to get our message out than ever before. But the resulting complexities has created brand apathy. As we continue along this path of madness, brands have less of a chance to be successful. Aldo Cundari, CEO of Cundari agency, explains in his book Customer-Centric Marketing, “The new customer behavior has serious implications for all brands. If organizations don’t commit to meeting their customers’ expectations today, customers will go elsewhere tomorrow.”

What Cundari says isn’t revolutionary thinking but the warning signs are everywhere–consumers are reaching a point of brand overkill. It’s like a stadium full of brands all screaming to persuade potential customers to reach for their brand. The noise is deafening.

Havas Media Group’s annual global Meaningful Brands survey (2015) has been consistent in the last five years in saying “most people would not care if 74% of brands disappeared.”

 

Survival Tips

 

Put our branding feet into the consumer’s shoes for a day. They truly need our support.

Help them manage the daily complexities, simplify the burden of choices and reduce the cognitive load. Be where they want your brand to be and be relevant. Solve their problems even before they become problems. Take away the need for them to have to make another decision or remember another brand name.

Automate to eliminate repeating issues or tasks. Make them feel good even when your brand isn’t about feeling good. Help them navigate a simpler life. Stop yelling and start listening more.

Your brand will be rewarded for its simple solutions and not for more choices. Remember less is more and always be empathetic and relevant.

Just be human.

 

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9 Future Trends That Will Define Brands

Brands need to be ready today to address future trends. In some cases, they may be too late. This article examines trends that will force brands to change or be lost forever. Change will bring uncertainty and risk. Those brands that anticipate change will have a greater chance to succeed than those who try to wait it out. There will also be great opportunities for new innovative brands to leap-frog the dinosaurs and introduce new virtual products. But successful brands will need to keep ahead on all fronts, from product development, to delivery and servicing, with the goal of always reducing the time from start to finish. Why is Amazon so focused on the product delivery? Instant gratification is their ultimate goal.

 

As Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company said in the book The Future of Brands: 25 Visions, “One of the great things about the future is that there are no rules…you don’t have to take the road that has been travelled before.” Or better yet, as Dr. Emmett Brown in the movie Back to the Future said “where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

 

Brands must anticipate how they fit within the future so here are nine trends to keep an eye-on:

 

1. The Digital World of Oneness

 

Smartphones have allowed consumers the power and freedom to literally have the entire world at their fingertips. Brands have to understand digital technologies that bridge the real and virtual worlds to provide smart digital services through the physical things they make. “Really strong brands are the ones which have done all my thinking for me,” says Marieke van der Werf co-founder of New Moon agency.

 

New super brands like Uber and Airbnb have brought together many individual solutions and presented them seamlessly as one big brand solution. More and more brands will either become boutique or super brands.

 

Caroline Slootweg, past Director of Digital Marketing and New Media at Unilever says “Digital has reminded us that we can, and should, play a bigger role in consumers’ lives.” Through digital technology, brands will find and help you before you realize you need help. It’s about building the algorithms, programs and sensors to create digital intelligence that can anticipate customer’s needs. But remember, digital is only the tool to help brands become more engaged with their customers. It must always be on the customers’ terms or they will quickly unsubscribe.

 

2. Global Culture, Locally Delivered

 

A brand culture starts from within the walls of where the brand is cultivated. The most successful ones in the future will be those that have the best people – from the front-line employees, to the scientists, to the marketers and everything in between. Strong brands have a strong sense of empathy between its employees and its customers.

 

While some brands will depart from the traditional retail environment to work directly with their customers, others will become more localized and play a bigger part in customer’s communities. Brands will become more sensitive to their customer’s special needs by customizing the brand experience with neighborhood-specific merchandise and tailored environments. McDonald has deviated from the standards to customize the in-store experience to match the community environment and they have also adjusted their menu according. For example, in Atlantic Canada where lobster is part of the culture, they have a lobster sandwich on the menu. The cookie-cutter brand will no longer exist in the future.

 

3. Share of Mind

 

It wasn’t too long ago that there were only a handful of communication channels. Today, we would be lucky to deal with a handful of just social channels. We are living in a very complex world of multichannels and omnichannels that seem to be changing quickly. David Sealey, a blogger on Smart Insights and head of digital consulting at CACI, estimates there are over 120 different channels (you can check out his channel list). Today, if you want to reach teens you need to be on Snapchat (not yet on Sealey’s list), not Facebook. In less than four years Snapchat has amassed a global following that sends over 700 million photos and videos per day. The landscape of media channels isn’t just growing with new channels but it’s also changing rapidly. You will need an entry and exit strategy as channels attract or repel specific target audiences.

 

 

The goal isn’t being on every possible channel but being where you need to be to build your brand’s share of mind. The most sustainable solution is to grow a pair of wings and build your own channel, like Red Bull.

 

4. Data Connectivity

 

Having data doesn’t seem to be the problem. Brands have access to all types of data including social, loyalty, transactional, CRM, demographic, weather, satellite, product, and other sources. The trick is deriving a conclusion that can create actions to enhance success; otherwise it’s just all head hurting. The wining brands will be those that successfully convert and mine the data to build stronger customer relationships.

 

New technologies, neuromarketing and continuous connectivity will allow brands to seriously provide personalization that has yet to be seen. The future will develop better analytical tools and mix unrelated data to make new predictions and products. Human behaviour is 90% driven by emotions and motivations that operate below our consciousness; but what if we were able to start collecting data at this level through neuromarketing techniques such as biometrics, facial decoding, and eye-tracking. All technologies currently available.

 

5. Boomers – Cashing Out

 

We will continue to see a consumer marketing shift towards the developing nations over the next decade, but more profoundly is a massive global population that is quickly aging. The United Nations projects that the total population of people older than 65 will double to 1 billion over the next 20 years. Accenture Life Sciences forecasts that the consumer healthcare market, valued at $502 billion in 2013, will rise to $737 billion within five years.
So how can brands meet the needs of this demanding consumer-base? For many years the boomers had total control over marketing to themselves. We will see a proliferation of consumer products that will cater to their needs and wants from health-care products and services, entertainment, travel, food and housing. They will be totally obsessed with their personnel health and fitness. They will be focusing on their grandchildren and assessing their legacy as they look at their footprint on the world. Will they all become environmentalists?

 

There will be a great financial burden placed on the rest of society to support them with government services as they become dependent on medical and social support. Robotic technologies will be a growing industry in helping solve some of the healthcare and assistance issues. It will be important for brands to understand their role and how they continue to communicate to this target group – a group who will become disengaged and more isolated from the fast and changing world that they no longer control.

 6. Millennials – In the Cash

 

There has been more written about this generation than any other generation before them. But the fact is they will eventually be running the world. Like every generation, they will come with a different set of values. So far their entire life has been dependent on technology and connectivity 24/7. Every minute of their lives has been capture digitally via video, photo, audio and text. Transparency and constant engagement is their life. Brands need to find means to fulfill this desire in a genuine and authentic way. The need for good content will continue to be in great demand. Brands will need to find ways to collaborate and co-create content with customers and other brands to fill the ever-growing content pipeline.

 

 

7. Technology – On Steroids

 

Technology is getting smarter and smaller. Cash registers will be replaced with cloud-based point of sale systems if retail still exists. Brand transactions will happen everywhere and nowhere. Malls will be converted to entertainment centres for customers to test-run new technologies and physically and virtually interact with their favourite brands. Augmented reality will allow customer to try out products in a controlled-brand experience environment. 3-D printing will allow some brands to bypass the retail and production system and distribution model or provide customized solutions on-site. Brands will be alive with digital messaging that will communicate with other internet of things electronics including wearables, vehicles and homes. Personalization will be capable throughout the brand life-cycle with the consumer. Brands will communicate with other brands to provide seamless and enhanced experiences. Brands will never sleep. Every brand will be equipped within or attached with a smart device to ensure maximized brand functionality and always learning from the specific customer experience to continue to increase performance.

 

8. Traditional Advertising Gone

It’s not a question of ‘if’ but when will traditional media end. Old-style, one-size-fits-all, mass advertising will be dead. Not only will the classic media channels disappear (print, radio and TV – as we know it today) but the advertising formats of a 30 second commercial or print ad will be gone forever; replaced instead, by dynamic, insightful, personalized digital communications that will build and support a customer’s brand relationship. Brands will live within the content and are currently creating it, like Netflix. Word-of-mouth will continue to be replaced by word-of-digital via social, online reviews and customer created brand content.

 

9. Population Growth

 

The United Nations predicts the world population will reach 9 billion around 2050 that is an increase of around 2 billion more consumers. The majority of these new consumers will be in less developed regions, except for the USA which is expected to increase by 31% to 400 million people. These new consumers will put enormous pressures on all the worlds’ global consumption of food, water, natural resources and non-reusable energy sources. A side effect will be human-generated greenhouse gases. Brands will need to provide ‘greener’ solutions to help save the world. Brands will be required to take the high-road on sustainability and resist the quick buck approach. In 2010 Unilever introduced their Sustainable Living Plan to decouple the company’s growth from its environmental footprint. Along with the parent company, their thousand-plus brands also include a social purpose to their brand positioning. That’s thinking Uni-versal.

 

The Future is Now

 

If you think you are late, you are. But the second best time to plant a tree is today. If you think you are ahead of the game, make sure you are in the right game. The brands that survive will assimilate closer to our lives in ways we don’t yet understand. Technology will elevate, destroy and create new brands. But remember, it will still be people who will control, develop and invest in brands. And it will be people who still experience brands. So far, people don’t change too quickly – just every generation or so. As Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Unilever says “It used to be that big eats small. But now it’s a world where fast eats slow. What’s important is that we get to the future first.”

 

But as Doc. Brown said in Back to the Future, “Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. So make the best of it.”

 

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Wrapping Brands in Hope, Love, Joy, Peace and Bacon

We can thank the birth of Jesus Christ for putting Christmas on the map, but its brand marketers that have made the solemn religious festivities into a $600 billion business in the United States alone. This year Gallup research predicts the average American will spend around $830 on Christmas. There’s a lot riding on this holiday, so much so that brands spend millions to connect themselves to this emotional time of giving and celebration. Retail brands live or die during this important sales period and we’ll take a look at the lengths they go to do it right.

 

For all brands to cash in on Christmas, they need to break through the clutter and attract festive shoppers who are looking for brands who match their warm and fuzzy shopping needs.

 

Many would argue that Christmas has become more about marketing than religion. The history of Christmas’ evolution is part marketing and part theatrical symbolism. While Charles Dickens did not invent the Victorian Christmas, his book A Christmas Carol written in 1843 is credited with helping to popularise and spread the traditions of the festive time. Coca-Cola Company claims they helped shape the image of Santa as we know him today. Inspired by Clement Clarks Moore’s 1822 poem A visit from St. Nicholas (commonly known as Twas the night before Christmas) illustrator Haddon Sunblom commissioned by Coca-Cola created the iconic red suited and white breaded Santa image that was friendly, plump, jolly and loved Coke. From 1931 to 1964 the ‘Coke Santa’ was the advertising theme every Christmastime in magazines, billboards, posters, displays and calendars.

 

 

For brands, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year to pull on the heartstrings. Writer and content strategist Taylor Mallory Holland concluded in her blog article Make ‘Em Cry – and Buy that “Emotion is a key ingredient in great holiday content marketing.” Jonah Berger, researcher and author of Contagious would agree. He discovered that “high arousal” of positive and negative emotions like awe, excitement, amusement and anger motivates us to share messages with others. He says “when we care we share.”

 

The holiday season is full of high emotion. We become hyper-sensitive to stories of the poor and unfortunate souls who don’t have food, shelter or friends. We are drawn towards stories of goodness in humanity and messages of hope, peace and love. It’s a time to reach back to the child in all of us who believed Santa Claus was real, reindeers could fly and life was just plain simple (because someone else did the worrying).

 

John Lewis, a department store in the United Kingdom has built their brand on this fact. Since 2007, John Lewis has captured the attention of the world with their annual tradition of launching a new Christmas advertising campaign to kick-start shoppers into buying their Christmas gifts. John Lewis’s emotional brand formula isn’t revolutionary, as Stephen Vowles, marketing director at Argos says, “It resonates because it speaks to the values most of [us] hold at Christmas – showing people that we care about them and that we are thinking of them.”

 

 

But Edeka, a German supermarket chain may have trumped John Lewis this year with the “saddest Christmas ad ever” as described in The Washington Post. So far the story of a lonely old widower who is especially sad during the Christmastime has over 41 million views on YouTube compared to John Lewis Man on the Moon which has only 21 million views.

 

 

WestJet has created Christmas miracles of their own over the last four years. Their Christmas Miracle online videos have surprised and delighted consumers in various creative and sensitive ways. Their biggest success was in 2013 where they surprised passengers on a flight from Toronto to Calgary. In Toronto, they had them tell a TV monitor Santa what they wanted for Christmas, and upon their arrival in Calgary four hours later their present appeared on the luggage carousal like magic. To date, this video has received almost 43 million views. If you didn’t think Westjetter’s cared before this, then get out your tissues.

 

 

There are many brands like Apple, Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire, Coke, Stella Artois, Sainsbury, Budweiser, Macys and many more who produce Christmastime commercials/videos that tug on consumer’s heart-strings. Their ultimate goal is to connect with consumers at this time of goodwill and joy with the hope of their brand resonating with them.

 

This is the time that brands can forget about the functional benefits and tap into the spirit of Christmas. If done right, brands can move from a purveyor of Christmas to a state of mind of hope, peace and love minus the bacon. A place were few brands live.

 

To all the world’s brands “Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night”.

 

May the peace and goodwill of the season remain with you throughout the New Year!

 

Top 2015 Christmas Commercials

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Can You Put Your Trust In Brands?

Is brand trust in a crisis? Brand trust is earned through consistently delivering on the brand’s promise. Brand trust is the only way you can build loyal brand advocates. But the global trend is working in the opposite direction. Young & Rubicam BrandAsset Valuator reveals that consumers trust in renowned brands continues to slide. In 1997, consumers indicated that they had a high level of confidence in 52% of brands. By 2008 that percentage dropped to 22%. The Edelman Trust Barometer confirms the same trend with their annual survey. In 2015, for the first time since the end of the Great Recession of 2007-08, their survey signaled a major decline in trust with 16 of 27 countries dropping below their acceptable 50% level into the “distruster” category. For example, Canada went from a 62% trust level in 2014 to 47% in 2015. A drop of 15%! What’s going on?

 

In the climate of austerity are we starting to see brands cutting corners or blatantly deceiving consumers to protect their bottom line. Since 2007-08 the world economy hasn’t been the same and the recent financial instability in China will continue put pressure on brands to perform.

 

 

Profits vs Brand Equity

 

Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum, explains that “There are four prerequisites of the company’s survival; profitability, growth, risk protection and earning public trust.” While we may expect people sometimes to lie, like athletes, actors and most certainly politicians, we don’t expect brands to lie. Why would global companies risk their brand equity by outright lying to their customers?

 

Volkswagen VW, the world’s largest carmaker (past tense) did exactly that when they lied about their emissions tests through cheating software. Why would a mega brand risk its reputation? Profits seems to be the ultimate goal. Jointly Germany car manufactures, actively promoted to Americans that diesel was the future to meet tougher US emission standards. The only way VW was able to compete and live up to the promise was to lie. The arrogance that they thought they wouldn’t get caught is scary, especially since they publicly promised to be the ‘greenest’ car producer in the world by 2018. The lie allowed VW to claim their diesel engine were superior – selling over 12.6 million of them. The fact that buyers used to pay a $2,700 premium over gasoline engines for VW diesels meant an additional $34 billion in VW’s bank account. But the real problem was the fact that their engines emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above US standards. This environmental damage can’t be fixed.

 

Alan Hilburg and Tracey Linnell say distrust is very expensive. “Low-trust brands pay a ‘trust tax’ in multiple forms, including higher transaction costs and unwanted legislation. The broader and faster the low-trust reality spreads, the deeper the effect of the higher tax.”

 

In a CNN Money report, the financial service holding company Credit Suisse estimated the cost of the VW diesel emissions scandal could exceed $86 billion. About the same GDP value as a country like Ecuador. Volkswagen is facing a very big trust-tax notwithstanding that they are trying to attract customers today through deep discounts.

 

Recently, another scandal was released by CBC Marketplace revealing that Starbucks and Tim Hortons are misleading their customers. They claim the paper cups collected in their in-store recycling bins are being recycled but are actually going into landfills. It seems these paper cups have a plastic lining that requires an additional step in the recycling process, which costs money. So why would two big brands like Starbucks and Tim Hortons mislead their customers to think that they are being environmentally responsible?

 

What’s the impact of a paper cup? CBC estimates that Canadians use over 1.5 billion disposable coffee cups in a year which is equivalent to more than half a million trees. The environmental impact is significant. I don’t know what the cost of recycling a coffee cup is but it is obviously worth more than the truth. But we will have to see if consumers make them pay.

 

Who Makes These Decisions to Lie

 

There is an apparent financial gain that can be significant over time. But who analyzes the brand risk? In an Intangible Asset Market study by Ocean Tomo, they state that in 1975 intangible assets were just 17% of the market value of the S&P 500. Today, intangible assets are 84% of the market value of the S&P 500. What are intangible assets you ask? They are intellectual property (patents, trademarks etc.), goodwill and brand equity. Most of which is built on a foundation of trust.

 

Here are four factors that may be driving some brands to disregard consumer trust as a license to operate:

 

Brand Proliferation

 

Every day we are seeing new brands entering into the marketplace. The explosion of new brands, globalization and intense competition are major problems for brands. According to a Datamonitor report, 58,375 new products were introduced worldwide in 2006, more than double the number from 2002. The reality is consumers have more choices and more choices means more competition for brands, which means more pressure on profits.

 

Moral: Brand equity is important and should be cultivated and protected.

 

Loss of Message Control

 

Brand reputation and image are now firmly in the hands of the consumer, as they control the conversation via digital channels. Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey of more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries said that 92% of consumers around the world trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising; an increase of 18% since 2007.

 

Moral: Brands must integrate into digital channels to communicate with customers on their terms.

 

Disconnect with Technology

 

The Edelman Trust Barometer says that the major factor in depressing trust is the rapid implementation of new technology that’s changing everyday life. Of people surveyed 54% were very cynical about new technology, stating “business growth or greed/money are the real impetuses behind innovation.” The problem with most innovations introduced to the market is little work is done to explain to the consumers why this innovation is a good thing in the first place. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are a good example. GM seeds were introduced to farmers to help them increase yields but for the average consumer what did this mean? What was good about inserting a gene from one plant to another and how would consumers benefit from this. Then add, misinformed activists and their scare tactics to label these ‘Frankenfood’ and consumers start getting concerned.

 

Moral: Brands must speak down-to-earth consumer language.

Companies are Greedy

 

There is an inherent belief that faceless corporations are bad and their sole purpose is to make money anyway they can. Greed is what makes the world go round. The famous legal thriller author John Grisham emphasis this belief in all his books which have sold over 275 million copies (2002) world-wide. Every time a bad apple brand gets caught this distrust is reinforced. Janelle Barlow, co-author of Branded Customer Service explains, “Consumers have come to expect advertising and promotions to overstate, to over promise, and to frequently not deliver.”

 

Moral: Take advantage of this belief and build a caring brand (Six reasons why brands should care)

 

The Truth Won’t Get in the Way of a Good Story

 

James Heaton President & Creative Director at Tronvig Group says “It’s just too easy to lie. The attraction is too great, the professional confidence in the gullibility of the consumer is too well-established, the benefits to the company of a ‘visionary and future-oriented’ brand are too immediate and bankable to pass up for the sake of such unsexy things as brand integrity.”

 

The moral of this story is brand’s need a strong governance model to uphold the brand’s core values. This foundation ensure all business decisions are based on those values. Building strong and lasting brands takes time and resources. Lying is one of the quickest ways to ruin a beautiful brand relationship. The real shame in all of this is there are many brands built and operated by honest people that pride themselves on being authentic and truthful.

 

Kees Schilperoort, managing director at Xfacta, a brand consultancy, said it best, “In Brands We Trust, and trust is a must. Because brands that lie, die.”

 

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Brand Voice… it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it that matters

Everyone in brand marketing understands the importance of clearly defining and living your brand tone-of-voice but I am not sure many brands stay true to their personality. In some cases, let the creative teams win and run a muck. As blogger Harriet Cummings says “A tone of voice is not what you say, but how you say it. This encompasses not only the words you choose, but their order, rhythm and pace.” Some brands tone-of-voice are just down-right boring or nonexistent, and others change their voice daily depending on who is controlling it or where it’s being used. It’s so easy to fall for fun and humorous creative, but by not matching your brand’s tone and voice, you could be diluting your brand’s hard-earned equity.

 

Rob Marsh, copywriter and author of the blog Brandstory says “very little attention is paid to brand voice—the words, phrases, and characteristics that set a brand apart take a back seat to the more “important” visual aspects of the brand.” The reason why is because defining and living a brand tone-of-voice is damn hard. It is especially hard when many people are involved in producing various communications, each having a different point-of-views of what the brand voice should be. If done right, the brand tone-of-voice can be distinctive, recognisable and unique. In life, sometime it’s more important on how you say something than what you say. As American author Maya Angelou once said, “People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.”

 

A brands tone-of-voice, when consistent, can tell consumers a great deal about the brand, especially its attitude and overall personality. To be successful whatever the brands tone-of-voice is, it must be consistently delivered everywhere. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld says that most people aren’t aware of the many different tones they project. But with a brand you can build a brand image from a consistent tone that accentuates its brand values and personality. Nigel Edginton-Vigus, Creative director at Blue Hive advertising agency says many large brands are schizophrenia with their tone-of-voice. You can go from a friendly and chatty physical brand experience a cold and cluttered online experience. “It’s like finishing this amazing love-making session and you lie back content with bliss and your partner turns to you and says ‘affirmative you now have been logged out. Thank you.’”

 

To illustrate the importance of a brands tone-of-voice, I have selected three brands in the men’s shaving industry who demonstrate three different voices.

 

The Designer Shave

 

The first one is Harry’s, an online low-cost provider of high quality men’s shaving products. Harry’s was founded by Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeffrey Raider, two bright millennials who shared a passion “for simple design, appreciation of well-made things, and a belief that companies should try to make the world a better place.” Not surprising, Jeff went on to become co-founder of the trendy online eye-wear retailer Warby Parker. Harry’s website states “Harry’s was built out of respect for quality craftsmanship. Simple design, modern convenience and most importantly for guys who think they shouldn’t have to overpay for a great shave.”

 

Viewing Harry’s website or their lifestyle blog-a-zine Five O’clock gives you an immediate feel of a New Yorker Magazine layout. Their tone is calm with subtle, dry, sophisticated humour, yet very easy going and approachable. It’s confident and smart without the hassle or aggression. You feel clean and positive about the experience.

 

 

The High Performance Shave

 

The next example is the mammoth Gillette brand worth $20.4 billion and part of Procter & Gamble that controls 70% of the global blades and razor market. When you think of Gillette, you think of technologically advanced superiority shaving – so how complex can “the Best a Man Can Get.” Their tone-of-voice reeks of masculinity, confidence, precision and calculated. Every time I shave with my Fusion Proglide razor with the new Flexball technology, I think I am driving an Audi RS 7 Quattro with a V-8 engine, adaptive suspension, and all-wheel drive system. Foot to the floor, the best I can get. Plus the maintenance cost to boot.

 

 

In 2014, the Gillette brand shifted into a new gear with a tone-of-voice that didn’t fit the brand. Maybe they are trying to be more human, like their competitors. The problem is, it doesn’t feel like the Gillette brand I grew up with. When did the Gillette brand start becoming funny?

 

The Cheap and Cheery Shave

 

I am sure everyone has seen the youtube video of Michael Dubin co-founder of Dollar Shave Club ranting about how F**KING GREAT their one dollar blades are. The Dollar Shave Club, a subscription based razor company’s tone-of-voice is funny, cheeky and makes fun of Gillette. They quickly tap into every man’s feeling of getting ripped-off with the high cost of razor blades. Their underdog brand has no flashy models or famous sports stars. They’re just down-to-earth, humble, witty and supported by an unbelievable price. Today, buying a pack of razors isn’t cheap. A pack of eight blades can set you back $35 to $40 dollars. The Dollar Shave Club taps into consumer frustration. “Dollar Shave Club wants to speak to you in an everyday voice,” Dubin said in an Adweek article by Tim Nudd. “Using a celebrity is not who we are. Tonally, it’s important to remind people, here’s a guy who’s just like you, finding a solution to a real problem.”

 

 

Final Voice

 

Who would have thought a simple product like a razor blade could be as complex as it concerns their tone-of-voice? But like a human, a brand’s attitude and personality is complex. Many brands leave the tone-of-voice to be driven and cultivated by the creative folks and designers, but in actual fact, it’s everyone’s responsibility working for a brand to emulate the brand’s attitude, personality and with its customers. It even becomes more important when more employees are communicating with customers through social channels. Every brand needs a voice and tone guide to ensure employees are consistently projecting it. The guide forces the brand to clearly define what is its tone-of-voice and gives the brand a benchmark to judge future content. Maybe this would have helped Gillette from making the “first real suit” commercial. I don’t think so.

 

If you can’t describe your brands tone-of-voice and don’t see it in any of your communications, it might be time to start building your brand’s voice and tone guide. Click here to view some examples and tips to help inspire you.

 

Remember it’s not only what you say, it’s how you say it that matters.