Kirsten Basford - Business Stylist

The New Brand Economy – and it’s not a crisis!

I have a confession to make…my name is Kirsten and I am addicted to brands. I love everything about them. They way they look the way they make me feel and the colour and movement they bring to our society. Brands bring joy to so many, they cause fights with spouses and they create tribes. They make your emotions come alive, sometimes good sometimes bad. The world would be 50 shades of Beige (there I go talking about a brand already) if it wasn’t for brands colouring our world.

Brands are a reference point for most news bulletins, talk back radio, sport reports and general conversations (BTW I lurve that new Sass & Bide top you are wearing, you got that at Myer?). Brands are also the commercial backbone of the planet.

The word brand however has changed over time. The original meaning of the word brand as taken from my Macquarie Concise Dictionary;

 - a mark formerly put upon criminals with a hot iron. That’s not such a nice vision. Next meaning please;

- a mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind, grade, make, ownership etc That’s better, but lets review the last meaning;

- a trademark or trade name to identify a product, as that of a distributor, or a manufacturer or other producer. OK now that’s something that I can relate to.

 This meaning is great for the industrial revolution, however in 2012 we are in the midst of the Connection Revolution where brands and people become one in the consumers eyes. So I would like to further challenge this last meaning and include YOU as a brand. As crass as it sounds everyone is being evaluated with the same characteristics as a brand is being evaluated. Whether you are in the public eye or not people are judging, and compartmentalising us based on certain traits that evoke an emotion similar to those emotions that brands create in the consumer behaviour process.

The two most famous and over used examples of how people have become brands are Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian so I promise I won’t talk about them. Now that you have got the image in your mind, put them in your “brand box” so we can continue…..great thanks.

Consumers want to relate to brands, we want to know about the people behind the brands so we can not only evaluate a brand but we can include the person behind the brand in that evaluation process.

Starbucks Coffee is the most famous coffee brand in the world, the man behind the brand Howard Shultz is just as famous as the white cup with the green logo.

The late Steve Jobs with Apple, Bill Gates and Microsoft, Naomi Simpson and Red Balloon and the people and the brand list go on.

As consumers we now expect to see a real person, we want to feel a connection to that brand and we want to feel like we are part of that tribe.

The people don’t necessarily need to be famous and beautiful highly paid brand ambassadors, that’s ok but sometimes it doesn’t always work either. Toni Collette in the latest campaign for the Commonwealth Bank is a perfect example of a famous well-loved person not resonating with consumers. Yet I bet you all still remember Bernie Fraser the former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia and the face of Australian Super – “it’s the super of the future”.

So what is it that makes brands and people connect. In the case of the above two examples the traits that were hit or miss to make that crucial brand connection was authenticity, relevance and an absolute understanding of what the person stood for. As a consumer we can understand the connection with the geeky man with the funny voice telling us about superannuation. He has relevance and credibility in telling the message, he is totally authentic and we know that this guy has spent his career working with and therefore is all about money. We know what he stands for. The exact opposite is true for Toni Collette reading a poem in a bank ad.

A connection with a person or product as a brand also occurs when a consumer can safely put that “brand” in a box, we can compartmentalise in our own mind where that brand sits on our personal emotional radar – quickly back to the Paris and Kim example – and now back to me – phew.

To get cut through to the emotional radar of consumers to have any impact on behaviour there needs to be a point where convergence occurs. A time when you and the brand incline towards one another and sparks fly. This does not happen in an instant, a romance period needs to occur. As with any courting stage of a romance there are three key characteristics to get those sparks flying.

Attention to Detail – remember those first few dates, your clothes were just perfect, your car was clean, lip-gloss was always applied. Every little detail to make sure you were confident in putting your best self forward. Your date knew who you were and what you stood for through the illustration of all the little details that you so meticulously attended to.  As a result of all the details combined together a relatable connection either happened or it didn’t. You knew you were from the same “tribe” and conversation was effortless. You sought to get to know this person deeper. A relationship has now begun. A relationship with a brand is just the same. It’s the details that communicate to consumers that this is a brand I can trust, I relate to and is a reflection of who I am.

The third characteristic and the one that can be overlooked by so many brands is consistency. Once a relationship has been entered into, consistency with the details needs to continue. Never rest on your laurels when it comes to communicating your brand image.

Once romanced and a relationship entered into consumers want to feel safe with their decision.  Stay consistent, don’t deviate too far away from your original position as you will risk disenfranchising your current consumer base.

The evolution of brands is natural and expected just make sure you take your tribe on the evolution journey with you. Thank you Madonna.

So if you feel like you are not getting the traction you want ask yourself:

-       Am I being authentic – is what I am saying, doing, wearing true to who I really am and what I stand for?

-       Is what I am saying relevant to the audience that I am communicating to and can they feel satisfied that I am the best person to tell that message?

-       Do I sweat the small stuff when it comes to the detail? If you don’t it’s time that you did. All those little things really do matter.

-       Do you often look over your brand from an objective point of view and review how the details are going? It is very easy to get caught up in the day to day doing and take your eye away from the small things that do really matter.
So branding can be summarised a little like one of those inspirational quotes on Facebook.

Be true to yourself, know who you are and sweat the small stuff.

Or how I personally like to define it  – You run into your ex at the shopping centre and you look fabulous – that’s branding.

This article was originally written and published  for the Little Black Dress Group – you can check them out here

Don’t beg for “likes”…create engagement

It’s amazing how many times I hear business owners quote the amount of “likes” they have on Facebook and the obsession with the increase or decrease in this one statistic. The recent piece of branding brilliance of UK company Bodyform on their Facebook page has dispelled the myth that it’s all about the likes…..

If you are not aware of the campaign here is the original post by Richard…

Notice that this post has over 97,000 likes and 4,447 people have commented. When Bodyform posted their response their Facebook “likes” were only 4,169

You can watch the response from Bodyform here:

The spillover to watch the response on YouTube has had over 2.7milion views.

Here is a brand that is based in the UK and with the one idea has gone global. It has had millions of views on social media and mainstream media has covered the campaign. I can only guess that their sales have spiked and they now have a new brand ambassador in the faux CEO to continue their marketing activity.

As at today their Facebook likes are only 6,698 and they have not really been active on their Facebook page (there isn’t even a cover photo). However over 29,000 people are talking about them.

So is it really about the “likes” or is it about the engagement of the “likers” you have…..

Sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest impact

Sometimes we assume it’s just the big things, the wow factor, the gee that must have cost a lot of money activities that get people talking about your brand. Here I want to share an activity that didn’t cost a ton of money but got a fantastic reaction – one to be very honest with you surpassed my expectation.

Back when I was the Marketing Director at Jurlique I wanted to get more people talking about the brand so we initiated a key influencer strategy – sounds fancy but all this means is we selected around 20 influential women who fit the target audience for the brand. These are women that are admired and respected within our community.

I wrote them a letter introducing them to the brand and hand signed it. I also included in the package not one but two hand creams and invited them  to enjoy one and to gift one to a friend or loved one.

The parcels were sent and I left it at that – word of mouth takes time and I had planned to find another twenty key influencers in a couple of months to send another iconic product. Then something remarkable happened. I started receiving emails and hand written notes back, Gai Waterhouse sent me a signed copy of her book and I even received a beautiful bracelet from Cerronne all for taking the time to send a couple of handcreams to a select group of women that were obviously bang on target as they appreciated the sentiment.

Key learning here is that it is often the small things done consistently over time that has the greatest impact. Get personal, think about your consumer base and be empathetic, what would you like to receive from a brand like yours. What would make you tell your friends about a brand. In my example I really led the word of mouth conversation by including one that they could give to a friend. In this digital age don’t forget the power of the pen and the postman, but always be authentic and always come from a place where you don’t expect anything in return – that’s when the magic happens.

It’s not about the coffee

For close to five years I had the pleasure of working with one of the world’s leading and most recognisable brands heading up the Marketing Team for Australia. Working with such a large and well-known brand has amazing benefits and you get to learn so much, on the flip side Australians don’t really understand all the different layers of Starbucks and the perception of the coffee is low. Huge challenge. Inducing trial has always seen great results. Therefore the objective was to create an interest to induce trial and handing out mini samples outside of a store works well but we wanted to create more of a bang than that. I would also like to note that the marketing budget for Starbucks Australia was incredibly low so quite a lot of “outside the square” thinking was required.

Introducing Cups on Cars: We had slightly oversized Starbucks cups made with strong magnetic bases and got friends and store staff to drive around with the cups on their cars which looked like someone had left their coffee on the roof of their car. They do this in America with Red Cups at Christmas, but we did it with the iconic White Starbucks Cups. They would drive around areas near a Starbucks store and passers by would yell out to them and then the driver would reward them with a voucher for a free coffee. People loved the joke, they loved the interaction and it was a fun way to bring the brand to life and interact with the community and have people trial Starbucks with no financial risk. The results of the activity were also measureable as we could record the redemption rate from the vouchers that were redeemed. There was also an opportunity to up-sell at the point of purchase with food. Given the target audience was local customers we could also see the growth over a longer period.

Don’t think that all marketing activity has to be slick and shiny. The activities that engage people and give them a smile are the ones that get spoken about more around the water cooler and at dinner parties. Surprise and Delight people and create a connection and you will certainly get a better response. Have fun with your marketing activity, tie the activity to your brand and get potential consumers involved rather than just being a spectator and you will be sure to create more brand engagement and in-turn more brand loyalty.

Another experiential marketing activity was the Starbucks Parking angels. We had guys and girls in busy urban areas dressed in Angel wings and wearing the Starbucks iconic Green Apron and when cars pulled into a parking spot we put coins in the meter for them and gave them a voucher for a coffee. Again not a super expensive marketing activity but really unexpected for the recipient and gave them a nice feeling that they would more than likely try the coffee. Again the activity was measureable as you could track the vouchers.

It’s about engagement and creating a human connection to the brand. For Starbucks, coffee is just a small part of the customer experience.