Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The devil’s in the details

It must be that I’m talking to more brand consultants these days because I’m starting to hear the same gripe: that marketers are often clueless that branding needs to occur across all customer interactions.

It may sound like a really simple concept but one which apparently eludes most marketers, why? It might just be that ensuring consistent branding isn’t easy considering all the minute details you have to pay attention to, or just a perception that certain functions are only meant to achieve the ‘functionality’ objective. I was talking to a brand consultant earlier today and he mentioned in passing that it was odd how many companies fork out huge sums of money to release a polished and sleek commercial which makes them look really good to customers. But when customers call into the company’s call centre or dial in to complete a telephone banking transaction, their idea and expectation of the brand (no doubt brought on by that nice commercial), and the reality of what they discover on the other end of the line can provoke a huge disappointment. “And that’s where the disconnect happens,” says the brand consultant. “What’s the use of spending so much money on the TV commercial then?”

The brand consultant also said marketers need to be cognisant of the changing environment around them, and to change with it. A phone banking system that’s five-years-old isn’t going to cut it with customers anymore -- many marketers probably only have the time to make sure that they have a system, but then don’t do anything to it or forget about it after some time. Is that still the right way of interacting with customers, can you ‘update’ the voice on the other end, put in some new music perhaps? Simplify and make the technology easier? Maybe marketers need to get out of the thinking mode where they think a function, like the company delivery guys, merely serve as a functionality when in fact, they’re are at the ‘frontline’ of your brand and have a strong influence on the image projected to customers. It’s a difficult situation: marketers are sometimes placed in a situation where they just have to get in there and do it, while these branding improvements take time to carry out and more often than not, is a long term effort. When there is space and time to take care of these areas though, I’ll bet it’ll pay off putting in place training programs for staff and ensuring all other consumer interactions are consistent with the overall branding, because having a keen eye for detail in your branding can be the key to what makes you stand out from your next competitor.


MGL said...

Hi Clarice,

Easier said than done. Its easy for arm chair warriors like Branding consultants to quote far-fetched theories of Aaker, Scott M Davis, or Michael Porter, whose thoughts are mainly that of post-rationalising stories of organizations which have a good brand.


Clarice said...

Thanks for your comment MGL, I agree with you that it's easier for consultants to comment from afar when they're not in the thick of it, as marketers are.

However, and I'm just thinking out loud here, while the theories may be far-fetched, wouldn't marketers would be able to take a little something away from those theories? After all, they originated from the author's observations of a real-life organisation. Also, I do know of branding agencies who have been engaged by companies to implement brand consistency measures, so it is an achievable task, with a little help. But I'm no branding expert and these are just my thoughts on the matter.What are your/any other marketer's thoughts? What's the reality here, is it really a case of easier said than done, mainly because marketers have to deal with the nitty gritty of the job and have no time for the conceptual stuff? In which case it can be done, with some help?

Geeta said...

The consultants observations are indeed valid and we have seen many great organisations live upto being "marketing centered". This orientation has to be adopted as a core value that every single employee in the organisation needs to live upto, specially the bean counters who are more wall street savvy rather than customer focused and consider marketing expenditure as a revenue outflow rather than an investment.

Morpheus said...

Brand consultants is the latest pandemic to hit mankind in the last few decades. How frivolous the word consultant is used. Do not get me wrong, but I salute the real macoys, and consultants are needed in our less than perfect world. The branding message has to be consistent top down, the marketers conceptualise, recommend and implement, but who does follow-ups and policing? The success of the product/service is up to the whole company and not only one function. Perhaps because Mr Marketer was not Mr Police therefore consultant friend's horrifying experience. Money might be wasted, but isn't that wonderful? Brand consultants will just have to endure more work and more money!

germyong said...

>> Asians are generally not so focus on marketing efforts as compared to sales efforts. In addition, Asians are not so open to changes (which are needed in the whole Branding exercise) What takes 6mths to fine-tune, might need 1yr-2yr due to the lack of focus & resistence to changes.

>> Brand is not just an image (like what you mentioned in your example. The moment the call is made - touchpoint - that is the moment of truth.

>> Most importantly, marketers can initiate a Branding exercise, but they should not be the one leading it. Branding is a strategic planning, which should be lead by the management team. Without unanimous support from the management team, the start point of internal brand communications would already be a great challenge. Read somewhere, branding should start from the boardroom, which I fully agree.

>> Consultant once mentioned, 'What we want to be?' question for the boardroom, is branding, and strategic planning.. 'How we want to get there?' is brand positioning, and tactical, for marketers.

Please share with me your opinions. I wish to learn.

KOOKY said...

I think brand consultants act as what they are supposed to do, as consultants to marketeers; as often marketeers being in the thick of the action may not see the whole picture. More often marketeers are product-driven, while branding consultants are consumer-driven. I think the two roles should co-exist.

global_trends said...

Why is it that marketers in Asia stick to the usual play safe campaigns ? The free box of tissues is becoming boring and they need to think of new exciting ways to engage and stimulate customers - how else to develop cusotmer loyalty ?

Come on Asia, you can open your eyes for a start and see the trends in maturer markets, and guess what, you'll be doing something different.

I'm shocked by an industry full of well qualified "old school techniques need only apply" managers and strategists.

Wake up and smell the coffee !

oldPRhand said...

Might I add that it's not the marketers that is the problem but the organisation? Marketeers know their jobs and most of them know about 360 degree branding but it's a problem of getting the entire organisation to buy in.

How many time have we marketeers heard this from our non-marketing colleagues "Is this a marketing or business activity? If it's a business activity, I will do it. But if it is a marketing one ..."

Sadly without top management buy-in and enforcement, there will be no buy-in from the rest of the organisation. The Marketing department doesn't have that much influence over how the rest of the company runs itself. So certainly we will continue to pay for that expensive slick commercials and certainly the other customer interaction will continue to be hit-and-miss.

wrightstuff said...

My experience (having been both sides of this equation) is that marketing people generally do not have the authority to enforce changes outside the marketing department.

Getting other departments to take the brand experience seriously is notoriously difficult, and the increasing tendency to maginalise marketing as "marcoms" (i.e.: no real input into business decision-making) contributes to this.

This is why most brand consultants try to deal at MD/CEO level. While it can sideline marketing departments in some cases, the consultant and marketing team, by working together, can get the message across, if the senior management team is co-opted early on.

So, it can be done, but no one said it would be easy!