November 11, 2008

Chameleon brands – integrate to connect

David J. Moore from the University of Michigan and Pamela Miles Homer from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) released together last year an article in Science Direct titled “Self-brand connections: The role of attitude strength and autobiographical memory primes”


They are bringing to us the concept of Self Brand Connection.

 The self Brand connection (SBC) construct describes one’s attitude vs a given brand, and particularly the relationship between one’s self image and the brand’s image.

Which is different from brand personality (Aaker,1997)... which is “a set of human characteristics associated with a brand”.

The SBC “measures the extent to which the consumer connects that personality to his or her self-concept”. The Self Brand connection is stronger when an individual starts to define himself with the brand.

Their essay focused on Sports marketing, and particularly the fans attitude to the brand depending on gender, and game outcomes. But the concepts discussed can really take a broader meaning here. I retained a few interesting learning’s I’d like to share here.

  1. The stronger the links with a brand, the more favourable brand attitudes are going to be.

“people for whom a given brand is sufficiently important to be linked to their self-concept and to their psychological needs should not only develop more favorable brand attitudes (H1), but will exhibit higher levels of attitude strength as well.”

  1. Adversity plays a strong role. The stronger the brand needs to assert their identity (It is always better if that identity is threatened – ie opposed communities in this case sports teams) the stronger the feelings of belonging to a community.
  2. To succeed in creating a strong connection with a consumer target (fans) a brand has to integrate the group / community it wants to belong to, and display codes and behaviours proving that integration. Only then will the fans / consumers start feeling that the brand is a true part of their world.

In today’s world, brands need to be champion Chameleons with multiple facets to their personality. The exercise is hazardous but truly worth it for those who successfully integrate. Endorsers are most effective at persuading consumers when the endorsers' image “matches” the message about the product and is consistent with the aspired-to self-image of the target audience (Kahle and Homer, 1985).

Social identity theory is based on the notion that people will be motivated to attach themselves to those who are perceived to be similar in values, preferences or various shared group characteristics    (Jacobson, 2003). The fundamental premise is that group membership is crucial to the formation of specific identities developed by the individual (Hogg and Abrams, 1990). Social identity is developed through the value and emotional attachment that an individual derives from membership in a articular group (Tajfel and Turner, 1986).

November 08, 2008

Agregate or Get lost !

I have just finished reading THE LONG TAIL by Chris Anderson. Very interesting and very well written, Chris shows us how the internet by reducing the access costs to products has changed radically the business landscape. One can now make money out of extremely niche offers, and niche products can now meet a market.

One of the key conclusions are that the 80/20 rule (which was really never exactly 80/20, thank you Mr Pareto) does not really apply anymore in the internet world. The portion of the business that was previously considered non profitable because of its size actually represent 2 or 3 times more than the portion we used to consider profitable. And the list goes on, Amazon, e-Bay, Google are all successful examples of the LONG TAIL of business.

The key learning for me is a stronger focus on the importance of a new concept. The concept of aggregation. Aggregating content, offers, information, products.

Aggregators are the bottlenecks who will provide simple access to what you are looking for. Once called portals, they are the key Touch points for finding something. This is where the money is being made. This is where the traffic converges. And the key to being a good aggregator is simplicity. I think that one has been proven by Google already.

If you can become a successful aggregator then you have it made.

Pic Credit: JRhode

November 06, 2008

Touch - the future is Kinesthetic

In his last book, SISOMO (stands for SIght, SOund and MOtion) Kevin Roberts explores the importance of sensorial information in marketing. In the field of consumer technology, I personally think that Touch is the critical sense. Creating an emotional bond with Consumers goes through Touch. Kinesthetic & Kinesthesia are the fields of science that cover body & touch senses.

With the recent explosion of touch screen phones this takes a whole new meaning. We crave those little devices because they are a much better extension of ourselves, and help us take control of our lives.

Time to market is everything. One can invest millions trying
 to build a brand. That curve gets steeper if the timing isn't right. But the ROI when the moment has come is multiplied effortlessly by the momentum you are gaining in the market.

Building communities of fans and followers, gauging the market, building awareness, acceptance ; these are all "uphill" efforts. But when the curve tips and your product is suddenly becoming the Grail, when the technology is Crossing the Chasm (check the book by Geoffrey A. MOORE) then your efforts are all "downhill" and you are gaining velocity.

What better to create an emotional bond than a touch device - it vibrates as if it had a life, it blinks as if it had a pulse... it is my portable connection to the world.... and I am committed to it.

Anyway, I can't resist showing you the current battle at the top. HTC vs SAMSUNG ? read CNET on the HTC Touch HD and then CNET on the OMNIA. I can't wait for those devices to offer more user control... dual boot between Android and Windows Mobile 6.1 ... ? Geek heaven.

By the way - is now the right moment ? Not quite - but I think we're pretty close. Location based services (GPS) in my mind is the one innovation that is going to tip the market. Why? because it will free us from geographical constraints and simplify the way we find places and friends... Google has that bit right with Google Maps...

November 05, 2008

Building successful Retail displays – Making heroes

Most businesses who are thinking of creating retail displays for their products are focused on brand image and communicating product features & characteristics.

But a Retail display strategy is not only about demonstrating your hero products, it is about making retailers your hero. It is about making them true ambassadors of your products because you cannot physically be behind them 100% of the time. Because of that your displays must ENABLE not DETRACT.

Here are from my experience the key success factors to consider in building your retail display strategy:

  • Remember retailers own the space, even if you end up paying a subsidy, space in retail is scarce. Optimize the space – think product storage & additional shelf space not just product demo. ROI is king - think Turnover / m2 used. At the end of the day aren’t you in it for the same reasons = to sell more products.
  • Try to make retailers life easier = address their concerns – How to sell your products / and how to sell more of it. Your display is a silent sales man. It can also become an education tool to the sales people in the store and show them how to sell your product.
  • Think modular / changeable / mobile. Remember nobody wants a piece of decor forever. Stores are an ever changing environment, refreshing the layout is always good. If your display is getting in the way of the retailer’s operations it will end up in the bin or at the back. This should force you to think about telling a story, and come up with regular upgrades and refreshes.
  • Think location, make sure you grab appropriate locations (beware of shelf contagion issues – they may be products you do not want to be next to). Think foot traffic and circulation within the store. Think visibility (and try not to obstruct visibility – retailers can be very itchy about line of sight).
  • Adopt the snowball strategy. Setup trial locations, and use the results to sell the setup to others. Retailers can be very jealous of each others, it can block you but it can also work in your favour. Prove your worth first and replicate. Also if you do not get the best location right away, you can still re-adjust and improve your next sites. Get accepted first.
  • And finally do not think your work stops once you have setup your display locations. It does not... keeping them clean, tidy and up to date is critical... making sure the material is aging properly against the day to day grind. Nothing worse than a broken or half working display. Make sure you have the resources to re-visit and maintain your displays on a regular basis.

Good luck.

November 02, 2008

The purchase decision is a long journey – Stores are the last mile

A brand needs to own key touch-points along the way to make sure when the right time comes that consumers will consider it.

So which touch points are critical to the success trial?

Well if you are not in the market for a new TV, Seeing an advert about TV’s will only refresh your awareness of the existence of that brand, hopefully give it some profile and potentially escalate it to acceptance and maybe “top of Mind” status. If this is not refreshed regularly you are likely to forget again, and the money is pretty much wasted.

Companies need to invest wisely in all the steps of the chain. The critical ones being downstream, they are also the ones where the ROI is likely to be higher.

What a brand marketer wants to do is the following.
  • Establish awareness profile and acceptance of the brand as part of the consumer environment.

  • Win the hearts of the opinion leaders / those who will generate a recommendation – Mavens

  • Get people talking and particularly relay the words of Mavens. Create Buzz – Connectors

  • Get Sales people in store to recommend and talk up the brand in a consistent way to the brand image carried in all other brand communications. Consumers are more likely to buy in, if the experience is consistent to the one they’ve had when talking to their friends or researching the market.
To convert a brand from awareness to trial you will need to win the consumers at four main levels:

  • Establish brand acceptance at personal level (buyer has heard enough to find credible and accepts to consider – personal inner circle)

  • Get Short listed through research rounds (internet, media, reviews, trade – environment outer circle)

  • Get Validated by a closer circle (friends recommendations, trusted inner relationships circle)

  • Win the in-store recommendation (point of purchase – outer circle)

Money invested in building awareness and top of mind becomes wasted if when coming purchase time friends reveal to you that this is a problem brand (for example customer service issues) or if when you walk into a store the sales person diverts you to a competitor brand for x,y,z unforeseen reasons.

All the steps are critical. But the in-store experience can make or break your work.

Picture credits: BdR76

Purchase process - All Brand touchpoints are not born equal

Let's say for the sake of this example that I am a marketer working for a company that is selling the “X” TV brand.

Is there a minimum number of touch points that I need to be across to make sure I convince consumers to buy the “X” brand (assuming I have the right appealing message) and which touch points are going to deliver the most efficient strategy?

All sources of information are not born equal. We believe less or more depending on where it comes from and how much trust we attach to the source.

For example:

  • Our close circle of relationships: Friends and colleagues for example. We know their personalities, strength and weaknesses. Because of that we believe we can predict their behaviours and we know what we can trust them with. Suddenly an advice from them can quickly be assessed. If you know a friend who is a keen technology enthusiast his word will have more weight to you. He is a maven.

  • Sales people in Stores: we all know sales people are here to sell, surely we also know they have incentives and are promoting one product at one time because of personal revenue gains. We take them with a pinch of salt but still we “believe” them to a good degree. They are the experts, they know what sells. They are supposed to understand the technology.

  • Media: TV Advertising, Technology Reviewers, Print Magazines, Celebrity endorsement, and other ambassadors in the social media sphere. They are a good source of information, we understand some may not be as neutral as need be, but we believe and read with interest.

I should make a small aside here to discuss briefly Social Media spaces. I believe that currently because of the rather new landscape created by the rise of Social Medias, consumers are displaying a certain amount of naivety about it. In other words they give it more credit than they should. As with every other media this will settle down, and become an integral part of our world. When this has happened and the environment will have matured a bit, I believe this phenomenon will level out as well.

Regardless of the above, any information submitted to us gets double checked against our previous knowledge. The message content as well as the way it is delivered (format, tone, manner,...) are all just as important to us in deciding upon the “trustworthiness” factor.

“In a short slogan, there is no message without a medium. What the example seems to teach us is that at least in some cases, the reasoner should receive not just the content of a message, but take account of the message-with-the-medium.” Rott, 2004

Determining how much a particular message needs to be repeated until it gets the appropriate cut through is therefore pretty hard. What we know for sure is that the more risk averse a person is, the more it will take to convince her.

As explained in a previous post here, we are more likely to believe when the message is consistent across sources that look to us as if they are independent and neutral. The more of those sources with a consistent message the more likely the message is to be “true”.

Also the lesser number of touch points, the more difficult it is to be convincing and the less credible the message looks.

Imagine you go to a store to finally buy that TV and you come with a set of 2 or 3 brands in mind. Then you see brand Y in store ... you have never heard of brand Y before.

The store sales staff assures you it is the best buy for your money, will you believe them? Is that enough? Probably not. Unless you care little about brands and therefore are happy to take a risk.

You are most likely going to do one of two things.

1. Ignore that brand and buy one of the brands you have done your research on,
2. Delay your purchase and go research brand Y.

The environment you previously studied has changed and you need to reconsider.

picture credits: Old TV by afternoon_sunlight and Kermit shopping by Looking Glass