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What We Expect from Brands

Strong brands offer us a lot. We in return pay a premium price. But aside from hard facts such as superior product quality, better service and warranty they also provide us with orientation, reduction of uncertainty, trust, the feeling of belonging to a certain group and other much more subtle things. This is what we pay for and what we deserve.

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In return for the high price we expect certain values a brand has come to represent: sportiness with BMW, innovativeness and design with Apple, tradition, expertise and superior quality with a Glashütte watch. I expect you at this point to say „Stop! That’s all premium brands you’re talking!” Well, not necessarily. Volkswagen is traditionally not a premium brand and still there are certain values such as reliability or quality that are associated with it. Mc Donald’s is also no premium brand but would also well fit the list.

In the following paragraphs I picked out three things we expect from strong brands: consistency, service, and change when needed.

Consistency
What most brands have in common is consistency.
We do not want them to fundamentally change their business model, their target group or elementary core values. This would confuse us. A Bmw panel van? McDonald’s selling local food? Chateauneuf du Pape sold at discounters? These things are inconsistent with what we have learned about brands and the image we have in our minds. And thus they confuse us and they cause damage to the carefully grown brand identity.

Service
Another important thing we expect from strong brands is excellent service.
Personal service, listening to our problems, understanding what troubles us and working hard to satisfy our wishes and desires. We want to feel the assurance that we or rather every single one of us matters. In total, we expect a degree of service that trade brands cannot provide (financially). The markup we are willing to pay does include this extra service -when we need it.

Change when needed
The final of the three expectations towards a brand which I am dealing with today is the ability to change when needed.
This might at first sound contrary to the consistency point. Time changes and so brands have to respond to changing market situation and technological developments. One example would be the increasing time we spend online. Brands (not necessarily all of them) need to follow their customers just like predators follow their prey. The key challenge is to adapt while still being consistent. That is also why I argue that whatever viral or social media marketing actions a brand takes – it always has to be in line with the overall marketing and brand strategy.

Case
I just recently had trouble with a brand new pair of really nice Timberland Splitrock boots. After only 1,5 months both laces were close to tearing which might have been caused by a too sharp eylet. I emailed Timberland USA and informed them about my troubles. It took only one day and I had a friendly email in which they provided me with the contact details to Timberland Deutschland. In the meantime I had also twittered about the issue, wondering if my tweets maybe would be heard (Social Media Monitoring). After two days I received an email from Munich, in which a customer service agent excused for the quality issue and promised to send me a pair of similar hopefully more durable laces. That was two days ago. Today I received a small package by mail with two pairs of laces similar in color to the original ones. Great work, Timberland! Checking through my personal Twitter account I saw that Timberland Customer Service is now also one of my followers. I do not know about their internal processes, but from what I experienced, I can say that they are obviously doing things right. They created a strong global brand, with loyal customers all over the world. They listen to their customers’ troubles and do their best to maintain our loyalty. The result: I feel important, taken care of, appreciated. I pay a premium price for the product, but also get a lot more than just a simple pair of shoes…

Timberland Splitrock

Timberland Splitrock

Update: Timberland Customer Service responded via Twitter:

Timberland twittering

Timberland twittering

SOM on "5 Ways to Avoid Sabotaging Your Personal Brand Online" by Dan Schwabel

5 Ways to Avoid Sabotaging Your Personal Brand Online

Posted using ShareThis

Presented above is the link to Mashable.com where this article has been published by Dan Schwabel.

Personal branding is without a doubt becoming more important in these days. Back in the days, when people could not easily connect with each other – especially not over thousands of miles – this may have been less important.
But todays networks allow to find out almost anything about anybody at barely any cost and at any time.
Ad 1) This includes good things as well as bad things, as this article also stresses in the very first point. Thus you should do the same and from time to time check what is being said about you on the web. Google, Yahoo, Bing, Google Alerts and SocialMention certainly are good tools for that.
Ad 2) Surely, it does not hurt to reserve your brand or company’s name on as many platforms as possible. But I agree with Dan in as far as you should consider well where you join. Not every platform is adequate for every business, brand or person. In fact you can often tell which social networks a person belongs to. Xing and LinkedIn clearly are for the educated business people, while facebook used to be a US college and university student only platform. This of course has changed in the meantime. Today users come from all age groups, social classes and continents. WKW users in Germany used to be less international and less well educated than those on facebook. But this needs close monitoring as the user groups do change over time. It may well be that LinkedIn will grow stronger in Europe now that they offer country-specific pages. Facebook on the other side could definately give StudiVZ and SchuelerVZ a hard time. Users definately have to choose between networks as -just as Dan pointed out- you cannot play all games at a time. Sooner or later you will have to choose as keeping several networks or communities up to date consumes too much of your precious (online) time. The characteristics and tendencies of your peers will determine the direction.
As to reservation: you surely can reserve your name ahead of time without using it. Maybe add a link to your primary profiles so that people find you. But there is no need to maintain say 30 profiles on 30 communities. It’s wasted time.

Ad 3) Know your audience. I’ve had several discussions with friends, colleagues and clients about whether it makes sense to have special profiles for each target group / audience. But in the end, what it leads to is again additional work and thus time. My advice is: do make a difference between people you term „friends“ and those who are colleagues on a solely professional level and clients. But by this I do not mean you need to create a fb profile for friends, one for colleagues and probably an additional one for clients. Facebook at the moment is still more of a private sphere, not a place to do business (brand/company profiles such as by Jaegermeister or BMW are brands we invite into our private sphere). Thus use fb for friends, good colleagues and family and use professional communities such as Xing or LinkedIn for business contacts. If a colleague becomes a friend add him on fb as well. In general: Keep it simple.

Ad 4) Be honest and be real. If what you put on the web differs greatly from your real personality, this will come back to you in a negative way. And if you are really present on all communities your clients may wonder what you be doing all day long. Surely not working for their benefit but rather on how you want to be seen on the web.

Ad 5) This point refers to all points mentioned before. If you want to be seen as a respectful, honest and trustworthy business person, you have to be authentic. The different profiles should speak one voice, arise no questions and in total provide a nicely rounded impression of who you are and what you do. And I would like to add: No need to be too formal. This may be interpreted as artificial, false, unrealisitic and not trustworthy. Be yourself. We like to do business with people we simply like.

This also goes for SOM Marketingberatung. The best clients are those that share similar values, are honest towards their customers just fun to work with.

So, mind your Digital Brand!

Yours,

SOM Marketingberatung