Brand building options in a post-pandemic world

The world has changed forever.  Companies that were just getting used to a business environment where the internet had reduced once proud brands to the status of commodities, by price-comparison, ‘auto-switch’ and peer-review websites, now face a Global pandemic, financial crises and the potential terminal loss of customers.  To paraphrase Charles Dickens, “it was the worst of times, it really was the worst of times”.

Organisations that re-open their doors post-pandemic, may well have a very different worldview to the one they started the year with.  How it will pan out remains to be see, however, we can speculate…

My view is that Marketing will polarise between two extremes.  Before the internet, and certainly before Covid-19, there were essentially 4 marketing positions organisations could offer in the market.

The ‘Rip-Off’ brands were already in the process of being weeded out, peer-review sites and Social media were steadily eliminating them, but bargain brands had done well, as they seemed to offer good quality at a reasonable price.  With fewer, leaner, more price conservative customers emerging post-lockdown however, even these may struggle.  I see a world where the Primary driver will be a conservatism, a desire to avoid or eliminate risk.  In such a world, customers will go for either one (or perhaps a creative mixture of both) of two positions.

We have long known that in the customer’s mind, there is a clear link between price and quality.  The customer will allow an increase in price if, and only if, there is a corresponding increase in quality.

The interesting thing is that we know what price is (to two decimal places, e.g. $34.12), but what is Quality?

‘Quality’ is whatever the customer says it is, nothing more.  ‘Quality’ exists only between the ears of the customer.  Finding out what the customer thinks is important is the key to quality and therefore to success.

We can expect ‘cheap and cheerful’ to always find a place.  Companies can embrace the Proposition-flattening, commoditizing nature of the internet and offer a range of products that are unexceptional, generic and yet priced at a point that will gain significant traction in the market.  Such offerings will yield very low margins and so will require;

  • High volume sales
  • Efficient, cost effective and large distribution networks
  • Smart, cheap (but still effective) marketing
  • Extremely low cost-bases

It will not be much fun working for these companies, and it is not without risk (there is only one cost leader in any segment and the price wars as companies seek this position can be an economic blood-bath), but at the right ratio of price: quality, many companies will do well.

The other likely winning position is perhaps more sustainable, and that is High-End Brands.  Does anyone doubt that, when the Global lockdown ends and we return to something closer to normality, that Harrod’s and Selfridges in London will again be full of shoppers?  Will Rolls-Royce, Aston-Martin and Ferrari still sell cars?  Will Prada still sell expensive bags to ladies?  The answer, in each case is “Yes”.

Customers that emerge from the pandemic will want to do business with those they trust.  Trust and security will be the only things that matter post Covid-19.  If your product seems ‘OK’ and is really cheap, the trust is not as significant because the downside of failure is so minimal.  For everything else, for anything that requires a more substantial commitment from the customer, the need for trust is paramount.

The reason Big Brands are so successful is long debated in the business media but essentially it comes down to Trust.  People trust brands, they know what they are getting, and they trust the brand to deliver its benefits reliably.  The old maxim in IT used to be “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”.  Whilst that particular organisation may have lost its way in recent times, that level of trust is what customers will seek.

So organisations choosing not to go down the loss-leader/cost leader route, need to invest heavily in their branding and they need to engender trust.  Fortunately, this may not be all that difficult.

The phenomenon of ‘Behavioural Economics’ suggests that many, perhaps most purchase decisions are made emotionally, not rationally.  Our brains look for short cuts in the known and familiar and instinct and gut feel are far more important that most customers realise.  Even the most expensive of purchases often (usually?) have a heavy emotional component.  Think of your last house purchase.  Now perhaps you had a big spreadsheet and a long list of criteria, and perhaps you scored each property you considered and then bought the one that scored highest.  My bet is you viewed a certain property, fell in love with it, imagined yourself standing in the kitchen and then made an offer.

So, it will be with your customers post-pandemic.  They will be looking for partners, for brands, for someone to trust.  The re-emergence of awareness that the customer experience is important, along with the phenomenal power of Social Media can be powerful enablers.  Organisations that build their brands around the customer experience, that have intimate knowledge of the customer, his hopes, his dreams and his fears and which use customer-centric Branding strategies, fuelled by engaging Social Media can yet rule the Post-Pandemic world.

The choice is stark;

Be the cheapest

Be a trusted, customer-engaged High-Brand, or

Go home

Choose wisely.

Customers don’t think the way they think they think!

Yeah, you might want to read that title a few times.

There is always a strange paradox encountered by anyone who has to deal on a regular basis with customers, and that is that customers simply do not behave in a way which is logical, even reasonable often.

Why is this? We conduct careful Market Research and Customer Satisfaction surveys, respond to their findings, strive to improve our performance and, well, nothing!

The answer may lie in the new science of Behavioural Economics.

The simple fact is that we, none of us, actually think the way we like to imagine we do.

A wonderful book by Daniel Khaneman* outlined the idea that we have two systems of thinking, System 1 and System 2. The system we all imagine we use, using logic and reason, comparing alternatives and coming to sound, rational conclusions, is System 2. Our customer satisfaction surveys, Market Research studies and marketing messages naturally assume this is the preferred option and are geared very much to System 2 thinking (and consequently give System 2 results)

System 1 is rather more driven by emotion, intuition and gut-feel. Your brain (good as it is) is overwhelmed and bombarded with information all the time and, as a consequence, is constantly looking for short cuts. The actual processing of a thought requires significant resources of energy and oxygen and it is your brain’s job NOT to be ‘right’, but to be ‘right enough’ and efficient. Consequently, it predominantly utilises System 1 tactics in its daily life.

So the purchase decision, the re-purchase decision, loyalty to a supplier and compliance are all driven by emotional factors and the employment of System 1 thinking which requires tactics of chunking, deletion, rules of thumb and habit etc.

Consequently, customers will often tell a Market Researcher something they believe is the ‘right’ or ‘expected’ answer and then actually do the complete opposite (as a case study, consider how many General Elections throw up actual results that are quite different to the opinion pools published earlier in the campaign.

So, to provide a quality customer experience (surely the primary goal of any Enterprise in this social 24/7/365 ‘always-on’ world), we need to understand that the customer is not a rational robot, (also he is not an intentional liar), but rather an emotional, unpredictable creature whose behaviour and decision-making is based on short cuts, rules of thumb, the practice of habit and what I like to call ‘Commercial Inertia’.

The role of the new Marketing is to understand this and start designing compelling propositions (and customer feedback systems) that reflect this new reality. If you are a leading brand, your job is to compound the habits of your loyal customers, if you are a new entry, your job is to break those habits and install new ‘short cuts’ for customers.

We shall post more on that later.

  • Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman D, Pub Penguin; 01 edition (10 May 2012)

Mastering Sales & Marketing in the Age of New Social Media

Category:  Sales & Marketing

Seminar Overview

The world is now officially Social!  The advance of internet technologies has presented Business with a ‘Perfect Storm’ of;

  • Erosion of Traditional Points of Differentiation and mass-commoditization through Price-comparison and Auto-switching websites
  • Increased customer expectations, 24/7/365 with 1 hour response times are now the expected ‘norm’ and
  • Social Media has made the Customer Experience the single most compelling component of the entire Marketing Mix.

This  training seminar will provide delegates with the practical knowledge needed to successfully plan, implement, manage, and measure social media sales and marketing efforts. Social media technologies take on many different forms including magazines, internet forums, web blogs, social blogs, micro blogging, wikis, podcasts, pictures, and YouTube videos. Approximately 100 million users access Facebook through their mobile phone and Twitter processes over 40 million tweets per day. It’s important to realize that social media marketing works best when integrated with other components of your marketing plan.

This highly-interactive  Mastering Sales & Marketing in the Age of Social Media training seminar has been specifically designed to provide sales and marketing professionals the tools, tactics and techniques they require to help them avoid the pitfalls and exploit the incredible marketing opportunities associated with the effective use of social media.

Delegates will walk away from this training with practical knowledge on best practices in using social media platforms to create strong on-line brand identities, improve sales effectiveness, and enable better customer loyalty and retention.

Specifically you will learn to:

  • Design a comprehensive social media sales and marketing plan
  • Integrate social media tools with traditional marketing activities to improve customer service and increase business development opportunities
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the range and variety of social media platforms and tools
  • Understand how to monitor a& measure the effectiveness and ROI of a social media plan
  • Monitor social media to protect brand reputation and build customer relationships
  • Develop persuasion and communications skills to enhance sales effectiveness
  • Implement strategies to engage customers through social media marketing
  • Integrate social media marketing tools into existing marketing plan
  • Determine which social media channels best fit organisational marketing objectives
  • Explain how social media marketing differs from traditional marketing
  • Describe best practices and rules of engagement for online sales and marketing

Designed for:

This workshop is suitable for a wide range of Executives who have an interest in the branding, corporate reputation or commercial success of their organisation, but will specifically be of interest to;

  • Sales & Marketing Professionals
  • Business Development Team Members
  • Customer Service Professionals
  • Team Leaders & Supervisors
  • Administrators
  • HR & Training Professionals
  • Accounts Personnel
  • Public Relations Professionals

Seminar Outline

Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing Strategies

  • How social media marketing differs from traditional marketing?
  • Benefits of Using Social Media Marketing
  • The History of Social Media
  • The 4 Ps of Media Marketing
  • Avoiding common mistakes in Social Media Marketing
  • Case Study: Best Practices of Social Media Sales and Marketing
  • Social Media’s Impact on Customer Service
  • Leveraging Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn Marketing

Principles of Persuasion to Enhance Sales and Marketing Effectiveness

  • What is the difference between Sales and Marketing?
  • Marketing and Selling to the Four Customer Buying Styles
  • Active Listening Skills Development
  • How to Use Questioning Skills to Identify Customer Expectations and Service Requirements?
  • The Power of Online Customer Testimonials
  • How to turn visitors into customers with conversion optimization?
  • Sell with Emotion not Logic

Creating a Social Media Marketing Strategy

  • Marketing Trends to Implement in your Marketing Plan
  • Key Steps in Building Your Social Media Marketing Plan
  • Creating Website Content
  • Market Segmentation
  • Building Brand Loyalty
  • How to make a video go viral?

Measuring and Monitoring Social Media Campaigns

  • Benefits of Measuring Social Media Effectiveness
  • Monitoring your Organisation’s Reputation Online
  • Breakout Session: Action Planning for Reputation Damage Control
  • How to Measure the Effects of Social Media
  • Increase Search Engine Optimization
  • The top Social Media Monitoring Tools

Professional Development for Continuous Improvement

  • Practical Exercise: Developing Your Action Plan
  • Setting SMART objectives
  • Practical Exercise: Setting Personal Development and Business Goals
  • Time Management Tips to Improve Daily Productivity
  • Stress Management Strategies for Peak Performance