How To Campaign Your Brand and Win: It’s a Pocketbook Issue
February 22, 2014
When the consumer reaches the point of sale, she is stepping into the voting booth. It’s the moment of truth. She will either choose lever A (buy) or lever B (look elsewhere). There aren’t likely to be any hanging chads to quibble over later. How effectively your brand has campaigned up to that moment will make all the difference.
It’s time for a good campaign strategy.
What Successful Politicians Have Figured Out
Successful politicians know that to get elected—not just once, but over and over—they need to stand for something meaningful, promise something important, and deliver on their promises. (Okay, so no politician delivers on all his promises; but the successful ones deliver on some of them. And this is just an analogy, anyway; so give me a break.) In the brand world, this corresponds to developing a claim of distinction and a strong brand promise, then delivering on them.
All well and good. But there’s another element to the political game that can mean the difference between winning and losing: constant communication—before, during, and even after the election season. Politicians who keep their message and their accomplishments in the public mind find themselves way ahead of the curve when the voter steps into the booth.
And it’s no different for brands. Customers weigh the pre-sale and the post-sale communications and experiences, as well as the sales experience itself, when it’s time to decide whether or not to pull out their wallets. Successful brands pay close attention to managing those communications and experiences.
As an example, let’s look at how pre-, post- and during-sales experiences and communications affect an auto retailer.
Touch Point #1: The Pre-Sale
Bob & Betty Beamer walk into the showroom convinced they deserve a new BMW. Their neighbor drives one; co-workers drive them; even Aunt Harriet looks good in her 735i; and the national advertising and promotions have assured them that now is the time to buy.
The Beamers have done their homework, too. They’ve visited their local dealer’s web site, paid attention to his television and radio commercials, surveyed the selection on the outside lot, and are ready for the sales experience. Will they buy or lease from this dealer or will they drive across town and check out the competition? That depends.
If this dealer has established itself as the Beamer’s brand of BMW center, then yes, odds are they’ll shop them first. You see, in this and every other brand’s case, the organization’s job is to provide evidence of distinction. “The largest selection in the four corners.” – with evidence of that. “The low cost leader.” – with evidence of that. “We’re the Maverick dealer.” – with evidence of that. “We’re the enthusiast’s dealer.” And so on. By creating a claim of distinction and providing evidence that the claim is truly unique and deliverable, the dealer allows the audience to claim this brand of BMW store as their brand of dealer. (Just like a voter may identify with a “brand” of politician.) Absent a compelling claim of distinction, all the dealer can offer is low price, which would be unfortunate, since there’s always SOMEONE with a lower price.
On to the Sales Experience
The Beamers now feel as if they know their local dealer’s brand from the ads. They have a sense of the levels of service, professionalism, selection, and value to expect. When they arrive on the lot, they are met by a smartly tailored sales associate with a pleasant nature and plenty of product knowledge. They take an exhilarating test drive. The sales associate unexpectedly introduces them to the service manager, who further reinforces the brand promise. Their sales person gives them some really personal insights into the dealership and his own family life, plus he has just the right car in stock. Top it off with a light round of negotiating and it’s a done deal. Touch point #2 is complete: Expectations met. The Beamers pull lever A.
Time for the Post-Sale
So that’s the end of the story, right? Wrong. It’s time to make Bob and Betty part of the family. Just like politicians stand for re-election every few years, products will need replacement. And word-of-mouth referrals are a brand’s best friend. Great post-sale communications—and responsiveness—bring buyers (not just shoppers) to the door at far lower cost than media advertising.
New and emerging social network apps such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo and many others provide fast, easy and inexpensive opportunities to regularly connect with customers after the sale. Smart brand marketers not only set up their own Facebook page, but invite their customers to “like” or “follow” them to be the first to learn about discounts, coupons, freebies, etc., as well as to help them keep up with the latest product and industry news and events and be aware of new products, services and innovations.
Also, by following up with personal calls, personalized holiday, birthday and anniversary cards, invitations to new model introductions, a newsletter, parts and aftermarket department specials, BMW boutique catalogs, as well as requests and incentives for referrals, the dealer reinforces its brand and helps make Bob and Betty customers for life.
It Sounds So Easy
But many companies fall short. Why? Lack of attention to detail? Faulty business model? Yes, possibly, on both counts. But for most viable businesses the problems often run a little deeper, with a lack of awareness about the claim of distinction that forms the brand, brings the customer’s hand up to the “Buy” lever, and thereby drives the business. Without a real understanding of the brand and its distinctions, it’s difficult to know what to communicate, how to sell, how to follow-up, and even what to deliver. Admittedly the scenario above depicts the sort of well-oiled machine most brands only aspire to become. But it’s not out of reach.
How do you discover distinction and create delivery mechanisms in the first place?
You discover it inside the company. Extracting and polishing those elements that comprise its unique brand is a challenge that every organization must face in order to achieve its potential. Note well: it’s not a marketing challenge; it’s a corporate challenge. (We subscribe to a brand discovery process called Turning the Telescope™, but that’s a topic for another article.)
Once the brand is fully understood and accepted by the company, itself, communicating and supporting it across all touch points becomes a natural process. The never-ending campaign will have begun, with increased odds for election, re-election, re-re-election, and…well, you get the idea. Time to start stumping!