Friday, October 12, 2012

Using Listening To Move Your Brand Forward

"The Movement" Of a Brand

“The example of New Coke shows how powerful the customer can be in moving a company forward or backward for its own good. The important thing is the movement itself.” –Brewing Up A Business, Chapter 9 (page 160)

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When I read about the New Coke issue in Brewing Up A Business, I was reassured that companies have the capability of admitting their mistakes. Many love the classic Coca Cola recipe, and the brand proved to be loyal to their customers by recalling New Coke and putting the original Coke back on the shelves.

What really struck me was how Coca Cola used the backlash to create an opportunity to show their customers that they were on their side. As soon as outraged, loyal customers began to phone in complaints, the brand rushed to emergency mode to show their customer loyalty. The company created movement, which at first was spurred by negative reviews of a new product, yet turned bad press into a way to show their customers that they value their input. After all, brands should be a customer’s friend.

As a consumer of many products, I am much more willing to go back to a brand that values the fact that I was unhappy with their product. This mistake could have cost Coca Cola a lot of loyal customers, but they leveraged the situation to prove to customers that they are important in their business decisions. Therefore, the news went from negative to positive as Coca Cola regained the trust of their customers.

The Tylenol Fiasco

Coca Cola is not the only company that has used a bad situation to launch themselves forward (and prove the importance of brand customer loyalty). Tylenol famously “spent millions of dollars recalling Tylenol from stores nationwide” after cyanide was found in Chicago in 1982. Although the incident caused a panic for Tylenol buyers, master brand Johnson & Johnson recalled all products regardless of how much profit the company lost. They acted quickly and their safety concerns were so high that customers remained loyal to the company that promised them all products were safe as they went back on the shelves, as the FDA now required tamper-proof seals on all products.

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The Forward Motion: Listening To Customers

Both of these issues occurred in the 1980s. Both Coca Cola and Tylenol were able to use the motion of bad situations to prove to customers that regardless of sales, they care about them, as brands should.

Today, brands should try to try to go forward without going backward. Although the Coca Cola and Tylenol examples are wonderful examples of using movement to create buzz about your company, this day in age is all about listening to the customer on a regular basis. Forward movement is the key. To move forward, customer input is necessary.

Christine Crandell, a writer for Forbes, says, “Every time an experience disruption occurs the relationship diminishes, the customer starts to second-guess their choice, or, worse, a decision is made to make the vendor relationship short-term instead of a corporate standard.” Coca Cola and Tylenol regained their customer’s loyalty by recovering from moving backwards; they are a great example of how to recover by appealing to customers.

Nowadays, customers tend to want their voices heard before incidents occur. To become a well-received brand, listen now instead of later. The following quote is also by Crandell, and is one of the most insightful lessons that I have ever read about:

“Too often voice of the customer programs are based on automated surveys and tech support feedback. Instead of polling, surveying or subjecting your customers to automated, impersonal scoring mechanisms, why not just ask customers what they want. I mean really talk to them. Even the unhappy ones; especially the unhappy ones. In depth, honest and in-person interviews are one of the most efficient and fulfilling ways to understand the customer.”

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Examples Of Great Listeners

Examples of companies that do this are:

1) Dell 
Dell went through a rough patch in 2005, but eventually came to have the highest customer service rankings. The senior vice president and Chief Marketing Officer at Dell explained their turnaround in terms of listening: “Listening and responding to customers is so basic and fundamental. The emergence of social media elevates how companies can act on the feedback they get from customers.”

2) Zappos
When I think of a company that really listens to me as a customer (and takes care of me like a friend) I think of Zappos. The company, known for fixing small issues before they become bigger, credits their success and customer loyalty to listening. Their social media presence enables them to respond quickly and restore faith in their customers.

3) American Express
As Zappos was #1 for best customer service in 2011, American Express was #2. Like Zappos, they avoid big problems by keeping their social media up-to-date and having employees working around the clock to ensure any tweets, Facebook messages, etc. are accounted for and taken care of for the betterment of the customer.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

The JC Penney Rebranding Mishap (Explained)

Why The Rebranding Attempt Was An "Epic Failure"

Before & After: JC Penney Rebranding

While working at my internship this summer, I overheard my supervisors discussing what they called the “JC Penney mishap.” As I was a busy intern, I never had time to stop and ask them what they were talking about. I knew that JC Penney’s new rebranding strategy had not gone as well as they had hoped for, but that’s all that I knew.

As I stumbled upon the Forbes article about the “epic fail” that was the JC Penney rebranding campaign, I decided I wanted to completely understand what happened. According to the author (Steve Olenski):

“There are many definitions for the word “epic” with one being “surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size.” And I would say when something – in this case a rebranding campaign, has the potential to not just threaten the brand’s plans to grow but could also drive away the brand’s core customers, I would say the word “ epic” is quite appropriate in describing what is unfolding at JC Penny where 1Q 2012 same store sales fell nearly 20%.” 

After viewing the following video, I know exactly why the JC Penney rebranding strategy failed even before I read the rest of the article. I remember seeing this ad on television a while ago and not understanding it. What does “Enough Is Enough” mean? Enough of what, and why are people so frustrated in the commercial when they see a sale sign?

Enough Is Enough (?)

My first reaction to watching this ad is simply, as Olenski states in his article, a total state of confusion. Why would sales (for example the 67% off in the first frame) aggravate customers? When they say, “enough is enough,” are they talking about sales? As the consumer, I feel a weird disconnect with JC Penney after I view this commercial. I no longer feel synonymous with the company and am even feeling like they do not understand what I want. This may deter me from actually going to JC Penney; for a company that is rebranding their company for their consumers, this is not what is desired.

Maybe it is simply confusing to customers that the commercial is not fully explained. Instead of having an overhead voice come in and be what I like to call the “voice of reason” (i.e. explaining the reasoning of the marketing strategy to customers), we are left to interpret the meaning ourselves. One thing is for sure: a brand is supposed to be a friend that we can share experiences and form a relationship with, not for causing more stress or confusion.

Breaking Down The Failure

In Six Rules for Brand Revitalization, chapter five explains “Rule #3” (reinventing the brand experience). The quote on the first page captures my attention immediately, as it is what I like to think of the bottom line of branding:

“The smile on our people’s faces is a vital part of our image.” –Ray Kroc, Grinding It Out (pg 89).

When I think of how JC Penney has tried to rebrand their company every few years, it makes me realize that finding that niche in branding is important to sustaining a successful company. The company just went about it in the wrong way. Chapter five says that, “THE TOTAL BRAND EXPERIENCE (FUNCTIONAL AND EMOTIONAL) DEFINES THE DISTINCTIVENESS OF THE BRAND” (pg 89).

JC Penney is unable to find that niche that gives their customers that safe, happy, consistent experience while shopping. The company’s target markets are a vast majority of people (men, women, children, lower income, higher income). When it comes to rebuilding brand trust, JC Penney should focus on the following:

  • People
  • Product
  • Place
  • Price
  • Promotion

Enough. Is. Enough.

The “epic failure” of JC Penney’s rebranding occurred by implementing the marketing strategy too fast. Instead of taking in the P’s listed above, the company was hasty to get their brand platform recognized by consumers before it was fully formed. To keep a rebranding strategy from failing, it seems to be important to prepare for the “big day” that the new rebranding strategies are released. For example, all people associated with the brand should understand the new platform. The promotion should be straightforward and promise consumers realistic goals. The products and prices should be checked and rechecked to make sure that customers are benefitting from the brand (the pricing, coincidentally, seemed higher to customers after the rebranding). Lastly, the strategy should be not to only benefit the company, but to benefit the customer.

JC Penney suffered bad repercussions from a faulty rebranding strategy due to the fact that their previous branding strategies (in years past) also did not intrigue their customers. “Once the total brand experience defines the distinctiveness of the brand”, JC Penney will find their niche in the market.

Watch It Here (And Weep?)

To view their commercial yourself, check it out here. What are your thoughts on JC Penney's marketing attempt? As a consumer, does their logical for this commercial make sense to you?