To build a brand you need to get a number of things right both internally and externally. And then you need to develop a long term profitable bond between your offering and your customers.
The best way of doing that is by delivering economic, experiential and emotional value to those customers and on their terms. That’s universal and there are no shortcuts. Of course how you go about delivering that value depends on your firm, your industry and your customers.
Historically firms have tended to try and use creativity to communicate a corporate driven message to as many people as possible, whether potential or existing customers in the hope that enough of them will see/hear the message, respond to it and buy into it so that the firm can get through the year.
According to Harvard Business Review and many other respected institutions, this model is obsolete. It’s also incredibly expensive with one expert saying it requires US$10 billion and ten years to build a brand in Europe this way.
Sadly that doesn’t stop millions of brands spending billions of dollars on an outdated and ineffective model that few of them can afford to sustain. This is particularly true of brands in Asia.
Nevertheless, there are some smart brands out there and social media provides an excellent platform to showcase their tactics. Instead of wasting marketing dollars on expensively produced and immediately forgetable advertising campaigns, these smart brands are investing more money on retaining customers than acquiring them.
Of course this makes branding a bit more complicated because it means these brands need to get to know their customers and their needs and not just shove a message down their throats and expect them to accept it. Unsurprisingly making such an effort isn’t that popular with many brands, especially here in Asia. Sure they talk about how they want to understand their customer needs, some even say they love their customers but those claims rarely translate into reality. As a result Asian consumers tend to be less loyal to brands.
OK, rant over! A couple of great tactical campaigns have come to my attention recently and there are a lot of brands around the region that can learn from these activities. They required an investment in researching customers, understanding them personally and then providing simple solutions that resonated with those customers. The investment was minimal but the exposure is exceptional and ongoing.
The first example is from Canada’s TD Bank. For a week in July, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in branches across Canada became Automated Thanking Machines and in addition to dispensing money, they spoke to and engaged customers, thanked them for banking with TD and delivered personalized gifts.
The bank gave out flight tickets to one customer so that she could fly to Trinidad to visit her daughter who had cancer. Another lucky recipient won savings accounts for her children each with C$1,000 deposited in the account.
Another customer won a trip to Disneyland and a Baseball fan won the right to throw the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays match, lots of merchandise and met one of the players. Phone and online customers were also given deposits directly into their bank account.
The response was phenomenal and four months later it continues to gain valuable coverage in social media and in the mainstream media with the UK’s Daily Mail covering the story in August.
In the first 4 months the video was viewed 17,500,000 times on Youtube, gained 50,000 Likes and 5,000 comments that generated extensive conversation that is still ongoing. On Facebook the TD Bank page has generated almost 550,000 Likes.
More recently, KLM wanted to reach out to customers travelling through the world famous Schiphol airport in a personalized way by giving friends and family the chance to say an extra goodbye. Working with the airport, the carrier identified families saying goodbye to each other at the airport and approached them with the chance to create a nice surprise for the traveller by personalizing the cover on their seat headrest.
In the first week the video on Youtube has already been viewed 208,000 times with 150 Likes and 30 comments. On Facebook the campaign has generated 16,500 Likes, nearly 2,000 shares and 550 comments. As the campaign gains momentum those numbers will, err soar skywards.
Social media allows brands to engage customers and allow them to participate in the development of the brand narrative in a way that those brands using a traditional approach can only dream of.
It’s very hard for a lot of brands to understand they can no longer control the message and instead they must pass on some of the control to consumers and let them develop it.
Once the campaign gains traction other consumers share it across the ecosystem and with the right management and before you know it, a minimal investment has generated far more brand goodwill and sales than any traditional advertising campaign is ever likely to do.