The most interesting thing about the iPhone 7

In April 2016, Apple announced its first ever reduction in iPhone sales. The company played down the decline suggesting it was in line with slowing smart phone sales around the world but the reality is that Android is becoming an unstopable force and consumers are getting bored with the iPhone.

So the launch of the iPhone 7 is really important for the Apple brand. I haven’t played with the iPhone 7 so I can’t say how it is but it needs to be interesting, exciting and desirable and that’s going to be tough to deliver.

What I do find interesting is related to the removal of the 3.5mm circular headphone jack on the left side of the bottom edge of the iPhone 6. Instead of traditional wired headphones the iPhone 7 will work with wireless EarPod headphones which don’t, I am now told, ship with the phone. According to Apple, this move is part of the plan for a wireless future and that makes sense although the rest of the ecosystem is still wired so that might be an issue in many situations you find yourself in.

EarPods - wirelessly wired. Thanks customers
EarPods – wirelessly wired. Thanks customers

Traditionally, when Apple makes such a move – remember when it redesigned the MacBook and MacBook Air computers a few years ago, the MagSafe charger got a refresh too which meant you couldn’t use your old charger with your new laptop. And every Mac user will complain about Mac adaptors for monitors, Ethernet cables and God knows what else – it doesn’t think about the consumer.

Well this time, the new iPhone ships with an adaptor that plugs into the Lightning port which is normally used in its chargers. This means you can still use your expensive wired headphones. But you’ll still have to fork out for a separate adaptor if you want to charge your phone while listening to music.

Apparently, the new lightning EarPod headphones offer a better quality sound than ‘wired’ versions which tend to sound a bit tinny. This is something to do with an inbuilt digital-to-analogue music converter (DAC) present in lightning connector headphones.

What this tells us is that Apple listens to its customers and that’s something a lot of brands need to do. It also tells us Apple values the voice of the customer and that is a major step in the right direction for a brand that hasn’t really needed to in the past. It’s a small but important step for Apple and shows that even the most valuable brand in the world must and is listening to its customers. Are you?

How to spot a shit brand consultant

A friend sent me a great link to a Mark Ritson rant in marketingweek yesterday. Mark Ritson is something of a God for many in the marketing business and sells himself really well. And so he should as he’s won more medals than Michael Phelps.

In the rant which you can read here, he recalled a recent evening in London where a friend told him how he had been ripped off by a brand consultant. Ritson doesn’t share how the friend was ripped off but goes on to outline a seven point system for identifying ‘shit’ brand consultants so you can avoid them like the plague.

Mark Ritson - more gongs than just about everyone
Mark Ritson – more gongs than just about everyone

The list goes something like this:

1) If the consultant mentions millennials, run a mile.
2) If the consultant offers advice without qualitative or quantitative research to back up his recommendations, run a mile.
3) The more concepts the brand consultant tries to sell you, the more ‘crapper’ he is.
4) If the brand consultant uses trigger words, he is unworthy. An example of a trigger word is Innovation. According to Ritson innovation ‘is a product orientated word and worthless as a result.’
5) Any brand consultant that mentions Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs should be shown the door – after you’ve thrown something heavy at him.
6) Likewise, if the brand consultant shows you a picture of a cow being branded.
7) And again, if they tell you reputations take decades to build.
8) If the brand consultant has a trademark attached to their special branding methodology or they use an acronym like ‘RESULTZ’ or ‘PERFORM’ then walk out of the room, but before you do write WANK on the nearest whiteboard.
9) If your brand consultant waxes lyrical about Steve Jobs and Apple and insists that what he did is relevant to your business, head for the door.

OK that’s a 9 point list but I’m only the messenger. So what do people think of his rant and list? Judging by the comments section, most of his fans agree with him. However, John Robbins of newzpoint blames ‘shit’ brand managers rather than shit brand consultants, “Although I can’t help but think the main reason there are so many shit brand consultants is because there are so many shit brand managers and the fact that you have to prepare a guide for brand managers because they generally can’t tell the difference between good and bad consultants is recognition of this.”

Robbins continues, “Try talking in realistic terms to a shit client (there are tons of them, easy to find) and most of the time their eyes glaze over because they find common sense rather tedious and prefer to listen to inflated bullshit as it excites them more. The emperors cloths continue to be sold and resold every day and no doubt will for sometime. As the old adage goes – brand managers get the brand consultants they deserve.” Powerful stuff from Mr Robbins.

Another comment from Claire who focused on the reference to the millennial segment, “I am apparently a millennial and I’m married with a kid. My brother and sister in law are technically also millennials and living it up with no mortgage in London. The idea that we are both basically the same segment for targeting is ludicrous.”

So what do I think of it? Well I think Mr Ritson is spot on really. I mean the concept of doing anything and making any recommendations without doing research is borderline criminal in my book. But the research must be focused on identifying value requirements of target markets and not be determined by age or decade of birth.

Who needs logic when you can pay for for inflated bullshit?
Who needs logic when you can pay for inflated bullshit?

I mean, in an era when social media allows you to find like minded souls in groups on Facebook and other platforms, the concept of a ‘segment’ like 18 – 24 year olds or people born in a certain year or decade is rather naive.

Every customer is a segment now and they must be engaged with content that resonates with them. And that doesn’t have to be done through marketing. Indeed, it’s hard to do so, but it can be done when the prospect is researching the product or at the point of sale, after a connection or after a sale. If any segmentation is required, it should be separating prospects from existing customers.

Or as John Robbins said, the problem is often the client. If a client wants a brand consultant to go straight to implementation without doing any research, what is he supposed to do?

Should he walk away? Undoubtedly and many brand consultants probably do but if the economy were tanking and the pipeline was bare, who can blame them for taking the plunge? After all, the client will spend their money somewhere.

And besides, once on board the brand consultant can always try to convince the client to do the proper research.

Endless Possibilities has endless potential

The response to the “Endless possibilities” tagline has been, as one would expect when discussing a Nation Branding project, emotionally charged.

Much of the focus has been on whether or not the tagline has been used by Israel or for that matter Mongolia. In fact, it would seem the tagline has been used not only by both Israel and Mongolia but also Sagada in the Philippines.

sagada-2010-marlboro-country-endless-possibilities

And while we’re at it, “Endless possibilities” has also been used by a lot of companies such as BHS in India who used it for an advertising campaign and by Florian pearls. It’s also the name of a thrift shop in the USA, a change management company in the UK and it also appears on a tee shirt underneath an infinity loop.

But most commentators and those members of the public who have cast scathing comments in blogs, forums and on social media sites are missing the point. There may be questions around the chosen tagline, how it was researched and why it was chosen but the reality is, the tagline doesn’t really matter. Yes it is a bit embarrassing that it has been used by other countries but it’s important to understand that this is not the Malaysia Nation brand.

It is a tagline. And like the majority of taglines, it will soon be forgotten. In fact, taking a macro view it will have very little influence on the success of the Malaysia Nation Brand project.

Sadly, it is not unusual for organisations to launch a brand strategy with the creative side of the project. This is wrong but unfortunately it is common. What will make or break the success of the Malaysia Nation Branding project is what the strategy consists of and what comes next.

This will be mapped out in a well researched, comprehensive brand plan that will not only form the foundations of attempts to drive the brand forward but also be the glue that keeps stakeholders together.

The world is loose, more fluid and more collaborative than ever before. As a result, nations have less control over the Nation Brand than they are used to but that doesn’t mean they should forgo a well-researched brand plan and let consumers define the brand, something that may already be happening in Malaysia. The Nation Brand plan is more important than ever as it serves as a blueprint for all stakeholders to adhere to.

Specifically, the Malaysia Nation Brand plan must communicate a positive and dynamic personality with economic, experiential and emotional values that reflect target audience requirements.

The brand plan must be holistic and comprehensive to enhance export promotion, economic development, tourism, foreign direct investment and other key national initiatives.

It must also communicate the intended message to the target constituents and stakeholders in multiple countries and at the same time, it must lay guidelines to strengthen the strategic, communications and visual impact of the Nation Brand.

The blueprint must also systemically connect the Nation Brand to the country’s core industries, corporate brands and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector brands.

This must be established via a systematic, holistic process that accommodates the requirements of both national and international stakeholders. This process must not only be effective to optimize the Malaysia Nation Brand, but also maximize limited national resources.

But at the same time, the team tasked with this project must be flexible and open in the implementation of the plan. Let events influence the plan and be ready to adapt to events and opportunities.

The new Malaysia logo (thanks to thestar.com.my)
The new Malaysia logo (thanks to thestar.com.my)

But right now, all we have to go on is the tagline, a logo, a website and a commercial featuring the Prime Minister that was aired on CNN a few months ago. There is a Facebook page for Visit Malaysia Year 2014 that features the new logo but the site hasn’t been updated since March 2013.

VMY 2014 FB page
VMY 2014 FB page

The Facebook page features a link to a competition but this actually goes to the Ministry of Tourism website. Such competitions will help drive interest in the country and there is no reason why a competition can’t be created for businesses that may want to invest in or relocate to Malaysia.

The message of the TV commercial was to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) while the message of the website is “Whether your passion is food, culture, sports or art; whether you’re a traveler or entrepreneur; Malaysia has something amazing to offer. The journey starts here”.

The malaysia.my home page
The malaysia.my home page

One might be forgiven for thinking that sounds like a tourism message however the site features a number of feel good stories about successful Malaysian entrepreneurs, achievements, news, activities and more.

As the website evolves, it may need to focus or at least segment activities more clearly and provide refreshing and new content that is of interest to stakeholders and not repeat content that is already in the public domain. This new content will create interest in the country, be picked up by search engines and robots and drive traffic to the site.

The team tasked with the responsibility of making the Malaysia Nation Brand project a success will also need to engage stakeholders on an ongoing basis and not just use digital platforms to broadcast corporate driven messages.

Right now, a search of “Endless Possibilities” on Youtube doesn’t send visitors to any Malaysia site. The Brand plan will also map out tactics for driving users and search engine robots to original content.

you tube search of 'endless possibilities'
you tube search of ‘endless possibilities’

The launch of the new Brand strategy is set for 17th September and we should know more about the project then. But I believe, done properly and based on a comprehensive Nation Brand plan, “Endless Possibilities” really does have endless potential.

Stop advertising and start branding

Are you happy with your branding activities? Or do you find the money you spend does little to build your brand?

Unfortunately, most branding initiatives revolve around a creative campaign developed by an advertising agency. Depending on budget, the creative campaign will be implemented with a one-size-fits-all message communicated to all and sundry and across multiple mass media platforms for as long as budget allows.

The model essentially revolves around hope – hope that lots of people will see the campaign, hope that amongst those people will be the target markets, hope that the message will resonate with those target markets, hope that those target markets will remember and hope that if they remember they will act.

In a noisy world, is a traditional approach to building a brand going to make you stand out?
In a noisy world, is a traditional approach to building a brand going to make you stand out?

So basically, the ‘strategy’ is one of hope. Chances are if it doesn’t work, the agency will, if you haven’t already fired them, propose more of the same.

For most brands this approach is an exercise in futility. Wouldn’t it be better to first get an understanding of where your brand is – both internally and externally?

In the social economy, where consumers not companies define brands, don’t you want to know what your stakeholders want from your brand, what you are doing right (and wrong), the channels they are most likely to interface with, their influencers and more?

Internal and external brand and communications audits can both help determine how effective your branding activities have been and, more importantly, what they need to accomplish in the future.

In the social economy, a brand audit is the first step to building a brand
In the social economy, a brand audit is the first step to building a brand

Brand audits have multiple advantages. They provide a benchmark to evaluate the current brand position. Carried out every 2 years they can evaluate progress toward branding goals. They also unify an organization. Too often, everyone has a different definition of branding. A brand audit will identify this and provide recommendations for improvement.

Indeed, a brand audit can provide a consistent, universally accepted brand DNA and from that a definition that ensures that everyone in the organisation is marching to the beat of the same branding drum. Finally, a brand audit can help eliminate the all-too-common disconnect between what companies believe their brand to be and what customers perceive it to be.

An internal brand audit takes the brand temperature from corporate executives and other personnel. One-on-one confidential interviews probe to determine each individual’s perceptions of the brand, branding goals, evaluation of past branding activities, knowledge of key corporate or brand messages and other key points.

An Internal brand audit is a key component of any brand strategy, when did you last carry out an Internal brand audit?
An Internal brand audit is a key component of any brand strategy, when did you last carry out an Internal brand audit?

What are the current branding and customer processes, and how can they be improved? One great question to ask is: “Imagine it is five years from now, and the company is celebrating historic financial and market success. How did the company arrive at this point? What are some of the activities that brought us to such success?”

A brand audit can cover a wide cross section of departments but must have the customer and the customer’s needs at its core. What do we know about customers? Are we collecting THE RIGHT data? Is relevant customer data being added to corporate databases? Is customer information shared with other areas of the company? What initiatives are on the horizon that will affect certain customers and how will this be addressed?

A minimum of 25 minutes is required for each interview, but they can take up to an hour. Questions can be prepared beforehand, but the most valuable insights often result from free-ranging discussions on relevant topics.

A key component of a brand audit is a communications audit, which is especially useful for larger firms with multiple divisions or departments that get involved in branding activities.

A communications audit looks at all the visual material that represents a brand – the brand identity, sales documentation, press releases, ads, brochures, Web sites, social media channels, merchandise, vehicles, logos, etc.

Too many so called brand strategies are really just pointless journeys to unknown destinations
Too many so called brand strategies are really just pointless journeys to unknown destinations

Analysis then determines the amount of consistency and integration in appearance/design, messages and their relevance to target markets (in a noisy world where consumers are time poor, content is so, so important) and adherence to corporate standards. Ideally, a brand manual is in place to provide a benchmark.

The role of social media in both internal and external corporate communications is increasingly important and a social media audit must be included in the communications audit. Communications across social media require different skill sets to traditional marketing and this is scaring some companies away but it must be addressed.

A social media audit lays the foundations for the social media strategy that has an crucial role to play in the brand strategy developed later.

Internal brand and communications audits often reveal a stunning amount of discrepancies that result in mixed messages to both prospective personnel and customers, incompatible branding efforts or even disagreement about branding goals.

An external brand audit looks at how various stakeholders (or, more accurately, constituencies) view the brand. Such constituencies include customers, prospects, media, distributors/retailers, regulatory bodies and suppliers.

Sometimes, an external brand audit is combined with a loss analysis to determine why a contract or other business went to a competitor. These constituencies are asked their perceptions and experiences with the brand and crucially, asked “What do we have to do to win back your business?”

For some companies, it should also be combined with a customer acquisition audit to see if relationships are being developed effectively.

Sample questions can include: “Why did you buy the first time?” “Why will you buy again?” “How useful and relevant are corporate communications?” “How responsive is our support?” “How do our competitors compare to us?” One revealing question we’ve used in the past is: “If you were running our company, what would you do to better meet your requirements?”

The number involved in brand audits can vary greatly according to time, cost or other constraints. Even as few as 5 – 10 qualitative interviews may produce actionable insights.

The success of a brand audit will be determined by the people involved. They must understand branding imperatives, be familiar with the relevant products and company and have superb questioning, listening and analytical skills.

Results of brand audits (the good and the bad) must not only be shared as widely as possible but also incorporated into internal and external branding efforts, including employee communications, advertising and PR.

Share research data, not just the good stuff!
Share research data, not just the good stuff!

It is especially important to use the results to drive changes in sales, service, support and other customer-facing activities.

Finally, remember to use brand audits as guidelines for improvement, not as sticks for punishment.

What is Social Business

We’re involved in the development of the Asean Social Business Summit to be held in Kuala Lumpur in May 2013. You can read more about the event here and visit the official site here

But there is a lot of confusion over what is and what isn’t social business. Social Business refers to enterprise collaboration & innovation that uses social technologies to boost corporate, customer and social value. Social Business does NOT refer to social marketing (PR) or social entrepreneurship (helping rural businesses).

This video argues businesses are still stuck in the Industrial Revolution and need to change and change fast. Importantly, it goes some way to explaining what is social business

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5 facts about developing a brand strategy in the social economy

1) Research is more important than ever.
Research has always been important but it was cumbersome and time consuming. Not any more. Today, the right research can be developed and implemented and results analysed quickly and efficiently.

Brand building - don't run before you can walk
Brand building – don’t run before you can walk

It’s easy to find those people who are likely to like your product. It’s even easier to talk to them. But too many companies don’t bother, preferring to chase the holy grail of more new customers through corporate driven messages.

And don’t forget your existing customers because they are your best source of information. Talk to them, find out what they are looking for, what they value and match attributes to their requirements for value.

2) Mass market branding with a focus on the 4 Ps is no longer effective.
Brands today are built on delivering economic, experiential and emotional value. Not on creating some cool position and communicating it across as many channels as possible for as long as possible.

Deliver that value with stories that resonate with target markets and existing customers. Build relationships with customers by allowing access to the brand, personalizing all elements of all interactions, through relevance, experiences and emotions.

Ignore the social element of the social economy by trying to speak to everyone with one corporate driven message and you will fail.

3) Focus on developing more profitable relationships, not a more profitable product. Brands evolve when companies start buying for customers instead of selling to them. This is especially true in times of economic hardship.

4) Branding is an organisational issue not a departmental responsibility.
And the organisation is the responsibility of the CEO. The CEO needs to be involved in the development of the corporate brand.

Your brand is too important to be left to a marketing department that still believes in the corporate driven message over the engagement of the consumer.

And once you’ve built a brand, don’t rest on your laurels, continue to innovate or you will be left behind.

5) Retention is key to brand building.
Companies no longer sell products, customers buy them. And once customers have bought a product, companies must do everything possible to hang onto those customers. After all, you’ve investment a lot of money to gain a customer, why let them go?

Especially as the more time a customer spends with you, the more money they will spend with you.

Direct marketing and your brand

More and more companies are moving toward a direct to consumer sales model. There are a number of reasons for this and it can be a tricky process to implement without upsetting the existing distribution ecosystem but let’s not go there for now.

But this move will see an increase in Direct Marketing. Direct Marketing should be included in any Malaysian business’s brand strategy, whether business to business or business to consumer. And it is a tactic that has plenty of room for growth as it is currently under appreciated and under utilized.

Because the quality of Direct Marketing in Malaysia and the mining and management of data must improve before consumers will pay attention.

What is direct marketing?
In a nutshell, direct marketing is the way in which a supplier of goods or services contacts an end user, normally a consumer or business. Direct marketing includes any mail sent via traditional post or email, brochures, magazine inserts, leaflets and catalogs.

With the direct to consumer sales model, it is also common to include telemarketing and face to face sales as elements of direct marketing

The existing model
If you want to at best create a bad first impression of your brand and at worst ensure an instant negative impact on the reputation of your brand, prepare a badly written product or services document on your desktop, use fonts that are hard to read or have a thick bold type face and whatever you do, don’t spell check the document.

Next, print 10,000 copies and shove them in letterboxes at office and/or apartment complexes in the Klang Valley. Don’t bother to record how many are delivered to each destination and ignore whether or not your product or service has any relevance to the occupants.

Then go back to your office and wait for the phone to ring (assuming you included your number on the document – and believe me, some don’t).

With this approach, the best you can hope for is that the leaflet will be used as a place mat for lunch or simply allowed to fall on the floor by the letterboxes. Hardly an inspiring ‘moment of truth’ first time experience for your brand and potential customers.

If there isn’t a response to the exercise, does this mean the ‘Direct Marketing campaign’ is unsuccessful? Absolutely not, what it means is that a very good tool has been used wrongly.

Another way to damage your brand is to send the wrong material to the wrong people. Credit card companies are renowned for sending credit card application forms to children.

Why am I receiving this sort of mail? – Note to self, do not use this company for training.

Little wonder consumers lose faith in financial institutions when they make such glaring mistakes. Think of the money wasted on buying the list of names, designing and writing content for brochures, envelopes, postage, administration and so on.

Email is still one of the most effective forms of communication with open rates of 22%, click through rates of 8% and conversion rates of 1.5%. But it must be done properly. The common approach is to buy a list of names (normally the cheapest) and carpet bomb that list with every offering you have.

Conference and training providers do this. They don’t bother who the recipient is and what he does, they simply fire off an email offering agile this, scrum that to their mailing list each time they have a new event or training seminar. Research suggests most executives have a spam filter that directs this mail straight to the trash.

The UK has some of the toughest privacy laws in the world yet Direct Marketing is still one of the most effective forms of brand development.

In 2011, UK firms spent RM14.5 billion on direct marketing which was responsible for 23% of all sales and generated RM196 billion of business. Direct marketing is effective in the UK because it is used properly.

How to do it properly
The key for all direct marketing is get the customer information right in the first place and keep it updated accurately thereafter. Well targeted communications can improve response rates by 300%.

If you don’t have the resources to compile data, outsource. There are many firms offering data collection, cleansing and data suppression services and it is money well spent.

Next, take some time to think about what you are doing and why. Are you looking to make a sale or build a customer base? Free tip, it should be the latter. Once you know what you are doing and why, think about the channel.

Determine which is the right channel. Should you use email, magazine or newspaper inserts or other. If you have a lot to say or want to show off images, an email is probably not the right channel to use unless you have a very niche product and a very well researched database. Many firms simply programme their servers to reject any email with an attachment.

Measurement
Measurement is critical in any campaign but especially so in Direct Marketing. Understand what the exercise is going to cost so that you know what your break even point is. Also measure response rates from specific segments and determine why prospects don’t buy.

Personalise each communication
If you want to stand out from the competition and have a chance of connecting, every communication should be personalised to ensure a chance of engagement. Personalisation is dificult and time consuming because it requires attention to detail but worth the investment because it instantly makes the recipient feel recognised and important.

Content is king
Content is critical, especially if you are selling a luxury product. Yes I am aware that Malaysia is a price driven and discount defined market but I disagree that that is all it is. It has got to that stage because consumers have been let down by advertisers so often and for so long that they now focus on price and price alone.

But as many luxury retailers, developers and service providers will tell you, provide a high quality service and product and consumers suddenly seem less focused on price and more focused on the experience and the prestige.

So make your content interesting. The example below is from a property developer trying to get wealthy buyers to part with millions of dollars. I doubt they will be successful with this copy.

Make content interesting, it’s not rocket science!

There is an edict within Direct Marketing industry that says, “Right offer, right person, right time.” It isn’t complicated, it just means that to be successful, start up, SMEs and GLCs need to up their game.

Put an end to poorly thought out, badly designed, written and untargeted material and use quality direct marketing to build quality brands.

What is the difference between an advertising agency and a brand consultancy?

As the consumer landscape changes and consumer habits and the purchase decision making process evolves, it is imperative that brand owners understand where, when and how to spend their valuable and increasingly limited resources.

Historically advertising agencies defined and controlled a brand’s message and through which channels it was broadcast. They would then blitz consumers with intrusive advertising and messages. The goal was to reach as large and as broad a target audience as possible on those platforms with the most extensive penetration.

But in the social economy, consumers have little faith in such corporate driven messages broadcast across mass media channels to which they are paying less and less attention.

Today consumers spend their time in a variety of social networks or in niche online communities with likeminded people. And it is to these people they look to when seeking information on products and services.

So does this mean the end of advertising agencies and advertising? Definitely not, there is still a need for good advertising agencies that create good work but the process has changed and the advertising agency can no longer be given responsibility for building brands.

In the past, branding and advertising used to be elements of marketing. Today, marketing and advertising are now part of branding and it is the brand consultant you should look to if you want to build a brand.

So here is an outline of the difference between an advertising agency and a brand consultancy. Hopefully this will give you enough knowledge to make an informed decision on who should build your brand.

1) Branding is strategic and advertising is tactical. The most strategic actions you will get from an advertising agency will be a brief. The brief will define the proposition that the advertising must communicate and to which segments. But then what? And what about internally? How will you get personnel on brand? Does the delivery driver or sales assistant know what their role is in the delivery of the promise/s made?

A brand consultant will develop a brand plan or brand blueprint that will drive the brand strategy, both internally and externally. This holistic approach will address all key elements of the brand from the copy used in recruitment advertising to customer facing departments and their ability to represent the brand to point of sale and retention strategies and more.

The brand consultant will then work with you to determine the best resources to use to get the whole organisation on brand.

It is not possible to define a brand through an advertising brief but it is possible to define a brand through a brand plan or blueprint.

2) Advertising agencies do advertising. That’s what they are good at. In fact some of them are very good at it. Advertising uses creativity and a slick message (normally defined by the organisation) to get your attention.

And this is done via campaigns pushed out across TV, radio, billboards, websites and so on. The idea is that enough people will see the campaign and the message will hopefully resonate with as many people as possible. And of course the agency gets a commission for placing these ads with the channels.

If it doesn’t work you either get the agency to come up with another creative idea and go through the whole process again, get rid of the agency, hire another one and hope they can come up with a creative campaign that does resonate or you can go out of business.

And as consumers have lost faith in traditional marketing and now distrust the messages contained in such campaigns or simply miss them because of the clutter, it is increasingly difficult to build a brand using such a model.

So unless you have very, very deep pockets and can advertise consistently for long periods of time, this approach is simply going to waste valuable resources.

A brand consultant will carry out an audit of your business, industry, processes, systems, stakeholders and more and then determine the best way forward for you.

Solutions may require advertising but will also look to improve R&D, sales, production, supply chains, operations, customer relationships and retention strategies.

3) If you are looking to go with an advertising agency, your strategy is likely to be in the hands of a creative director and his team. If the agency is going through a difficult period and doesn’t have many staff when they win your business, the agency will attempt to employ talent with experience in your industry.

Unfortunately, if the talent isn’t available, perhaps because they are working for competitor agencies, you will end up with sub standard people working on your brand and your chances of success are reduced further.

Because branding is a strategic institutional initiative, not a marketing initiative and therefore must have the buy in of executive management, a brand consultant will insist on having C level involvement in the development of the brand which places your brand strategy where it should be, in the hands of executive management.

4) Advertising agencies are often deemed successful if they have won lots of awards for creativity not whether a campaign increases sales or profitability.

There aren’t many awards for brand consultants which is a good thing because this allows them to focus on increasing profitability, often through developing and strengthening relationships with stakeholders and customers.

5) Most advertising focuses on a series of tactical initiatives to acquire customers. A brand consultant will develop a strategy to acquire and retain customers.

6) Traditional marketing activities are enormously wasteful as much of the advertising targets irrelevant demographics or customers that cannot afford or are not interested in the product. A recent report in the Harvard Business Review quoted a UK study that reported 72% of CEOs are tired of being asked for money from marketing departments without an explanation of how it will increase business.

Furthermore, in the same survey, 77% of CEOs have had enough of talk about ‘brand equity’ that can’t be linked to any real equity. A brand consultant will ensure budgets are spent on the right strategies for the right segments with metrics for measurement.

7) An advertising agency uses a one size fits all series of tactical advertising campaigns that use mass marketing across mass media with only a nod to digital and below the line activities.

A brand consultant will look to collect and leverage specific data to develop targetted communications across digital channels to engage prospects, whilst carrying on conversations with existing customers.

8) An advertising agency will often look at what the competition is doing and try to position an offering based on competitor actions. This approach is flawed because successful organisations are nimble and by the time you have developed your position the competition’s strategy will have evolved.

A brand consultant will be aware of competitor activities and will use that knowledge to strengthen the firm’s competitive advantage but will not allow competitors to define strategy going forward.

9) The impact of an advertising agency’s work is difficult to measure. A brand consultant will develop metrics to measure promotions, advertising and other activities.

Top 10 airline brands for 2012

Skytrax, the UK based research company that specialises in research for commercial airlines, has just announced the winners of the world airline award for 2012.

Skytrax parent company, Inflight Research Services work has been used by the UK government to determine the UK government policies on air transport.

The Skytrax Awards are one of the benchmarking tools for the air industry. They measure passengers’ satisfaction levels by surveying passengers in all cabin classes.

The award is announced after a 10 month telephone survey with 18 million airline customers from 100 countries. That’s right, 18 million airline customers from 100 countries. This must be one of the largest surveys ever attempted.

That’s 1.8 million participants a month or based on a 20 day working month, its 90,000 calls per day which equates to, assuming an 8 hour day, 11,250 calls an hour! Many of which are international, in different languages and probably, if they use my carrier, many of the calls cut off half way through the conversation.

I’ve managed some large brand audits that required a lot of calls but not 18 million in 10 months! So Skytrax should be commended for managing such a logistical nightmare. But I digress.

As I mentioned, the survey takes 10 months and covers 200 airlines, both domestic and large international airlines. The survey measures standards across 38 key performance indicators of airline front line product and services.

The study focuses on customer satisfaction related to experiences right across all touch points including check-in, boarding, onboard seat comfort, cabin cleanliness, food, beverages, in-flight entertainment and staff service.

According to the World Airline Awards website, product and Service factors ranked by customers
in the survey included the following elements:

GROUND/AIRPORT
Standard of Airline web site
Online Booking service
Online check-in services
Airport Ticket Counters
Waiting times at Check-in
Quality of Check-in service
Self Check-in options
Boarding Procedures
Pre-boarding for families
Friendliness of Ground staff
Efficiency of Ground Staff
Transfer services
Arrival services
Baggage Delivery
Handling Delays

ONBOARD: PRODUCT
Cabin Seat comfort
Cabin Cleanliness
Toilet Cleanliness
Cabin Lighting / Ambience
Cabin Temperatures
Cabin Comfort amenities
Reading Materials
Airline magazine
Inflight Entertainment standards
Audio/Movie programming
Audio Video on demand (AVOD) options
Quality of Meals
Quantity of Food served
Meal Choices
Selection of Drinks/Pay bar formats

ONBOARD: STAFF SERVICE
Assistance during Boarding
Friendliness of Staff
Service Attentiveness/Efficiency
Consistency of Service across different flights
Staff Language skills
Meal service efficiency
Availability thru Flight/Cabin presence
PA announcements
Assisting families with children
Problem solving Skills
General Staff Attitudes
Staff Grooming

This is an enourmously complex project and it doesn’t end there. Follow up research includes back up interviews and the data is weighted to ‘provide nomination equity when evaluating airlines of different size.’

Anyway after all that, here is the list of the top 10 airlines for 2012

The World’s Best Airlines 2012

1. Qatar Airways
2. Asiana Airlines
3. Singapore Airlines
4. Cathay Pacific Airways
5. ANA All Nippon Airways
6. Etihad Airways
7. Turkish Airlines
8. Emirates
9. Thai Airways
10. Malaysia Airlines

It is interesting to note that 6 of the top ten are Asian brands and the other 4 are Middle Eastern Brands.

Looking back over the last 10 years, the list has always been dominated by Asian and Middle Eastern brands. With the exception of 2006 When British Airways came first, no European Airline has ever appeared in the top 3.