Real world examples of how to cost effectively use Social Media to build your Brand

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.

Does it make sense in the social economy?
Outdated and doesn’t make sense in the social economy.

According to Harvard Business Review and many other respected institutions, this model is obsolete.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Sadly that doesn’t stop millions of brands spending billions of dollars on an outdated and ineffective model that few of them can afford to sustain.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.


Why you should start building your Brand today

This article first appeared in the Friday 29th April 2011 edition of The Malaysian Reserve/International Herald Tribune

Does this statement sound familiar? “I know I need to start thinking about building my brand but I don’t know where to start so it can wait.”

I’ve heard this statement a lot recently and if it is a general feeling throughout the business community, then we’ve got a problem.

We’ve got a problem because as Malaysia becomes an increasingly wealthy country it will increasingly become a target for global brands that have seen their penetration in more traditional markets reach saturation point.

Moreover, free trade agreements and stagnant manufacturing or services based economies are also encouraging global brands to take notice of countries like Malaysia.

In the last twelve months, major global brands from the agriculture, automotive, aviation, biotechnology, education, fashion, food, hospitality, logistics, property, transportation and other sectors that in the past have barely considered Malaysia, are now establishing offices here.

Even Unilever owned brand Marmite, a quintessentially British savoury spread most often used on toast, now has sales in excess of RM20 million in Malaysia, mainly because it makes a bowl of congee a little more interesting!

And as these global brands take note of Malaysia they will invest substantial funds to establish their brands here and once those brands are established, it will be difficult for Malaysian products and services to compete with them. Unable to compete, over time, these Malaysian brands will fail.

So Malaysian firms really must begin the process of building brands now, rather than later. The good news is that beginning the process of building a brand or revamping an existing company has many benefits. Some of the most significant include the ability to charge more for products and services as well as a reduction in costs. Furthermore, changes in technology and communications mean that Malaysian firms might not have to invest significant funds into mass communications.

A word of warning though. Any branding initiative should begin with a careful analysis of the organization, its processes and systems, especially those that are customer facing and whether or not it has a customer centric culture, what it stands for and whether these elements are relevant today. Be ready for bad news but see it as feedback and an opportunity to improve not as criticism.

And once the brand is ready, communications should focus not on broadcasting how wonderful the brand is across traditional mass media channels, but on engaging prospects with content that resonates with them and delivering economic, emotional and experiential value to consumers and across all touch points.

Here are six more reasons why you shouldn’t wait to start to build a brand.

Reason No 1: Branding unifies your organization & motivates staff
Your people will want to be part of a respected and recognized brand because personnel who can identify with and support a brand’s culture, values and behaviour are better motivated, more loyal and engaged, both internally and externally.

As a result, your people will have pride and an interest in the company they work for and what they do for that company. Morale will improve, productivity will rise and resignations will be reduced. Moreover, a culture that strives to deliver value to customers and on customer terms will prevail. This in turn will lead to increased sales.

Reason No 2: Branding integrates & enhances brand touch points
This is really important. Organisations with weak or non-existent brands more often than not, make promises they cannot keep, focus on acquiring customers but pay little attention to existing customers and underestimate the importance of the customer experience. By developing a brand and building processes and systems into the brand delivery system, every single touch point between your organization and the consumer will be geared towards delivering a positive experience. Positive brand experiences will go a long way towards building customer loyalty, key to profitability.

Reason No 3: Branding reduces costs
What better incentive can there be for building a brand? Branding requires a brand strategy and a strategy will anticipate multiple scenarios and prepare the organization for outcomes, reducing the likelihood of expensive cost over runs or unexpected expenses.

Furthermore, a well recognized and well respected brand attracts talent, reducing the need for time consuming recruitment campaigns and expensive head hunters. A brand also reduces marketing costs. Less established products or services can spend up to 10% of revenue on marketing, brands often spend as little as 0.8% up to 2% on marketing.

Reason No 4: Branding justifies a price premium
Yet another major incentive for anyone still not convinced they should be building a brand. Branding allows you to charge more for your product or service because people will pay more for a name they can trust and have confidence in.

Reason No 5: Branding shortens the sales cycle
A strong, well respected and recognized brand creates trust and an emotional attachment to the product which also helps to make purchasing decisions easier. Over time, this influences the speed at which a prospect or customer makes that purchasing decision. This in turn allows a company to build customer loyalty and create brand ambassadors to sell the brand on their behalf, shortening the process further.

Reason No 6: Branding blocks competition
By focusing on building a brand rather than carrying out a series of transactions, you will ‘ring fence’ your brand and stop the competition from poaching your customers. As interactions with your brand increase, customers will automatically think of you when thinking of your category, thereby ignoring competitors.

In an increasingly competitive and noisy environment where better established global brands with deeper pockets are starting to flex their muscle, it is imperative that Malaysian firms, large and small start to build their brands now, before global brands get a foot hold in the country and it is too late.