The five most-read/popular articles in this blog have been rounded-up for 2021.
Thank you for your readership! Much health and triumph to you this year.
Keep moving forward!
The five most-read/popular articles in this blog have been rounded-up for 2021.
Thank you for your readership! Much health and triumph to you this year.
Keep moving forward!
I had a striking and might I dare say, haunting thought that continues to stick with me. Several years ago, I met a girlfriend through a dating site. Yes, I know this is not unusual. However, she once remarked that I marketed myself online like I was a (human) “product.” Through that pleasant conversation, I wasn’t certain if this was to be construed as a compliment or a criticism. Although my intent was not deliberate, I now understood the power of personal branding.
Today, personal branding is ubiquitous and an essential part of professional and non-professional activism. It isn’t different from product branding and relies on the same critical and analytical eye and criteria to float the “product” in the market. The only difference is that the product in question is “you.”
For example, if you are in the job market, the commodity you are selling is “you”. This also applies if you are seeking a promotion within your organization or whether you’re selling/categorizing yourself as the ideal independent consultant or political candidate respectively. The motives can be one or several.
The Brand Called “(Place your full name here)”
No matter what your name is or who you are, you are engaged in selling an image you wish to portray to a targeted audience. Joe McGinnis in his cutting edge book “The Selling of the President” showed how this could be done effectively. The book focuses on how Richard Nixon was able to “sell” his profile to the American public in 1968.
As individuals, celebrities have pretty much mastered the art of turning themselves into powerful, eye-catching and memorable personal brands. Think Paris Hilton, Madonna, George Clooney, and Donald Trump. Even President Barack Obama, during his campaigns, demonstrated how to take an unknown quantity and build a persuasive persona.
What Can We Learn from Them?
To start with, it’s not a one-off event but rather an ongoing process. Companies constantly bombard us with messages and adverts for precisely this reason. To keep us reminded of their brand and thus reinforce their brand equity.
Keeping it genuine and delivering on promises is an equally important factor to consider. Your attitude and actions, from start to finish with any task you perform, set the tone for the type of individual you are and what others can expect from you.
Create a Brand Statement and a Value Proposition
Marketers, most notably, product brand managers, create messages about their products or services that encourage us to buy. Those messages tell us attributes about the product and the benefits to us as consumers if we purchase their products/services. Likewise, as a personal brand, you need to develop at least one message about yourself that tells your target market what you bring to the table, the benefits they receive from doing business with you, as well as what attracts them to you.
Your value proposition is all about your competitiveness and should spell out the strengths that surpass your competition. To put your brand to work for you in your job search, you’ll need to pull together all the pieces that make up your value proposition in the marketplace. A vibrant personal brand statement makes it that much easier for those assessing you to get an indication of what you bring to the organization.
Effective Communication Enhances your Brand
Whether you’re a CEO, manager, consultant, entrepreneur, business owner, professional, or even a job seeker, you should have the ability to persuade through your written and verbal messages. This includes giving effective interviews. Effective presentation skills will not only help you sell your ideas and products but will elevate your personal brand.
Management guru, Peter Drucker once stated, “As you move one step up from the bottom, your effectiveness depends on your ability to reach others through the spoken and written word.” This effective quotation not only tells it as it is, but it also tells us a lot about Peter Drucker as an effective management expert and communicator.
Character vs . Reputation
Reputation is what people say or think about you. That’s your personal brand and should be well-preserved. Character, on the other hand, is what you really are. It is crucial that you understand the distinction. It is said that character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. Always deliver on what you promise and if you look after your character, your reputation will look after itself.
What does Personal Branding Entail?
For personal branding to be effective, it requires managing perceptions
effectively. This encompasses several characteristics including:
– Be Unique and Remarkable in what you do by differentiating yourself from the mainstream. In today’s crowded and competitive world, we need that extra something that sets-us apart. Be distinctive, daring and acquire a competitive edge. After all, it’s a “dog-eat-dog” environment and survival of the fittest. No
matter what you do, you don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.
– Grooming and Clothes: — They are the packaging of your total image. The way you dress and groom says a great deal about you — whether you’re doing so out of necessity or doing it with flair, one can usually distinguish the difference. Watching your appearance also makes you feel good about yourself.
– Etiquette: — It forms a part of human interaction skills, is a strong indication of a refined person and proper upbringing. It should be applied in everyday life in a civilized society. In addition, Respect is esteem of a person, a personal quality and ability to demonstrate it to others through deeds.
Social Networking: Is it going to be Facebook, LinkedIn or Both ?
LinkedIn is the number one professional network, whereas, Facebook is presently the largest personal network with over three billion active users worldwide. Each has its unique purpose. Whether you’re a job seeker, consultant, and entrepreneur or happily employed, LinkedIn can be an incredible asset for your career or business. You can connect to over 800 million professionals in over 200 countries around the world. This is a cyber venue where a polished profile with a professional-looking photo and error-free text should be the only acceptable standard. It’s a portrait of you and your brand. It’s also where you will be importing your contacts and growing your network through new connections. In contrast to LinkedIn, Facebook is geared more toward socializing purposes with friends, relatives and acquaintances.
Many companies are also taking serious notice whose idea is to engage with
present and prospective clients. It’s equally important that you are prudent and selective with the type of content and photos you place on your page as anyone can come upon it through searches. The message your page conveys will either be positive or unfavorable to your image. Frequent verification and updates on both social networks are recommended. Otherwise, your profiles become stale and unattractive.
Another powerful marketing tool to consider is a blog. Writing articles for your own blog and for others will earn you consideration as a respected expert in your industry and subject matter, which, taken together, will create more credibility for you and increase your presence on the Internet.
In the Final Analysis
Regardless of the business you’re in or message you’re trying to depict to your audience, if you’re going to successfully shape your brand, you need to start by knowing who you genuinely are, then form the image you want to present, and subsequently, behave the part consistently.
Everyone, it seems, has a personal brand, but most people are not aware of this and as a result do not manage it strategically, consistently, and effectively. As your own “brand,” you are the head of “Me Inc.”
How does it feel to be the CEO of your own brand and life?
For a no obligation FREE preview (two chapters) from the book, “Entrepreneurial Essentials: Unconventional Business Wisdom & Bold Tactics” kindly click here.
Who earns more money, a general practitioner or a specialist physician such as an ophthalmologist? The latter has spent additional years studying with an emphasis in one particular area of medical practice which makes him or her both scarce and sought after in his or her profession. The same goes for an organization that has spent years studying the market with emphasis on doing one thing, but one thing extremely well. This automatically justifies higher fees translating to improved earnings. How does an upscale saddlemaker to the horse and carriage trade (originally as a harness workshop in Paris in 1837) reposition itself to maximize its know-how in leather goods to now command more than $5000 for a simple briefcase? Or even hawk silk scarves at $500? Think Hermes.
The answer lies in specialization, craftsmanship, and branding. As with all other specialized professions, a business that, chooses to concentrate on a particular market segment should simply be generating higher revenues. Alternatively, if you join the herd of the mainstream, there is always a vast consumer audience to tap. Profit is driven by volumes. It is harder to compete on price to the point of being perceived as offering a commodity with little or no differentiation — otherwise known as a “unique selling proposition” (USP). The only exception to that rule is when an enterprise keeps churning out innovative, “must have” items ahead of its competition. Yet that requires constant creativity, refinements, and a considerable amount of R&D. Apple is an example of a brand that has managed to hit both objectives. Not bad for an enterprise, that started life in a garage.
Defining the term “Niche”
Strategically, niche marketing is the way to go forward. However, you ought to be on top of the game. Recently, the firm Kusmi Tea has managed to put all the right elements together in an unbeatable combination. It personifies mass marketing and branding. If you have a specific group of people interested in “organic tea”, you have your proverbial niche. Whether promoting niche products, in focused markets, such as those for vegans, cruises exclusively for “cougars and cubs” or geared for the ultra-high net worth individuals, the activities applied to attract those refined targets undoubtedly call for creative strategic thinking.
The best way to start is to define your target audience. An 18 something-year-old girl who wants to lose weight to fit into her frock is interested in an effective and timely weight-loss diet. Your target is her waistline and this will be captured with simplicity.
The family who just purchased a puppy wants it trained and therefore requires the appropriate service. Show you can make a dog shake, rattle, and roll and still act well-behaved in the company of others and you will no longer need to flog dog whistles. Ever notice how a 50 plus-year-old lady wants to hide her wrinkles and is always searching for a miracle formula to make her wrinkles disappear in minutes? This “class act” can be achieved by reading certain women’s periodicals and purchasing any product recommendations. These cited groups above represent finely honed targeted audiences. Marketing to such audiences and building an emotional bridge from the intention to purchase decision always attracts higher conversions. You don’t need to recreate the wheel. All you need to do is to find a suitable product that your target market is seeking and present it on a silver platter. Target audiences desire to be addressed with intimacy and personal contact.
Driving the Niche
Common sense should point out that driving a selected audience is efficient and lucrative. The following key index shows how niche marketing should be your chosen business strategy:
1. When entering a new niche market, generally you will not have much competition to deal with. This is justification alone for choosing a specific market in the first place. It also makes your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Internet marketing strategy
focused and cost-effective.
2. Niche markets appeal to target customers, and they are generally much more willing to spend money when their specific needs are met. This means that by catering to a specific target market, you can generally earn a better profit margin.
3. Some niche markets contain sub-groups of the main niche. For example, acai berry weight loss pills or natural weight-loss diets are sub-niches from the weight loss niche. Despite their relatively small size, they are actually quite sought after. Identifying this need spares you from having to compete for similar businesses. People who fit this profile will seriously consider your product — especially if it offers them a genuine solution.
4. Niche marketing makes it possible to focus on becoming a true expert within a particular realm while building a reputable brand name. Strategically, it is also more focused and easier to segment and attack.
The “Ideal” Niche Player
A niche market player is very effective at working closely with customers to build and maintain long-term relationships by innovating and challenging the existing norms in the industry, thus adding value to the project, program, and organizational level. If one is considered an expert in what one does by focusing on one area, then great success will follow. The value proposition must be relevant to the target market. This signifies a target market must be clearly defined. Focusing on a specific market requires knowing it inside and out. This includes conducting a market analysis, stating a precise target market description and goal, as well as being clear about the type of relationship one would like to achieve with his/her market.
By definition, then, a business that focuses on a niche market is supplying a need for a product or service that is not being met by mainstream providers. As such, one can think of a niche market as a narrowly defined group of potential clients offering them the best of what you have. In return, their vendors will profit from higher margins and customer loyalty. As for targeting smaller “sub” niches, you will find them much easier to dominate.
Product and service pricing is a tricky strategy and depending on what is on offer − most notably a commodity, price increases can be very sensitive to the average consumer. How does a purveyor dance around this dilemma so as not to tick off its customer base? It takes several savvy and diligent tactics.
I begin by going over several types of pricing which a business will consider. These include:
Penetration Pricing: The price charged for products and services is set artificially low in order to gain market share. Once this is achieved, the price is increased.
Economy Pricing: This is a no-frills low price. The costs of marketing and promoting a product are kept to a minimum.
Price Skimming: When a higher price is charged because it has a substantial competitive advantage. However, the advantage tends to be unsustainable. The high price attracts new competitors into the market; however, the price inevitably falls due to increased supply.
Psychological Pricing: This approach is used when specific techniques are used to form a subconscious or psychological impact on consumers. The best example is when setting prices lower than a whole number such as 3.99 instead of 4.
Product Line Pricing: Selling a product at or below cost to incentivize customers and drive other sales. For example, a restaurant might offer a low-priced entrée with the purchase of a drink and dessert — both of which have higher profit margins.
Optional Product Pricing: A method applied to increase the amount customers spend once they begin to make a purchase. Optional ‘extras’, when purchased, increase the overall price of the product or service. Examples include computer printers and single pod coffee makers which mostly have a low initial entry price, whereas the cost of the ‘consumables’ or accessories, like printer ink cartridges and coffee pods, respectively, are much more profitable.
Captive Product Pricing: This occurs when an accessory product is necessary to purchase in order to use a core product. Examples of this include products such as razor blades for razors and toner cartridges for printers. This is also known as ‘By-product pricing’.
Promotional Pricing: Pricing to promote a product is a very common application. There are many examples of promotional pricing including approaches such as BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free), money off vouchers, and discounts.
Product Bundle Pricing: Here sellers combine several products in the same package. This also serves to move old stock. It’s a good way of moving old stock and slow-selling products. It’s also another form of promotional pricing.
Value Pricing: This is based on how much the customer perceives a product is worth. The objective is to make consumers believe they are getting the best value at a fair price. This type of pricing works well for ‘basic’ products that don’t have unnecessary details. Dollar stores are thriving due to value-based pricing on items that normally retail for more elsewhere.
Premium Pricing: Use a high price where there is a unique brand. This approach is used where a substantial competitive advantage exists, and the marketer is safe in the knowledge that they can charge a relatively higher price due to craftsmanship, pedigree and/or cache. Such high prices are predominately charged for prestigious and luxurious products and services.
Variable Prices vs. Fixed Prices: Also known as “Dynamic Pricing”, “supply/demand pricing”, or “time-based pricing.” It’s a pricing strategy in which businesses set flexible prices for products or services based on current market demands. Examples of this are hotel and airline pricing according to the time of year/season, happy hours at bars (downtime), and TV/radio commercials cost during peak hours. In 2020, due to the start of Covid-19, “dynamic pricing” made headlines when the prices of everyday goods such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer suddenly increased dramatically ─ though this was a combination of demand vs. supply, as well as exploitation by many resellers.
Geographical Pricing: Geographical pricing sees variations in price in different parts of the world. For example, rarity value, or where shipping costs increase the price. In some countries, there is more tax on certain types of products which makes them expensive, or legislation that limits how many products might be imported again raising the price.
The general pricing strategy to be applied will depend on different factors including product or service costs, demand, the types of buyers/target market, or customer perceived value, and external factors such as competition, the economy, and government regulations. Moreover, the consideration is taken with the current stage of its product life cycle along with its distribution and promotion considerations.
Raising prices prudently
First and foremost, be transparent. If you make the effort to explain to your customers that you have hired extra staff to deliver an improved product, or for any other reason, the customer may consider accepting the increase, otherwise, he or she may simply suspect that you are simply doing so out of greed. How you pitch and position your price increases can determine the success of your business. Equally important, when making changes to your pricing, make certain that your staff have bought into the price increases. By supporting this, it will be able to communicate it effectively to your customers.
Following are some low-key approaches to price increases.
In Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG): Producers often reduce the product/packaging size rather than raise the price to cut costs. However, this can irritate customers as they feel cheated especially when done discreetly. For environmentalists, the optics of this tactic may be deemed effective if the brand can make a case that reducing product sizing results in reducing waste and under-use.
Create Additional Value: When raising your prices, differentiate from the competition by creating additional value for your clients. For example, if you want to stand out, you should go above and beyond in whatever you are doing so that your customer deems your brand and/or your offering as being superior to that of your competitors. You can add value to a product or service by improving the packaging or the design and adding a storyline. Moreover, refine the total customer & service experience which includes a seamless timely process and/or offer something extra without charge.
Regarding Hourly Pricing for Services: Charge per project rather than by the hour. This will place the clients at ease knowing the total cost is predictable regardless if a project takes a shorter or longer period to complete. It eliminates cost anxiety and lack of control over the actual hours undertaken and lodged by the services provider.
Consider Incremental Price Increases
By applying incremental price increases on a regular basis or on occasion, you will condition clients to expect it. Depending on what you are selling, such as a subscription service, providing adequate notice is the right thing to do. Stating the reason(s) for this imminent outcome is a plus (think transparency). This way, clients can adjust their budgets accordingly. Timing is important as your level of service and customer satisfaction feedback should align with any increase as appropriate justification.
It is said that the human ear reacts to certain sounds which is telling that we’re wired for sound. Sounds, most notably music, trigger emotions, auditory pleasures, memories and associations. For branding, sound is multi-sensory communication and a holistic corporate model which drives perception, creates attention along with a familiar association. It’s also a means of differentiation from the plethora of advertising media.
The auditory effect to enhance brand identity
Whether it’s a memorable Intel or Coca-Cola jingle, a mega artist’s association with a soft drink or lifestyle brand, Harley Davidson’s distinctive and trademarked motorcycle exhaust sound, or Kellogg’s investment in the power of auditory stimulus with its cereal crunching sounds, marketing strategically through proprietary sounds is increasingly becoming a prevalent means of forming a distinctive brand personality. The advent of digital media and devices with built-in audio, such as smart phones, tablets, streaming media or podcasts, increases the opportunities for companies to utilize audio branding in their overall communication strategy and brand experience. Samples of audio identity can be viewed and heard here.
Consider, below, what some brands are doing with sound to entice new clients and retain existing ones:
– Automobili Lamborghini developed “The distinct sound of Lamborghini” — a stirring and thunderous video soundtrack and the prelude to a potent new driving experience.
– Hip boutique hotels such as Puro Hotel in Mallorca, whose beach bar has been voted one of the world’s 50 best by CNN Travel, surrounds you everywhere with lounge/chill-out genre of music compiled by its in-house DJ ‒ whether you open their website, choose to listen to their on-line steaming player, purchase a CD, relax by the pool sipping a passion fruit mojito or come nightfall, gather around to dance to their house tunes.
Martin Lindstrom, branding expert and author of several books on the subject of ‘neuromarketing’, wrote in his book “Brand Sense” (on “Branding the Sound of Falling Aluminium”), that the Danish luxury audio/video brand, Bang & Olufsen, has raised the bar in the manufacture of corded phones with the Beocom 2 model phone ring tone. He is quoted stating, “By refining this existing sensory touch point, additional brand equity is established, and a new aspect of the Bang & Olufsen brand is raised in the universe of the brand.” Birgitte Rode, CEO of Audio Management adds, “The difference between the BeoCom2 sound and other ringing tones is, that the Bang & Olufsen sound is human, it makes you feel at home, and it´s instantly recognizable.”
Producing a desirable ambiance best suited for your target
The late fashion design icon Karl Lagerfield once stated that “Fashion and music are the same, because music express its period too.” Music, effects, volume and vibrations ‒ the tone and the energy of any place can be set with the right music selections. Upbeat music that would be appropriate in the evening may not appeal to morning customers who may yet be fully alert. If you have an Italian-themed bar, you may want to interject some Italian music from artists like Zuccero or Eros Ramazotti. If your theme/branding and ambiance is geared to a very hip, young audience, it will likely suit your customers to include songs with a driving beat from cutting-edge alternative and electronic artists.
Emotionally anchoring a brand to its clients
Designing and implementing custom music and visual strategies emotionally anchor a brand to its clients. A 1982 study published in the Journal of Marketing determined that “it is possible to influence behavior with music.”
In 1934, a company named Muzak, now owned by Mood Media, launched a pioneering idea of low-level instrumental background music which they termed as “stimulus production” which improved worker productivity in offices. This was eventually taken to other areas most, notably retailers, as well as the hospitality domain as a means to enhance the ambiance in and around surrounding areas.
Retail background music which is curated though licensed music/songs, as well as scent marketing, and various stimulating visuals, such as video walls and digital menu board, indirectly captivate and influence clients’ mood to make purchases and improve sales. These help create emotional connections between the retailers and their shoppers.
DJs or Music Stylists, as they are more urbanely referred to, include Felix Cutillo at Sonodea, who compile the playlists to complement the client’s (retailer, hotel etc.) brand identity along with input from their client.
Taking this even further, with live music event sponsorships, brands can enhance their image on their clients which in turn can positively influence their sales ─ as a 2015 study from live event promoter AEG and marketing agency Momentum Worldwide uncovered. “When it comes to connecting with consumers, especially millennials, music is one of the most effective ways. For brands, the opportunity exists within music to create value for their customers and build a lasting relationship unlike any other,” according to Glenn Minerley, Momentum Worldwide’s VP, Group Director – Music and Entertainment.
At the end of the day
A brand’s identity is comprised of visual, auditory and other sensory components that create recognition in the mind of the consumer. The power of music has the ability to seduce the soul, raise the spirit, build social connections, wiggle our bodies to the rhythm, increase purchases, as well as develop, strengthen and recognize brands. Sound branding supports refining brand communication and in designing a better sounding environment.
In some fashion, all business is show business and storytelling. Brand image is all about the experience, perception and differentiation you create in the customers’ mind. Sound branding forms part of the equation and bringing all this into meaningful consideration by applying its multi-sensory approach to attracting and retaining clientele to your brand and business establishment. It is, therefore, essential to consider audio brand management and strategic use of sound in the total branding equation.
The hospitality domain has begun recovering from its 15 month or so pause in bookings and vacancies due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Getting back to a new normal business mode requires a refined approach to attracting and retaining guests/clientele. Hopefully, the operators will profit from lessons learned from recent history along with adequate time they were reluctantly bestowed for reflection. From the following five types of hotel guests, each requires a different approach to effectively attract them. However, in regard to retaining them, the approach is the same across the board. Seamless service and creating a pleasant total guest experience will most certainly turn them as your raving fans. Nowadays, and moving forward, contactless check-in and check-out will be expected. Exceptional service should not be merely exclusive with luxury properties. Nothing can and should be taken for granted. Do not meet guests’ expectations, instead, surpass them.
1. The Leisure Traveler
The leisure industry is the segment of business focused on entertainment, recreation, and tourism. To the leisure traveler, it is about going on holiday for fun, excitement, and relaxation ─ a vacation get-away whether for a few days or weeks. This may include relaxing on a beach or on the premises and/or going on guided tours and experiencing local tourist attractions.
Offering the guest enjoyment with the ultimate mix of relaxation and inspiration is key to winning them over repeatedly.
Along with the expectations of the staff being quite accommodating, the discerning leisure traveler in a luxury hotel expects generous property amenities and refined services such as:
2. The Business Traveler
Unlike a leisure traveler, the business traveler is a hotel guest who arrives strictly for work. He or she is not there to view the sights. However, this traveler will be interested in local restaurants and coffee shops he or she can use for business and personal purposes. Typically, their days are long and full of meetings. More than likely, they’ll want to come back to their rooms to relax and have a quiet meal before doing it all over again the next day. While also in town for work, make time in their schedules for more leisure and tourist activities. The business traveler might extend his or her work trip into a long weekend and have a brief vacation before returning home.
To appeal to business travelers, keep the following into consideration:
Easy check-in: Business travelers demand a quick and effortless check-in process. Always make certain you have adequate, efficient and polite staff at the reception desk to meet this need. Consider offering online check-in with keyless room entry.
In-room business features: Fast, reliable internet along with conveniently located ample power outlets
Co-working spaces: Create spaces and perhaps restaurants too where business travelers can work or have meetings.Loyalty programs: Creating a strategy for repeat business, like offering some free nights for a minimum number of overnight stays during each check-in is one effective way to attract and create repeat business. Alternatively, extend the negotiated discounted room rate through the weekend or add a few days pre-conference to encourage guests to stay longer or arrive early.
Work with local attractions and businesses: Offer incentives like discounts at local restaurants and shops or tickets to a museum or a show.
Having a solid CRM set-up, with proper usage, will make engaging with the guests/clients seamless.
Families that travel together want to have shared experiences. With families, there will likely be differing styles of travel and preferences within the group. The key is to have something for everyone. Think like a parent and provide in-room amenities that can keep the youngsters occupied, like game boards, books, and fun snacks. Also, offer a nanny or babysitting service and a list of family care services in the area, as well as kid and family-friendly attractions and activities, such as discounted vouchers for the zoo, aquarium, and/or museums.
In addition, offer the ability for families to avoid carrying heavy cases and flight bags by providing essential items that enable families to travel lighter. This can be accomplished with guests reserving baby/toddler equipment online via the hotel’s website. In addition to an array of essentials, such as playmats, potties, and buggies, parents should be able to also request, ahead of time, non-essentials such as storybooks, swimming jackets and even car seats requested for private transfers.
4. Event Attendees
Event attendees can be a mixture of business and leisure travelers. Some might want to attend the conference and relax alone in their rooms, and others might be looking to explore the city more in their off hours. Most often, event attendees are interested in networking with others at the event and will seek entertainment after the end of the day’s events. This is where, as a hotel operator, you can attract and retain them by providing unique experiences for attendees that they will much appreciate and distinguish you from competing nearby hotels. To entice them, offer to organize receptions and other social activities for them, prior to checking-in, and make it easy for the attendees to add on their reservation. Additional activities can include a poolside happy hour, a dinner cruise (if applicable), or other group activities at a local attraction. Provide those guests incentives and special deals such as discounts for additional night stays or an exclusive dining experience at the chef’s table of your hotel restaurant.
5. Health and Wellness Travelers
Aside from travelers in general being more aware of cleaning and sanitization due to COVID-19, wellness travelers are those who are taking a trip to promote their own health and wellbeing. This type of traveler will most likely be interested in holistic wellness packages which include relaxation, detoxing, and practicing healthy habits during their trip. Some will be more concerned with physical and mental wellbeing, therefore features such as fitness, outdoor excursions, as well as yoga classes, workout sessions, spa treatments, guided meditations, and healthy dining options could be appealing. Additionally, more people will be looking for staycation trips. As a result, hotels should consider focusing their marketing efforts on guests who reside within a two-hour drive.
Creating Loyalty through Exceptional Service and The Total Customer Experience
What good is it to be an upscale hotel establishment with generous amenities if the service is weak? The “total customer experience” is defined as the interactions and relationship between a company and its customers. The customer experience journey can include how a customer interacts with a company’s employees, facilities, and marketing, in both the real and digital worlds.
The holistic approach to the total customer experience will make the difference between a single visit type of customer and a repeat and loyal customer.
The service dimensions consist of reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy which characterize an emotionally intelligent and spirited staff with tangible elements in the ensuing way:
A company’s reputation for excellence in the services sector can be developed and supported, as long as the firm has a strong organizational culture oriented in high quality service, customer focus throughout the organization, as well as a dynamic set of employees. They are conscientious and committed to act within the quality standards which the company has established.
For a hospitality organization to achieve high levels of customer service and maintain constant satisfaction, it should develop and implement a structured service strategy, which covers all necessary actions on what measures and actions will be taken to:
Contactless Check-in & out
A 2020 study revealed that 73% of hoteliers agree that self-service tech will become increasingly more important to their business and when asked what makes a good hotel stay, 90% of millennials said they would be interested in checking-in in a hotel through their mobile phones. If those statistics were pre-pandemic, imagine what they would look like nowadays. Guest expectations are not static, they evolve indefinitely. Contactless check-in and check-out do not have to be impersonal. The experience can be seamless and pleasant, whereby the hotel staff can still remain in touch with guests even without ever seeing them in person. During─and eventually post Covid-19, guests are demanding the highest levels of hygiene, ‘sanitization’ and social distancing. Study shows that 84% of guests would feel much safer with social distancing practices in a hotel and 71% of guests are more likely to stay in a hotel offering self-service technological capabilities.
On a Final Note: Targeting the Most Profitable Segments for Your Hotel
There are five main generational segments recognized by marketers. Each generation certainly differs and each of whom have unique spending patterns and personal preferences. Their main characteristics are summarized as follows:
These days (as the writing of this article) ask employers in any sector as to what is their main pain point and you will most likely be told that staffing is definitely the one. Barely a sign that it is an employer’s market. However, changes in job vacancies will vary much by industry, geography, specific skills, educational level, and other factors.
Seems that during the Covid-19 period, many open job positions actually pay less than the expanded economic relief unemployment benefits many people receive(d) under the March 2020 CARES Act in the U.S. and CERB financial support in Canada to employed and self-employed Canadians who were directly affected by COVID-19. In fact, an estimated 68% of unemployed workers are collecting more on those programs than they earned while working. That said, there is not much, if any, incentive for such employees to return or gain employment as long as they are receiving such payments. This is a dilemma which many employers are reporting with a lack of applicants and an increase in interview no-shows.
Possible solutions and recruiting strategies to make your business stand out to job seekers during the pandemic, and beyond, should include:
Consider new methods for interviewing such as virtual interviews like Zoom or Teams, virtual job fairs, along with scheduling technology such as Calendly and text-messaging to make communication with candidates more effortless.
Utilize a third-party recruiting/staffing agency, specializing in your domain, to help source employees on a permanent or temporary basis. This is a way to spend less time, resources, and money on the sourcing and hiring process to allow more time focusing on the operations.
Consider offering a temporary (or permanent) pay increase for roles with essential duties and in high demand and offer a bonus for high demand jobs to attract talent. Although this increases payroll expenses, it may be necessary to attract and retain the right talent.
This may include offering longer days or staggered shifts to allow for an additional day off during the week.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic shook the standard workplace, the physical office ambiance was quickly ─ and at some businesses, reluctantly switched to working remotely. Many employees had to adapt swiftly which they eventually did and now wish to continue with this convenience. Consider either carrying-on, offering the remote home office option or proposing a hybrid whereby some days during the week or month will require a commute to the physical work location.
To help candidates recognize the temporary nature of collecting their economic relief unemployment benefits, highlight the long-term growth opportunities available at your company. Consider including the opportunities with your posted job descriptions.
Candidate experience isn’t only important for employer reputation, but it is also a factor when your top candidates are evaluating your job offer. The way you treat candidates during the hiring process is a good indication and impression you convey the way a candidate may be treated once hired. positive candidate experiences can enhance an employer brand and reputation and encourage good candidates to join, as well as existing employees in providing you with additional good candidate referrals.
Don not solely hire well educated and experienced people. More importantly, seek motivated, dedicated, coachable and candidates with interpersonal skills. Moreover, make certain that the people you hire fit-in with your corporate culture. Your organization should also foster an atmosphere of innovation and creativity through leadership. These conditions can’t help but breed success.
In the end
Some of the above do not apply to every type of job. Though the hiring challenges during a pandemic are a temporary issue, it is frustrating enough when taking into account job seekers who may be earning as much or more money through economic relief benefits. But with the above recruiting strategies in mind, employers should be able to attract more candidates, make the right hires and return promptly to a new and refined “normal” type of business and beyond.
“Panic” and “chaos” are not what one should undergo in business. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs are caught off guard more often than necessary when operating their business. In his book “The E-Myth Revisited”, dynamic author Michael Gerber states that a business person ought to work “on” his/her business, rather than “in” his/her business.
Start-ups have a leg-up if they launch and persevere on the “right track.” The appropriate definition of these two words together imply following a proper course of action. The analogy which can be applied to a business well-being is our own personal state of formidable health comprising of a healthy diet, frequent exercise and undergoing an annual physical. The objective is to be proactive, rather than reactive.
Entrepreneurs may be quite well versed with the products and/or services offered, but not necessarily with running their business including a bucket list of daily administrative tasks. Most notably, sales, marketing and finance/accounting undertakings. This is where honest consideration should be given in either bringing in a partner to complement the entrepreneur’s weaknesses or an external adviser and/or mentor to guide him/her. A sounding board should not be dismissed as prohibitive, thus solely for larger organizations. Seeking professional help is an important way to avoid or plan for business challenges.
Moreover, when drafting a business plan as the road-map, include a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) matrix and “what if” scenarios — which will reveal and prepare one in avoiding the pitfalls of running a business, as well as coping with various challenges which can arise. In addition, consider plotting a business model as a prelude to the business plan. It makes you think through your business plan, which in turn communicates the business model. Both should synchronize. Make certain a short term (less than 12 months), medium term (13-30 month), as well as a long-term plan (30-60 month) have been conceived.
Savvy business people – whether new or seasoned entrepreneurs or CEOs of large corporations possess:
Growing pains in any organization require a formidable administration to keep the business operating efficiently which includes customer front & center, profitability and more than adequate cash flow. Telltale signs of weak organizations can be traced to inept leadership. The following points highlight the deficiencies:
The way to solve an organizational problem is to swiftly confront the structural issues with a moral sense of purpose and ethics. It must also have preventive systems in place in anticipation of issues which may arise.
For its clients to receive stellar service, the enterprise must have its house in order. Besides structure and an efficient operation, employees should be trained and empowered to do their jobs efficiently.
Companies that disrespect their employees and shut-out clients get willfully isolated and have a short life span through an erosion of market share and significant loss of revenue. Thus, a company’s goal should place emphasis on serving its people properly and fairly. Higher morale generates higher profits – though occasionally other priorities hinder that objective, for example, self-serving behavior by certain executives.
To preventing operational problems before they even occur requires anticipating them through operational intelligence. The purpose of risk management is to identify potential problems before they occur. To do so entails early and in-depth risk analysis through the collaboration and involvement of all parties involved in running the business. It’s where brainstorming occurs about potential problems regarding the product(s), service(s), market(s) etc. to search for and foresee issues, as well as create solutions in advance – eluding the element of surprise at some point in time. Risk management is comprised of: 1) Identifying, outlining and analyzing potential risks; 2) A course of action in handling the identified risks, as well as the implementation of risk control/elimination plans when/where necessary.
Business leadership should contemplate allowing constant flexibility to adjust strategy when necessary if the initial one isn’t effective.
There should be continuous checks and balances – especially with regards to internal financial controls through various procedures implemented to reduce errors or possible embezzlement by staff. Trust but verify ought to be the organization’s mantra and actual implementation.
Perhaps you can consider a risk analysis software such as a SAS platform whose practical use offers best practices to help the company establish a risk-aware culture through various enterprise risk models and forecasting. We note examples of aircraft pilots who diligently prepare prior to a flight – or ship captains making their plans prior to voyages at sea.
Companies with inept leadership usually fail in the first or second year, but even established companies can stumble badly when they outgrow the capabilities of the founding team. According to statistics, as the latest available numbers from the two U.S. government statistical agencies responsible for providing data about new businesses illustrate, The Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, five years after new establishments were founded (1995, 2000 and 2005 respectively), 50%, 49 and 47 percent of them (correspondingly) were still in operation.
To be a successful and sustaining entrepreneur requires vision, strategy, execution and constant diligence – along with plenty of sacrifice. A new generation of young entrepreneurs think the road is smooth and a fast track to easy wealth. Obstacles and sacrifice are part of the deal. Harnessing opportunity and overcoming challenges on a daily basis to top the competition is constant work. These conditions are true no matter what the sector of business engagement or company size.
Enterprises spanning a wide array of industries, have earned distinction as “well-” or “best-” managed” by demonstrating business excellence through a meticulous and independent process that evaluates their management abilities and practices – by focusing on innovation, continuous training, brainstorming and caring for their employees’ well-being – as well as investing in meeting the needs of their clients.
Well-run companies thrive no matter what and learn from their mistakes – making certain they don’t repeat them. However, never give failures a second thought. There are no dress rehearsals in business either.
Onwards and upwards!
Whether you’re looking to team-up with someone for a project, business partnership, hire for your organization ─ or even consider as a prospective long-term intimate partner (wink-wink), that individual, whether prospective or on the right track has certain traits which increase the likelihood of his or her success in life and/or business or profession.
This is by no means scientific. However, there are well-known characteristics of existing successful people ─ whether in their profession, trade, in business and or in any other endeavor. There is certainly a specific pattern that decreases the chances of disappointment.
Choose your key person or people wisely
Some people have the knack and intuition, whether they seek and hire talent such as an employee, bet on a senior executive or partner, for business development, or even choose an heir for their empire. What they look for, at the very least, are the following 12 high-value traits in a person, regardless of gender.
1] Ambitious: An essential start as it signifies the person has something he or she really wants to achieve. This could be considered his or her goal(s) in life and will go above and beyond to achieve them.
2] Self-motivated: Constantly taking action and initiative without any prodding by others. Showing commitment and drive to achieve. Likewise, passionate enjoying every moment spent working on a chosen pursuit.
3] Spends Time Productively: This person manages his or her time properly and cognizant that using time effectively increases the chances of accomplishing his or her goals. Among others, practical time spent may include activities such as exercising, reading, learning, volunteering, and devoting quality time with loved ones.
4] Timely & Reliable: They produce winning relationships and results. With such people, it not only means doing what they say, but it also means doing what is right, regardless of what they have committed to. They are results-oriented. If they tell someone they can do something or meet at a certain time, they have made a promise they keep. Being on time shows others that this a person of his or her word and makes the habit of always being on time for meetings and appointments.
5] Takes every Hurdle/Challenge as a Learning Opportunity: Recognizes what he or she is good at and polishes his or her strengths along with acknowledging weaknesses and works to improve them.
6] Enjoys the Company of Successful People: He or she understands and follows the stock phrase of “You’re known by the company you keep.” This person enjoys having others’ success inspire him or her. Those who don’t achieve success would rather be around smaller people because it makes them feel bigger. Moreover, he or she realizes the importance of support from those he or she admires when determined at accomplishing bigger goals.
7] Relentlessly Competitive: The people who are going to be successful in life are super competitive. It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s the one who sees winning as the job that needs to be done, so he or she will show up and do it each and every time. This person is determined to do it better, faster and to the fullest of his or her abilities than most people as he or she thrives on competition and welcomes the challenge.
8] Not a Fan of Excuses/Pretexts: Successful people find a way and refuse to cop-out, whereas failures find feeble excuses to avoid pain and commitment to their obligations and responsibilities. No successful leader or entrepreneur makes excuses for inaction or action gone wrong. He or she make things happen regardless of the situation or circumstance.
9] Tenacious: He or she knows that as long as he or she keeps at it, regardless of hurdles to overcome, a victorious outcome will be achieved. It’s all about persistence, perseverance, and determination to get things done.
10] Educates Oneself Constantly: This person has a growth mindset and mindful of the importance of permanent self-development, as well as very curious in nature who seeks to keep learning, discovering, thus improving his or her knowledge and skills.
11] Acknowledges Mistakes: This person is willing to admit to his or her flaws and errors and keeps refining himself or herself, as well as learn from mistakes so they aren’t repeat. In addition, this person possesses integrity with honesty and strong moral principles.
12] People Skills: A genuine interest for others and for long-term relationships. A person with a high EQ. Selfless, willing to help others do well with the ability to get the best out of someone, seeking mutual beneficial outcomes, and loyal to those with whom he or she has committed to. Thus, excellent interpersonal skills are essential for leading effectively.
How do you look for them?
It goes without saying that as far as knowing whether the person or people you seek possess the above characteristics, you ought to be familiar with them for an extensive time. It’s not possible from merely a casual acquaintance or interview. With the latter, situational/behavioral questions can be asked which may give a glimpse of the candidate’s character and thought process. One way to spot them is identifying people who assume unofficial authority within the framework of their jobs within your organization. Such individuals possess certain traits that distinguish them from others on the team and build their credibility. Two other ways is either through casual or frequent observation over time or through a trusted referral from someone who knows him or her quite well and offers a personal endorsement.
In the end
Realistically, there is no perfect formula to any of this. No one’s ever going to fulfill 100% of the traits unless you’re seeking a unicorn. At the very least, one should expect somewhere between a 70% or 80%. If done right, much of the time, you should be able to put together an incredible team in your business so you will grow it and rise above and beyond. An effective leader doesn’t operate alone and neither taking all the credit.
On a final note, once ideal candidates are discovered and hired, good leadership and employers perform proper onboarding along with empowering them and providing ongoing training and development.
“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” – Henry Ford
Every business launched should be infinite and earn a profit ─ unless, of course it is a non-profit organization. Profitability has an impact on whether a company can secure financing from a bank or attract investors to fund its operations and grow its business. Continuous prosperity is earned most notably by tightly controlled financial management, including cash flow/liquidity, a methodical and lean operation, and a policy with emphasis on employee, vendor, as well as on a customer focused environment.
However, many businesses are not earning a decent profit margin or produced one for some time. Those companies are at a stage where they can be profitable anytime, but they prefer to invest money back into the company to keep the growth steady. However, there are also scores of them where they cannot survive without external debt or they are operating at a highly unsustainable business model such as selling merely on price with no unique selling proposition (USP) and instead, paying more attention at how fast they are growing.
How much profit should a business be earning?
A decent margin will vary considerably by industry and size of business, but as a general rule of thumb, a 10% net profit margin is considered average, a 20% margin is considered high, and a 5% margin is low. The industries with the highest average profit margins include:
Small to Mid-size Businesses (SMB/SME)
Industries with low profit margins include airlines, grocery stores and automobile dealers as they are typical examples of low-margin businesses. Capital and labor intensive industries usually have low profit margins, due to massive investments with a low return or a long term return (ROI).
For a complete list of industries and average profit margins click here.
Popular newer companies with high values but no profit
Some notable relatively young companies across the tech and lifestyle sectors such as Airbnb, Uber, Wayfair and Peloton, to name a few, have yet to break even since their inception despite the justification for high valuations which are generally around the future prospect of earnings, among other factors. All highly hyped start-ups had great stories of scale, regardless of whether their stories have yet turned-out as predicted. In fact, many are actually losing millions every year during the first decade (think Amazon). Reasons for not making any profit include, in part, a large investment in sales and marketing, product development, technology and operations. Some are less efficient with scale. Consequently, to make money, they will need to re-engineer their business model and manage costs from running far ahead of revenues.
How to restore your business gains
There are several measures to take to make certain your business thrives, and profits are frequent, as well as attractive.
As far as many of us know, complacency does not offer any benefits. In fact, it is the enemy of progress and can be the single largest threat to any business. Any rational entrepreneur and business executive who is operating a business, any business, let alone a retail enterprise, should be savvy enough to understand that change is constant. Good times don’t last forever. You would think! Vision, creativity, and an element of innovation are key characteristics of a forward-thinking businessperson. Nothing in the world is static. This applies to business ─ any business. It’s an ongoing process.
What never ceases to amaze me is how at this day and age, you still have retail operators are in denial. They continue to focus on their bricks & mortar stores rather than witness the changes occurring around them in their sector and place additional focus on digital retail. Either stubbornness, short-shortsightedness or both are the culprit.
Legacy retailers embracing online or a hybrid channel
In 2019 more than $3 trillion dollars in global retail was transacted online which mainly comprised both tangible and intangible products including fashion items, airfares & tourism, tech products, books, music, and educational courses. If retailers, even in those sectors, for example, have not yet embraced eCommerce, they may not cease to exist in about 10 years’ time ─ or even sooner! The most successful retailers launched as upstart eCommerce sites rather than legacy bricks & mortar ones who transferred a big chunk of their business transactions online. The former includes Amazon, Wayfair, Zappos and Expedia to name a few prominent ones. Their purchase experience is seamless, their customer experience a delight, and their after sales service unmatched. Plenty of investment and reinvestment of funds in technology has catapulted and kept them in the forefront. The expression, “you snooze, you lose” applies fittingly in this circumstance.
Despite brick and mortar remaining essential to retail, the purpose is evolving into using the stores as a means to attract customers by ways of a “media stage” in terms of experiential marketing, as well as another way to transact sales. Consequently, media is now a cost of sales and rent is now a cost of customer acquisition. This is the new retail business model. The old model relied almost exclusively on advertising to drive consumers to physical stores to purchase goods and/or services. Today, digital media and online sales are the drivers. Customers can purchase online and conveniently, in a timely manner, pick-up their order at one of the closest retail stores. This also saves the customer and retailer shipping costs.
Retailtainment: immersive retail experiences
Retail should be more than just products. It should be experiential, immersive and entertaining. It’s about bringing the products to life around the consumer rather than merely focusing on the features and benefits. With technology these days, it is possible to exploit those possibilities. According to The Freeman Company, 9 in 10 marketers believe that brand experiences provide engagement to that is more compelling for customers. EventTrack reports that 91% of consumers feel more positively towards brands after participating in events and experiences.
Experiential retail, or as it’s now coined as, Retailtainment is a marketing concept introduced by American sociologist George Ritzer in 1999. He defined it as “the use of sound, ambience, emotion and activity to get customers interested in the merchandise and in the mood to buy.” This translates to retail brands providing customers with fun, unique and in-person experiences that elevate shopping to new heights. This desirable retail experience can surely drive more traffic and as a result increase sales.
Examples of retailers who have implemented the Retailtainment concept in their stores include:
This is a narrative-driven retail experience by the American department store, Macy’s, in partnership with brands like MAC Cosmetics, Crayola, Levi’s Kids and more than 70 other small businesses. STORY initially started as a unique retail store who operated on the idea of renewing its stock according to different themes every few months. Themes like ‘Love’, ‘Remember When’ and ‘Holidays’ acted as guidelines for every new wave of products. After seven years in business, STORY was acquired by Macy’s in 2018 and relaunched as STORY at Macy’s since then.
The upscale cosmetics brand recently hosted their first Power of Night pop-up event at the Visual Arts Centre in Singapore. The focus of the event was on the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum, a beauty favorite in Singapore to rejuvenate skin and boost complexion hydration levels. The brand took an interactive approach to educate guests about how modern life affects our skin and what the relation is between sleep and skincare while providing entertainment through a series of recreational activities aligned with the theme.
The French luxury fashion manufacturer, Hermès, launched the Carré Club much to the entertainment of glamorous Hollywood. The studio space located in Chelsea housed eight of Hermès’s talented crafters where their skills were put on display, allowing visitors a behind-the-scenes peak of the brand’s manufacturing magic. The New York club was only open for a limited period, but this pop-up concept is making its way across major cities like Toronto, Singapore, Los Angeles and Milan. The entire experience of the Carré Club screams exclusivity, treating every guest like a VIP client. The limited installments only add to the charm of temporary luxury.
In the end
Today and moving forward, retail physical stores are meant as a media stage and physical exposure at the “right” locations, whereby customers can make timely and convenient pick-up purchases ordered/purchased online. The stores should also consider designing them with the goal of providing an unconventional experience to its shoppers. The main goal here is not necessarily to sell products, but rather to make the shopping experience immersive and improve the brand image.
A business invests time, resources and money building a brand over the years. Its image and reputation are sensitive matters which should be kept top of mind as they form perceptions on the mind of the consumer. This in turn drives revenues and noteworthy profits. Thus, it goes without saying that a brand is core to a company’s success. Moreover, the leadership behind it should be making methodical decisions to retain the brand’s reputation through diligent decisions and actions. Surprisingly, this is not always the case with some brands ─ primarily the people behind it, the brand custodians, along with their organizational culture.
So, What Gives?
The main reasons why a company may be neglecting its brand image includes:
Classic Cases of Greed, Over-exposure, and Negligence
Pierre Cardin: When the late 98-year-old fashion designer with the eponymous name passed-away, he left behind a legacy mixed with unique creativity, yet his name was overexposed on hundreds of products, from accessories to home goods. From an icon to a blemished brand whose prestige waned to oblivion. For over seven decades, he designed unique and unconventional clothes which pushed the boundaries of the acceptable. For example, he introduced his “bubble dress,” a short-skirted, bubble-shaped dress made by bias-cutting over a stiffened base. He would experiment with synthetic materials such as vinyl, and Plexiglas among other avant-garde textiles. He also introduced unisex fashion which were indistinguishable between man and woman.
Later, Pierre Cardin developed licensing agreements with several industries which put his brand name on a vast number of consumer goods, including cosmetics, pens, even cigarettes. He once amused that, if given the opportunity, he may even put his name on a roll of toilet paper. As a result of his practice, he eventually cheapened his brand despite the wealth it afforded him. The overall effect of making Pierre Cardin appear on a variety of items was solely to make habitually non-fashionable products appear high-end.
By the mid 1990’s with about 904 licenses globally, his licensing overexposure led to the devaluation of the brand. In 2011, he attempted to sell his business. Despite discussions with several potential investors, he did not succeed in that endeavor.
So why did Pierre Cardin chase money to the detriment of his brand? He answered this question while defending his strategy by stating: “I don’t want to end up like Balenciaga and die without a nickel — then, 20 years after I’m dead, see others make a fortune from my name.“
The moral of the story is that a fashion icon brand which wanted to exploit its reputation and expand beyond its in-house offerings, required a strategy of licensing with a selective and discerning manner.
Donald J. Trump and the family owned Trump Organization: The former US President and once renowned NYC Real Estate developer went from a hyped-up and aspiring luxury lifestyle brand to one presently looked-upon with disdain. He spent four years treating politics, diplomacy, the climate, and the well-being of his people as trivial matters, and in the process, alienated more than half-the country’s voters. The final nail in the coffin was the backlash from the Capital riot that he incited on January 6th, 2021. Timothy O’Brien, Bloomberg opinion columnist and the author of Trump Nation, on MSNBC News declared: “Trump’s brand is associated with violence, insurrection and hatred.” The headline in an Ad Week January 8, 2020 article, states: “Exclusive: Trump’s Name, Once a Brand, Is Now a Banner of Extremism.”
According to several people close to him, winning the Presidency to the WH in 2016 came unexpectedly to Donald J. Trump. He wasn’t quite up to the task for the job, other than the prestige and power bestowed upon him. While moonlighting as President of the US, Trump spent four years destroying two brands: his own and his Republican party’s. Consequently, banks, business partners, his lawyers, and political allies have distanced themselves from the former president. Much of his licensing business, which grew somewhat following the popularity of The Apprentice TV show, has reached a low point since he became president.
Outright Reject Creating Scams and Malfeasance
Moreover, as anyone who maintains an element of morals and ethics in the business world will acknowledge, scams and malfeasance are not a good brand-building strategy. Consider the extinct Trump University: an online education scam, the Trump Foundation: a scam-packed philanthropy, and Trump Network: a multi-level marketing and devious organization.
What Can You Do to Preserve Your Brand Reputation?
Finally, avoid being entangled with religion, politics or any other sensitive subject and institutions.
Complacency and insensitivity in your business should, by all means, be avoided let alone developing and retaining a stellar brand reputation.
Those, like myself, who are drawn to the discipline of “leadership” have read our share of articles, research papers and oodles of third-party opinions on the subject matter. However, most if not all of us, will agree that the definition arrives at the same conclusion: Leadership is a skill and talent, mainly by an individual, to lead, motivate, influence other individuals, teams, and entire organizations to act toward achieving a common goal. In business, this implies directing colleagues and workers with a strategy to meet the company’s attainable goals and objectives.
For leadership to possess credibility, it must earn three sacred principles: Truth, Trust and Transparency plus an additional and equally important one ─ Teamwork. These elements will be expounded below.
Regardless of leadership style applied, the four T’s presence are not to be discounted.
Without going much into detail on the eight leadership styles, as this subject is an article or book unto itself, its effectiveness is summarized in the following table:
|Leadership Style||Commonly Effective||Occasionally Effective||Rarely Effective|
The four T’s of leadership
The four “T’s” are considered the cornerstone to a leadership’s personality and long-term success. Those skills are all within reach and should be brought to the top of a leadership personality.
Truth: Lack of truth expressed in any organization can take many forms. It could be departments not sharing information because it might put them in a bad situation with peers or it could be information not reaching a manager because no one wants to pass-on any bad news. Leaders need to know the truth to make intelligent business decisions and the employees at all levels should know the truth to do their jobs effectively.
Trust: Without trust, a leader will not succeed instigating a productive team culture. Moreover, the most important attribute building trust is transparency. Leaders build up their team members’ trust by communicating transparently and truthfully – in other words, by being trustworthy. In addition to the importance of team members trusting their boss, it is essential that supervisors also trust their direct reports and facilitate their success by creating the conditions for it.
Transparency: A recent Forbes poll revealed that 50% of employees think their organizations were held back by a lack of transparency. When an individual or an organization is transparent, there are no hidden agendas and no information is being kept from people who need to know it. Transparency also promotes recognition of common goals. This is important because you are not stating one thing while covertly trying to achieve something else. Trust and transparency go hand-in-hand because transparency builds trust.
Teamwork: Teamwork is critical to success in any effort. Excellent leadership requires inspiring the people around them by empowering them, by enabling them to contribute their expertise as a collective and cohesive team, and ultimately trusting them. Teamwork and leadership in tandem are important because they provide clarity for your team and have a direct impact on the vision of the company and its results.
The way these principles need to be applied will vary with each circumstance. However, the principles themselves remain the same. Therefore, leaders can and should apply these principles in an adaptable way.
Leaders must create the conditions in their organization to succeed, as well as trust their colleagues and workers to do so, and verify that they have done so ─ by keeping in consideration the proverb, “Trust but verify.” By applying the principles of trust, truth, transparency and teamwork, leaders will help ensure their teams’ success. I realize that helping others grow brings me fulfillment. I see how being an educator, mentor or coach and an advisor, as well as an employer are rewarding roles for me.
To begin the new year, I have once again rounded up the ten most read/popular articles — this time for 2020. The following ten captured the most attention by numbers and from 152 countries in all. See them all below!
Your views are always encouraged including subject matter you think I should be covering more of.
THANK YOU for your readership and I look forward to feeding your mind with additional practical business food for thought this year which can be applied for timely results.
Businesses usually focus on three types of capital such as Financial, Human and Intellectual but you rarely hear about a fourth one ─ Trust Capital. This is when a business and its brand possess honesty and considered trustworthy by its clients, employees and stakeholders. A brand is mainly a symbol, mark, logo, name, word, and/or sentence that companies use to distinguish their product from others. However, it is a person’s perception of a product, service, experience, and/or organization which matters a great deal. For those reasons, a brand is considered a promise which is a value or experience a company’s customers can expect to receive every single time they interact with that company ─ also known as touch points. The more a company can deliver on that promise, the stronger the brand value in the mind of customers and employees.
Defining each business capital
Financial Capital can be defined as an investment asset whose value is derived from a contractual claim of what they represent. These are liquid assets as the economic resources or ownership can be converted into something of value, known as cash, financial instruments or securities. It is liquidity available its disposal to operate efficiently.
Human Capital, also known as human resources and manpower among other organizational division names/designations used, is the group of people who work for or are qualified to work for an organization—the “workforce.” Human Capital or “people talent” helps creates economic wealth for the business. Human capital also includes assets like education, training, intelligence, skills, health, and other things employers value.
Intellectual Capital also known as “IP” refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable a business or individuals to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.
As for Trust Capital, it is an intangible asset whereby confidence in the leadership, integrity, credibility and responsibility of a business to deliver its promises to its customers, employees and its stakeholders exists. Trust capital is what the business utilizes during a setback or crisis when it needs to defend itself in an unfortunate and unexpected circumstance. The trust capital the business has built over time can help to weather the crisis of character.
Additionally, some of the most important traits your customers associate with your brand are honesty and trustworthiness. Consequently, presenting a brand that is honest and trustworthy can make it easier to gain and retain your customers. It is something that takes time and plenty of effort to build but can also be scarred overnight.
Ways to build Trust Capital
1. Adopt a Trust Agenda within the organization, led by top management. Build a strong corporate brand with leadership, credibility, integrity and responsibility at the heart of its organizational values and behaviors. Do not just making empty promises. Failing to match behavior and expected results with merely talk results in loss of credibility and trust.
2. Recognize that trust is not the same as reputation – both are equally important and should be treated so. Reputation is the backward-facing evaluation of past experiences with a company or brand. Trust is the forward-facing evaluation of consumer expectations of future experiences.
3. Focus on customization and personalization but know your limits. Trust plays an important role in both. The more a consumer trusts a brand, the more the consumer will share, and then the more personal a brand can be. Differentiate between customization and personalization.
4. Acknowledge that every consumer is value conscious and that consumers determine value, not companies. Value as perceived by consumers is what matters. All consumers want to think of their purchase of a product or service as a good, fair value. Best value is more than merely low price, nowadays it is the total customer experience and how a brand makes them feel.
5. Create brand attributes. Those attributes are what you want to share with your customers. Part of discovering your brand attributes is also defining a brand tone. Every communication you have with your customers should display your brand attributes and tone. These communications should include website content, FAQ page language, and social media posts. What differentiates your brand? It can make a huge difference in how much information customers will trust your company with.
In addition, consider ways to build customer confidence by:
In the end
The four Cs to build organizational value are Financial, Intellectual, Human and Trust. Many companies focus on the 3Cs of Capital, Financial Capital, Intellectual Capital and Human Capital. Now, they must add a fourth C, Trust Capital. Trust Capital creates value for the organization and helps protect the business when there is a credibility issue or a crisis. Trust Capital takes time to build but can be destroyed very quickly. Senior Management/Executives must think of themselves as the organization’s ‘Chief Trust Officer’. Trust is earned over a long term. However, trust can be lost quickly. Facebook, We Work, Boeing and VW are good examples of how trust can dissipate over short sighted decisions and/or poor corporate decisions. How management behaves after a crisis is critical because actions speak louder than words. However, if a brand has plenty of prior trust capital, it can eventually help stabilizes and return the situation to their trusted relationships with customers, employees and stakeholders.
Diffusion of Innovation is a theory which explains how, why, and at what rate new ideas, including technology, spread. The concept was conceived by Everett Rogers, a professor of communication studies, which also inspired his book “Diffusion of Innovations” first published in 1962. It is considered one of the oldest theories in social science. Professor Rogers popularized the use of this premise with the intention of explaining how over time an idea or product gains momentum and grows in use and popularity among a specific population. Consequently, Diffusion is the process by which an Innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system.
What is it?
Diffusion research examines how ideas are spread among groups of people and focuses on the conditions that increase or decrease the prospect that a new idea, an innovation, product or practice, will be embraced by a certain population or society. This concept ought to be taken in consideration when launching a new product if it is to succeed because no matter how good and innovative a new product is, it is very likely that a few people will adopt it just because it is new or novel. The initial trend of those who adopt the change or innovation are called the “Innovators.” They represent about 2.5% of the population.
The next level and surge of people represents about 13% who will adopt an innovation, and these are referred to as the “Early Adopters.” Beyond these first two waves is the next portion of the population who represent the tipping point for a system. The tipping point is the moment of truth, the breaking point, and highlight. These are not the easy ones, as the law of diffusion of innovation tells us that you have to comprise between 15% and 18% of a population to accept an idea before you hit the important tipping point. That said, you must get past the first wave of Innovators and Early Adopters so as to accomplish the tipping point. Within the organization, according to Simon Sinek, author of five books, including ‘Start With Why’ and ‘The Infinite Game’: “If you are trying to get employees to embrace a new direction or innovation, it is even more crucial to engage people in the why of the initiative and not just the how.
Why is this beneficial?
The Diffusion of Innovation theory benefits marketers by helping them understand how trends occur. Moreover, it benefits companies in assessing the likelihood of success or failure of their new product or service.
How is it applied?
For starters, it is essential to determine where the majority of the target audience falls as this will indicate their key motivators. Those insights will help determine how the product is marketed toward them.
1. Innovators: Innovators are a minor group of people that constantly explore new ideas including technology products. These are the people who are influential and responsible for the creation of products that will then go through diffusion of adoption.
2. Early Adopters: Early adopters are considered as opinion leaders or influencers. They are open minded to change, and often share positive testimonials and feedback about innovations that have left them satisfied, as well as feedback regarding how new products could be improved.
3. Early Majority: People that fall in the early majority category of adoption are basically followers of the early adopters. They take the opinions of the early adopters seriously. As a result, they are likely to perform behaviors such as reading reviews prior to purchasing a product.
4. Late Majority: People in the late majority category of adoption are the skeptical ones who are not very familiar or comfortable with change. Quite often, those in this late majority category will only accept new products or innovations when they begin to feel pressure from those around them making them feel as if they would be left behind if they do not embrace the new products or innovations.
5. Laggards: They are the most conservative of the bunch. They only embrace new products or innovations when there is no alternative to doing so and often are persuaded to accept by facts found through their own research and reading reviews. Another common motivator for this group is the pressure felt by the other adopter groups.
If you are launching a new product, such as software, you can use the Diffusion of Innovation concept to help you identify the most ideal marketing strategy and approach for each group/category. Although the Adoption theory is beneficial when looking at new product launches, it can be equally useful when launching existing products or services into a new market.
The diffusion of innovation is important to marketers and innovators because it considers adoption in context of a larger social system. The first two groups on the diagram (the “Innovators” and the “Early Adopters”) are the only ones willing to accept the risk of purchasing a product first, whereas, the other/subsequent groups are willing to wait and have others they trust try it first prior to making a purchase commitment themselves.
Sources: Rogers, E.M. (1976). New Product Adoption and Diffusion. Journal of Consumer Research. (March). p290-301.
How often do you come across a company, either as a consumer or at a business relationship level, and realize how frustrating it is to deal with?
To understand and penetrate the corporate governing structure and “culture”, you need look no further than the upper echelon of the hierarchical tree. It is here that procedural decisions are shaped and executed. An entity’s leadership is expected to head the enterprise by governing its long-term growth and sustained wealth.
Moreover, there is a constant search for the “right” human resources. Recruited and fresh talent must resemble the leadership in tone and style. Call it the organization’s DNA. Exceptional organizations are good at these types of corporate strategies, thus strengthening performance effectively.
We notice that in certain types of B2B transactions, there can be scope for unscrupulous behavior. One or both parties are tempted by “disservice” during their business exchange. Shortsightedness might lend itself to make this underhanded approach appear “profitable” on paper. Such relationships inevitably end badly because they are not conceived with trust or respect.
Success Breeds Success
Companies that foster the right attitudes and strategies put the firm on track for success. Examining their corporate histories, you can witness a trajectory of growth. They have a tendency to dominate their markets and “win” through competent talent, innovation, and an entrepreneurial mindset within the leadership at the executive level. These choices underscore the prosperity and rapid growth of the institution. An examination of Alphabet (Google) or Facebook shows this quite nicely. They are not built like “traditional” corporations nor do they act like them.
Organizational leadership is accountable for creating value for customers, employees and its owners/investors. When Bill Gates conceived Microsoft, he put the firm on track for providing constituent audiences with what nobody else could provide. Understanding “asset” management in an expanded meaning of the term guaranteed that Microsoft would succeed under Gates stewardship.
The opposite is equally true. When top executives lack knowledge or experience for board positions, they should not be promoted to these leadership roles. Some family owned firms run afoul here and this brings up the issues of sustainability and corporate governance. Another weakness in running an organization, in my view, is pushing for short-term profitability at the expense of solid planning. For example, with large organizations, competence is not the primary value but rather connections, politics, and clever tactics. Such “benefits” can usually compensate for incompetence.
No business can continue to prosper unless it attracts fresh and eager talent. Despite the dilemmas within the financial world, top organizations consistently lure new talent with lucrative compensation packages. It is easier for a firm such as Goldman to tap the “best” because of its reputation, size and success than a small local financial player. When Goldman recruits they know where to look, whether it is Harvard or the London Business School. Prospects will already contain the seeds of the corporate culture in their past. Given the “right” conditions, new talent blossoms. Qualifications are never enough. They are a starting point reinforced by attitude and values. The selection and screening process is designed by HR to weed out inappropriate candidates.
Established software companies’ interview process include quizzing candidates with challenging technical questions. This practice not only assesses problem-solving and knowledge ability, but also explores the ability to perform under pressure, which is a key skill required for software engineers to succeed in their intense work environment.
One thing is firmly certain ─ the best-managed companies have “one” factor in common:
They are constant achievers in their respective industries. These companies exude managerial excellence. Financial performance is the result of this style of management. Consider companies such as Amazon, Apple and Cisco, among others, which thrive and ranked in 2019 by the Drucker Institute as America’s largest publicly traded companies according to Peter Drucker’s principles of effectiveness—“doing the right things well.”
Deeds Not Slogans
Companies with inept leadership usually fail in the first year or two, but even established companies can stumble badly when they outgrow the capabilities of the founding team. Research by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates that nearly 6/10 businesses shut down within the first 4 years of operation.
To be a successful entrepreneur is not an effortless task. It takes plenty of sacrifice. A new generation of young entrepreneurs think the road is smooth and a fast track to easy wealth. Not everyone will become Jeff Bezos. Obstacles and sacrifice are part of the deal. Harnessing opportunity and overcoming challenges daily to top the competition is constant work. These conditions are true no matter what the sector of business engagement or company size.
Telltale signs of weak organizations can be traced to inept leadership. The following points highlight the deficiencies:
• Poor customer service – slow or no customer inquiry replies – abysmal handling of sales and service complaints. Service is portrayed as a reward, not a right or benefit.
• No Unique Selling/Value Proposition – Companies need to define and articulate their unique value proposition and deliver on it consistently. Create the platform for sustainable and competitive advantage.
• Operational deficiencies – various ailments and no structure
• Absence of or very little communication among staff and management – Divisions aren’t well-coordinated and do not function as a team.
• No transparency – There is hardly any openness from management.
• Unethical practices – short-term selfish objectives in search of market share. Top executives should promote social norms and principles as moral agents.
• Lack of proper execution of decisions and with new products/services.
• Productivity incentives should be implemented to boost results and employee morale. People must be given a reason to work hard and be efficient.
• Creativity is practically non-existent – An absence of innovation and employee empowerment will hurt progress and stifle new ideas.
• No clear vision/strategy – there needs to be a strategic vision that reflects a truly unmet need and has the commitment of a dedicated CEO. That means that there is a well-defined target audience with a distinct value position that is differentiated, meaningful, and deliverable.
• A weak sales force along with an unattractive compensation plan.
• Favoring nepotism and bias – promoting family members over other qualified employees often leads to resentment or, worse, prompts valuable non-family employees to leave the company.
• Poor hiring practices – should hire for attitude and train for skills.
• Slow/delayed decision-making process – too many layers – overwhelming bureaucratic structure.
• High turnover, which leads to poor employee morale, reduced intellectual capital, lower service levels, higher operational costs and decreased productivity.
• Management in a state of denial about their organization’s shortcomings – remaining with the dysfunctional status quo
• No specific and/or stable channel strategy – Some companies focus on building a product, but don’t think through how to get it into the hands of customers. Even if your product is great, unless you can sell directly, you may be dead in the water without strong channel partners.
• The hidden game – corporate politics – power plays by a handful of individuals for their own benefit to the detriment of their colleagues and the company.
• Misrepresentation of brand(s) – too much hype – empty promises – not delivering on expectations – leads to dissatisfied clients who will alienate the brand.
• Weak financial controls – cash flow dilemmas – over leveraged/undercapitalized (high debt-to-capital ratio) – not reinvesting a certain percentage of profits for future growth.
• Absence of sound marketing program(s) and/or brand strategy – A brand is defined by how it behaves, from the products it builds to how it treats its customers, to the suppliers with whom it works.
• Growing too fast and not staying on course as the company grows.
• Lack or very little employee training & development.
• Deficient in control systems – reactive rather than pro-active.
• Lack of continuous improvements or complacent.
Top executives need to be accountable to the ownership or Board of Directors – whichever applies, or at least to an outside arm’s length and neutral party such as an adviser who can also play “devil’s advocate” when necessary.
Good Organizations Matter
The way to solve an organizational problem is to confront the structural issues with a moral sense of purpose and ethics. For its clients to receive stellar service, the firm must have its house in order. Besides structure and an efficient operation, employees should be trained and empowered to do their jobs efficiently.
Seth Godin, a renowned marketing strategist, stated succinctly: “If you want to build a caring organization, you need to fill it with caring people and then get out of their way. When your organization punishes people for caring, don’t be surprised when people stop caring. When you free your employees to act like people (as opposed to cogs in a profit-maximizing efficient machine) then the caring can’t help but happen.”
Companies that disrespect their employees and shut-out clients get willfully isolated and have a short life span through an erosion of market share and significant loss of revenue. A company’s goal should place emphasis on serving its people properly and fairly. Higher morale generates higher profits – though occasionally other priorities hinder that objective, for example, self-serving behavior by certain executives.
Enterprises spanning a wide array of industries, have earned distinction as “well-” or “best-” managed” by demonstrating business excellence through a meticulous and independent process that evaluates their management abilities and practices – by focusing on innovation, continuous training, brainstorming and caring for their employees’ well-being – as well as investing in meeting the needs of their clients.
In a nutshell: Well-run companies thrive no matter what by hiring the right people, taking good care of them, listening to customers and never ceasing to innovate and improve.
When you visit your local Porsche dealership be prepared to engage. Staff will talk to you about the total experience. This will invariably include discussing the firm’s racing pedigree and performance. In your
mind, you will be able to feel the steering wheel, smell the leather seats, and hear the roar of the engine. This car represents to you an exclusive club and you desire to be part of the privileged few. The brand also added its own private race tracks in several parts of the world for its customers to have exhilarating moments testing various models. Clearly, one does not buy a Porsche simply to go from point A to point B. In practice, you might use this care to commute to work, but this is not the incentive to purchase a piece of automobile and racing history.
Porsche is clearly a brand with authenticity and heritage. The principles shaping the consumer’s buying behavior go beyond intention. There is a sense of engagement in fulfilling a dream. It can be to make
a social status statement or a personal style choice. Whatever it is, it is not an unconscious choice. The codifiers are clear: This is who I am, and what I believe in. Ultimately, it can also articulate your sense of
self-worth and your emotional aspirations.
The most important emotional benefit in my view is that a product of this caliber and class expresses itself when the consumer can declare, “It suits my lifestyle.”
Lifestyle Brands Matter
Not every brand is a lifestyle brand regardless of whether it strives to portray itself as such. A company can define itself as a lifestyle brand when its products promote more than a product with key benefits and
attributes. Note however that lifestyle branding is more than just promoting “a way of life”. It is a product or service that provides consumers with an emotional attachment to the lifestyle of the brand. Think of Ralph Lauren and you can readily see it is not about the clothes. It becomes an attachment like Porsche to an exclusive club in which you can be a member through emotional identification through use of the products in question.
Savvy companies understand these principles and look to keep the customer engaged. By doing so, they clearly forge the sort of long term relationships, which become the envy of their designated sector. Financial benefits clearly follow, but the raison d’être of the firm must back up its promotion for this to work effectively. One reason so many firms want to enter the lifestyle arena is profitability and high profit margins. Established brands can tap economies of scale when they launch new products at a cheaper cost to the firm. Surplus revenue can then be channeled into extensive advertising and promotion costs.
Building a Lifestyle Brand
Generally speaking, a brand that is designed for the lifestyle segment should have more emotional value to consumers. Features, cost, and benefits do play a role but by themselves they would be insignificant. There are companies that become a lifestyle brand by tying their product ranges to a distinctive culture or group. Marketing guru, Seth Godin labels this with the key word as a “tribe”. A classic case is Harley Davidson, who sells branded merchandise to customers whether or not they own one of the firm’s motorcycles. Other key lifestyle brands include Nike, Wholefoods, Red Bull, Hackett, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton among others.
In the electronics and computer industries, it is uncommon to have lifestyle products. However, Apple has broken this “glass ceiling” by its unconventionality with products which come with its seamless eco-system. Even its ubiquitous white headphones have become a fashion accessory and, some would even argue, a status symbol. The people who follow Apple and its “lifestyle” are clearly all obsessed in a way that the firm intended when it embarked on this well-thought-through strategy.
Lifestyle brands have clearly impacted on luxury brand management. The usual suspects such as BMW, Armani, W Hotels, and Rolex — just to name a few, have fostered commitment and loyalty with their promotional campaigns. These have given consumers an “associate” status with all that is glamorous. Just think of Daniel Craig and James Bond. Sales at Omega thrive on this “Bond engagement”.
The methods to reach a target audience require an integrated marketing/communication strategy. They clearly require taking into consideration and harmonizing the following aspects:
• Experiential Marketing;
• Grassroots marketing;
• Promotional tours;
• Sponsorship of lifestyle events;
• Lifestyle marketing on the Web: think Facebook;
• Viral video marketing;
• Social media/networking (blogs, chat rooms & message boards);
• “Interactive” is key;
• Mobile phone media, text messaging & applications.
Not Every Brand Can be a “Lifestyle”
New research from Kellogg at Northwestern finds that the strategy of traditional brands to reposition themselves as a “lifestyle” brand may fail. The reason is not rocket science: they simply fail to “bond” with
their customer base. “The open vistas of lifestyle branding are an illusion,” said Alexander Chernev, lead author of the study and Associate Professor of Marketing at Kellogg. “By switching to lifestyle positioning, brands might be trading the traditional in-category competition for even fiercer cross-category competition. Now they have to compete not only with their direct rivals but also with brands from unrelated categories.”
The study reveals how brands serve as a means of self-expression along with the limitations of expressing a consumer’s identity through brands. Moreover, the study uncovers customers’ desire for self-expression through brands is finite.
Forward-thinking brands are those which will continue to develop creative ideas and solutions that will allow people to interact with each other and explore, as well as share creative opportunities. Moreover,
those same brands will make it a strategic priority to add pleasure into the lives of their consumers.
To be sure, there are many excellent examples of lifestyle branding. Just examine the “hotel as lifestyle” creator, Ian Schrager. Since the 1970’s, as an entrepreneur, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of
Ian Schrager Company, he has achieved international recognition for concepts that have revolutionized both the entertainment and hospitality industries.
His passionate commitment to the modern lifestyle has been expressed through a series of pioneering concepts:
The hotel is no longer just a place to sleep. It is portrayed as your home away from home. This allows hotels to act like theater. Think of the boutique hotel or “cheap chic”, “lobby socializing”, the resort, or the spa.
His keen instincts for the mood and feel of popular culture were honed during the 1970s and 1980s, when he and his late business partner, Steve Rubell, created Studio 54 and Palladium. In 1984, they turned their attention to Morgan’s Hotel and introduced the concept of “boutique hotel” to the world, which is today one the hottest segments in hospitality.
The goal of a lifestyle brand is to get people to relate to one another through a “concept brand.” These brands successfully sell identity, image and status rather than a “product-service” in the traditional meaning of
If they are successful in capturing their audience, then they become legends in their own right. If you examine the published photographic testament to “Il Pelicano” in Tuscany you will understand perfectly the meaning of the lifestyle branding spirit.
Why are visually appealing products rare which make purchasing it a delight and worth talking about? Common sense dictates that product design should be attractive – perhaps possess sex appeal if the brand behind its product(s) seeks to make a sales impact. Although beauty is subjective, there are common standards of attractive packaging, which are smart and demonstrate the intrinsic value of the product’s attributes.
However, many will agree that smart design looks timeless, expresses character and is visually seductive.
Barring lingerie labels such Victoria’s Secret (now defunct) or Agent Provocateur – which in and of themselves will ooze with sexiness, most other brands and their products from non-seductive sectors can still create and possess a sense of styling along with desire.
A brand that caters to all the senses, begins with an appealing brand identity, followed by creative industrial design of its products – which are complemented with a positive customer experience in every touch point.
Artfully articulating what your brand and offering represent
Adding personality to objects and human interaction are quintessential to customer envy and desire.
There are brands that design and churn sensuous looking products. However, there is one that most will agree is top of mind for the refined consumer electronics market –- Apple. It’s all about the appealing logo, the attractively designed and “feel good” products, the alluring packaging, the intriguing ads, and the overall positive customer experience at their retail level, Needless to say, it’s a contemporary brand that undoubtedly gets it. It’s no wonder it created a strong following, or as marketing maven Seth Godin would describe as a “tribe.”
When consumers are delighted by a particular brand experience, they begin to bond emotionally with the brand. They become brand loyalists and advocates – buying into the brand repeatedly and recommending it to others. This behavior serves to build the brand’s image and reputation.
Product design is key to a great brand. Design is the elemental differentiator with competitors. Allure builds the emotional bond and turns owners into enthusiasts.
“It’s all about integrating design and brand,” says Joe Doucet, founder of Joe Doucet Studio.
“We need to cease thinking of them as different disciplines. The essence of the Apple brand comes through its design. Take the logo off a BMW and you still know it’s a BMW.”
Design also needs to be part of the strategic plan from the start, embraced by the CEO and across the Board.
“A brand is not your logo or ID system,” says Robert Brunner, founder of the design shop Ammunition and author of ‘Do You Matter: How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company.’
“It’s a gut feeling people have about you. When two or more people have the same feeling, you have a brand. You get that feeling via smart design, which creates the experiences people have with the brand. Everything you do creates the brand experience; ergo design is your brand.”
The holistic approach to customer attraction and retention
Consumers today are more brand conscience, yet there are companies which continue to spend money advertising and selling product rather than brand. They place emphasis on price and quality as differentiators despite these two being overused by many copycats. Successful brands take a holistic approach to selling by exploiting the 5 senses which now constitute the brand. This is accomplished by what I regard as “ambiance marketing” and “sensory/sensorial branding”, through a captivating designed setting, yet alluring. This adds character and invites clients to truly feel the brand experience.
To put the aforementioned into perspective, consider the following:
Creativity, quality, storytelling and above all, customer experience
Standard products and mundane user experiences don’t offer compelling reasons for consumers to do business with certain brands. If a business can’t articulate its USP (unique selling proposition) ‒ as to why anyone should do business with your brand, your product and/or service merely becomes a “commodity” whose price will be the sole determinant in any transaction. Being formidable and considered top of mind in your B2C sector requires a philosophy – a certain culture which will develop a following by consumers who share your values.
Quality materials, assembly and final product look increase a company’s competitiveness. The quality of a product may be defined as “its ability to fulfil the customer’s needs and expectations”. If the characteristics and specifications of a brand’s product line are equal or superior to its competitors, along with a fair price-value equation, the brand will turn out to be a preferred choice.
Storytelling, on the other hand, builds relationships by the stories that are well told. Stories add personality and authenticity to products which customers can better relate to and feel affinity with. Luxury brands tend to boast their pedigree since their discerning clientele desire a deeper level of involvement and understanding of the history and heritage of the brand when it comes to their luxury purchase. This is referred to as “experiential luxury.”
It is essential that the sales professional be product proficient and adept at assisting and guiding the client to the purchase making use of flattery, romance and showmanship. To illustrate, when selling a niche automobile such as a Porsche, the sales consultant can talk about racetracks, describe road-holding capabilities, build-up a fascinating story – after which time he/she can bring-up reliability and the technical details which confirm to the discerning client what he/she is already aware of.
When consumers are delighted by a particular brand experience, they begin to bond emotionally with it. They become brand loyalists and advocates – purchasing the brand more often and recommending it to others. This behavior serves to build the brand’s reputation.
Be first, different & daring – above all, visually stimulating
Plan and execute flawlessly the following to differentiate and develop into, as well as remain an enviable brand through artistic design and function:
– The brand logo and company presentations should possess flair, consistency and be memorable;
– Focus on a specific target audience/niche market rather than divert to several markets or the general population;
– Innovative and “feel good” product design (both visually and tactile): Get inspired by designs from Philippe Starck, Pininfarina, Porsche Design and Bang & Olufsen. Architecture by Frank Gehry and the late Zaha Hadid and automobile design trends by Audi, Tesla, and in the last few years, Hyundai with its entire model makeup. Kohler Group doesn’t simply design functional bathroom and kitchen sinks and faucets, but rather bold designs and technology to an otherwise lackluster plumbing product sector.
Perhaps product customization and personalization should be available as an additional offering.
– As for service related domains, place emphasis on employee attitude/personality, empowerment, constant training, effortless accessibility for your clients, flexibility when solving issues and presentations with style, as well as finesse. Each and every customer should be treated with personal care – a sign of individuality;
– The Total Customer Experience: Be easy to do business with – accessible – at every stage of a transaction from initial contact/pre-sale, during the sale and post-sale (follow-through and customer service). Zappos, Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton Hotels and American Express (to name some of the finest examples) are renowned for their obsession with customer service and total customer experience;
– Soothing sounds and striking visuals: Consider sound branding complimented with refined standout visuals (audio, images and video). Surround your brand and its products/services with fashion, beauty, design and attractive models – without any marks of tackiness;
– Packaging design should be visually appealing, distinctive, tastefully decorated, and equally inviting to open.
– Sponsor, collaborate and/or associate with a fashion related brand and/or the arts. Both brands can benefit from combined exposure (PR and advertising). Luxury goods brands such as Versace, Bulgari and Fendi have teamed up with property developers to offer upscale designer hotels. Their trademark at hotel properties, in a select number of affluent cities worldwide, offers their loyal clients something new to get excited about. It’s a collaboration which celebrates a shared fondness in design and luxury experiences.
– Create and own a captivating name and category for your product or product line. Luxottica, is the world’s largest eyewear company, controlling over 80% of the world’s major eyewear brands (eye glasses and prescription frames) including Ray-Ban and Oakley sunglasses, along with Chanel, Prada and many other designer labels. It re-invented eyewear which were once considered a “medical device” and developed them into a fashion statement. They no longer label their products as “glasses” but as “eyewear” and “face jewellery” (for a lack of a better term/descriptive);
– Marketing collateral and ads should be: (i) slick, (ii) minimalistic, (iii) emotional, (iv) portray a lifestyle, and (v) apply the “less is more” mantra. Arouse curiosity. Effective marketing campaigns should also include elements of: Imagination, Mystery and Memory;
– Be a visionary and innovate – anticipate what your sector will look like in 3-5 years and begin to plant the seeds/strategize in a timely manner. Avoid complacency. Blackberry is an excellent case study exemplifying what they should have done a few years ago to remain relevant amongst iPhone and the Android platform smartphones.
Lessons from luxury brands: creating a lifestyle brand through emotional attachment
Brand loyalty is about building an emotional, and in some cases, irrational, attachment in a product. The most ideal example is when thousands of people line-up, regardless of weather conditions, to get their hands on the latest iPhone or iPad. This happens because Apple has built an emotional attachment to their products by creating a lifestyle choice rather than a product purchase.
It’s about how it makes you feel. Same goes for baby boomers, whether accountants or attorneys or business executives who purchase a Harley Davidson motorcycle and ride them for about four or five hours every Sunday afternoon. The bike makes them feel like a rebel – sort of an escape.
A brand that is designed for a lifestyle should have a much higher emotional value to consumers than one based on features like cost or benefits alone. The goal of a lifestyle brand is to become a way that people can utilize it to relate to one another. Those brands are an attempt to sell an identity, or an image, rather than a product and what it actually does.
Lifestyle brands have gained an increased share of the luxury market including prominent brands such as BMW (ultimate driving experience), W Hotels (avant garde designer hotels for a younger audience, along with whatever you want, whenever you want it, as long as it’s not illegal), Louis Vuitton (prestige and opulence), Rolex (representing the pinnacle of achievement; fulfilling and perfection in one’s life) and Aston Martin (power, beauty, soul and heritage). Those brands have given way to consumers to buy their products that they associate with a “luxurious life.” They are essentially a status symbol.
The final take: Elegant & intelligent design
Beauty and design in all things is artistic, engaging, stimulating and creates a sense of comfort. It’s also a very personal thing. Creativity is beauty in art form. It starts from nothing, utilizes mind exploitation, imagination then something awe inspiring is produced which stimulates the mind and senses. The approach to creativity is the way an artist might stand before a new canvas, on which a beautiful painting can be crafted. Staff who work in a creative environment should be given plenty of leeway to utilize their full potential – the freedom to flourish. Not doing so limits their artistic talent and deprives the company from taking a leap at the competition. Apple has successfully unleashed the talent from their product engineers by creating a non-stifling work environment. As for architects and industrial designers, they should definitely possess the talent and imagination to create and turn extraordinary drawings into reality.
Brand loyalty is about building an emotional, and in some cases, irrational, attachment in a product. When Apple releases a new consumer electronic device, people line-up, regardless of weather conditions, to get their hands on the latest iPhone or iPad. This is a result of Apple constantly building an emotional attachment to its products by managing the total user experience.
“Total customer experience” is not an option but rather compulsory as part of an alluring brand. It takes savvy planning, execution and perpetual refinements to stand above the crowd. It’s how you get noticed and remain relevant. Luxury brand desirability is driven by standout design, craftsmanship, as well as what is felt.
It takes vision, creativity and intuition, along with unflagging discipline and a sense of style, to keep a consumer focused company relevant and its products on everyone’s must-have lists. No brand should be complacent.
Whether you own a restaurant, retail, manufacturing or in the services domain, each definitely has its own challenges. However, all have similar things in common including protocols that must be implemented to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as well as cash flow, customer acquisition and marketing issues to deal with to name a few. COVID-19 is a systemic shock for every company around the world. The pandemic has changed not only economies but consumer behaviors and what customers value and demand moving forward. How should a savvy entrepreneur regain his or her best skills and eloquently move forward? There are five recommendations which will be addressed below.
The “new” normal or “next” normal
McKinsey & Co., a renowned business consultancy firm, declares that due to the business disruption caused by Covid-19, regardless of industry and sector, it envisions 7 elements which will be crucial in the shaping of the new normal. This includes:
Don’t panic, reassess and execute
Preparation, agility and resilience are three key ingredients to weathering any business storm with “Threats” in your SWOT analysis. Although Covid-19 has caused more havoc than anyone would not possibly anticipate, for optimists and the determined, it has offered a silver lining in regards to being much better prepared for almost any other peril which comes along in the future.
Cash flow: Since we know that cash is a crucial aspect of any business, a focus should be on price, volume of products or/and services sold, cost of goods sold (COGS) or cost of services rendered, operational expenses, accounts receivable timing, inventory control and turnover, as well as accounts payable terms and payment timing.
New and refined business model and strategy: Get creative and brainstorm different ways you can readapt your business and still deliver your service and/or products, including methods to boost revenues not considered pre Covid-19. For example, dining restaurants and lounge cafes are operating home-delivery and pick-up, as well as downsizing their seating capacity. Other types of businesses are considering mainly online and considering weekly or monthly subscription-style deals and other incentives helps to stay ahead of the competition.
Execution: Once the viable strategy is in place, implementing it requires several variables including: a) Everyone is onboard and constant communication is key; b) Include a timeline to accomplish the tasks; c) Select which ones will create the greatest impact to the goals of the organization; d) Frequently monitor and evaluate ─ verify progress against plan and make any necessary adjustments if necessary.
Finally, don’t leave any strategic planning elements without clear “action steps.”
Growth and innovation: The successful development and implementation of new ideas and refinements is crucial to a business so as to improve its processes, increase its efficiency, introduce/launch new and improved products and/or services to market, in addition to, improving its profitability. Encouraging and brainstorming new ideas, with all staff involved for maximum feedback, is a savvy consideration. Some ideas to consider are: adapting the business to meet changing customer needs, changes that solicit changes due to a “new” normal, and new, refined or discontinued products and/or service offerings.
Use of technology: More than ever before, exploiting technology at your disposal brings an added advantage in running an efficient business, plus navigate the challenges from the contagion and aid their recovery. Businesses should make a mid to long-term plan on technology and digital strategy. For example, process automation can increase efficiency. There are likely to be more opportunities for companies, among others, in sectors such as remote offices, online education, online medical care and online entertainment. However, adopting new digital or mobile payment methods, earning revenue from online sales and using social media for business purposes should be top of mind.
At the end…
John F. Kennedy once stated that “when written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” The assumption is sufficiently genuine: that a calamity presents a choice. This is especially evident today. In business, regardless of industry, alternative yet practical ways to operate exist.
What is for certain, is that the upturn caused by Covid-19 will be a terrific opportunity for growth ─ but only for those who embrace it and make the required and meaningful changes. No one can predict risks such as a pandemic, but it would be foolish to think they, and other types of risks, will not occur and affect them in any way.