Category Archives: cult branding

Lifestyle Branding: Engagement and the Total Experience

By James D. Roumeliotis

How Is Technology Helping Fashion Lifestyle Brands Connect To Their Human  Side

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.

Why Do Some Lifestyle Brands Become A Way Of Life?Fabrik Brands
Credit: Fabrik Brands

In Perspective
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
the term.

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.

________________________________________________________________________

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Filed under 1, ambiance marketing, brand positioning, cult branding, lifestyle branding, lifestyle marketing, luxury lifestyle

The Sensuous Brand: How to create allure with products and user experience

by James D. Roumeliotis  

Sky Vodka - Sexy Brand

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:

  • Visual – lighting, décor, colors, layout…you can get a real sense of movement using these elements.
  • Auditory – music, effects, volume, vibrations…you set the tone and the energy of the room with your sonic selections.
  • Tactile – textures, comfort, climate…this is all about how your guests interact with the environment.  This is a big thing to consider when you are designing the layout.
  • Olfactory  fragrance, emotion, ambiance…this sense is under-rated and powerful. Of all our senses, the sense of smell is most closely linked to emotion and memory. You can use something as simple as burning incense or candles to something far more complex like computer controlled scent machines to enhance your environment. This could just be the extra touch needed to set the mood.
  • Gustative – with food establishments, the challenge is in finding the perfect balance between sour, salty, sweet, and bitter during menu designs and beverage selections.  The presentation also makes an impact on the overall image.

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 StarckPininfarinaPorsche 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.

Hermes Equestrian Fashion Photo

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.

______________________________________________________________

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Filed under 1, Branding, branding not products, Business, cult branding, customer engagement, customer experience, lifestyle marketing, marketing strategy, niche marketing, sexy advertising, Sexy branding, sexy brands, sexy marketing, sexy products, total customer experience

The Authentic Brand: A Precious Asset Developed Through Transparency, Customer Experience and Ultimately, Loyalty

By James D. Roumeliotis

We want transparency in your corporation, not your pants: Why 2013 ...

Trust is a hard thing to come by these days whether between people or between people and brands. When the founders of a start-up build a brand from the ground-up or the executives of an established one are in modus operandi mode, taking a cautious approach to their brand image, in both scenarios, ought to be part of growing and preserving the business with a constant eye on the future.

Sadly, nonsense, and plenty of it from ubiquitous brands, is probably the best noun to describe what consumers are offered by many companies selling their products and services to them. Whether it is advertising, package labeling or an overstated pitch by their sales staff, the information presented may be deliberately misleading. With some brands, it is the tiny print in disclosure statements which defeat what is promised in larger and bold advertising headings. The majority of consumers do not read small footnotes. Think of the worst offenders of this practice: the cellular phone/telecommunication providers, insurance companies, credit card providers, as well as the automobile manufacturer promotional offers and pharmaceutical advertisements – to name a few.

Deception concealed as sincerity: How to chip away at your brand

The key to a successful business growth, along with reputation, is truth in advertising, delivering on promises made, avoiding deceit – and marketing the brand, not the product. Contrary to popular belief, a brand is not a logo, label or product but rather a relationship with customers. It is a promise. Branding, when carefully executed, adds value to a company including brand equity. This is considered intangible brand value. By applying a short-term revenue and profit strategy at the expense of long-term negative consequences, a business’s brand reputation will ultimately lose its luster.

In the 2018 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient®, published the reputations of the 100 most visible companies among the U.S. general public. What appears on the top five, among other notable brands as consumers perceive them, are Wegmans Food Markets, Amazon, Samsung, Costco and Johnson & Johnson respectively.

Consumers have high and explicit expectations from brands, thus anticipate what the brand promises via its marketing material and/or what is stated on the product packaging. What a brand actually delivers and how it behaves in the process is what consumers get to feel.

A brand which utilizes short-term sales and marketing tactics for quick short-term gain fails financially in the long-term by acting in an ethical way. As marketing maven Seth Godin rightfully proclaims, “In virtually every industry, the most trusted brand is the most profitable.” As with our personal lives, trust with branding is based on what one does, not what one says.

Boosting sales and market share via misleading and deceptive tactics

According to a 2018 Harris Poll, regarding the most and least trusted industries, Banks represented 4 of the top 8 companies by trust rating this year, with Supermarkets adding in another two of the top 8. The remaining companies in the top 8 were in the Credit Cards and Insurance industry, such that Supermarkets and Financial Services companies took all of the top 8 spots.

By contrast, TV and Internet Service Providers occupied each of the bottom 4 positions in the rankings, and 7 of the bottom 11 overall.

The food processing domain is no more honest with labels that claim to be healthy but without support with any concrete scientific facts. Food companies tout their devious label claims of organic, nutritious etc. – although an absurd amount of sugar and/or sodium is present in the ingredients along with unnatural artificial ingredients). Kelloggs even went as far as having to be ordered, by the courts, to discontinue all Rice Krispies dubious advertising which claimed to boost a child’s immunity system.

Then there is the “premium” orange juice from popular brands such as Tropicana, Simply Orange and others which are highly processed, and usually stored for several months before reaching consumers at the supermarket fridge aisles. This processing method is used to retain the juice from spoiling. However, during that process, it also strips the flavour which is injected back into the product, once it finally gets packaged, to give the juice its original orange flavour. Not surprisingly, the orange juice producers do not make any reference to this anywhere.

Informative and authentic eye-opener documentaries such as Food Inc. and Tapped have upped the ante in terms of the exposure shared with the public to what is wrong with the food processing/food chain and water bottling sectors respectively. Moreover, the GMO debate with the exceptionally well-connected and deep pocketed Monsanto (the St. Louis-based biotech giant and world’s biggest seed seller) will not be going away any time soon.

Other industries notorious for deceit are banks and cellphone/telecommunication companies with their hidden fees. These blatant revenue generators are sales at any cost – short-term gains, of course. These companies guilty of gouging seem to be testing the limits with consumers – as if the latter are ignorant. Those absurd fees evidently enrage the culprits’ customers.

Employees reflect the brand

First and foremost, trust begins with company employees. If they are well trained and treated with respect and transparency, the employees will trust their employer and radiate their enthusiasm, as well as loyalty to their customers by going the extra mile.

Along with a brand being a valuable asset for any business, people also fit into the equation as an important asset. This is where hiring the right people, on-boarding them, training them adequately and empowering them all create a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

Many brands are myopic to the point that they unintentionally and unknowingly allow their dissatisfied customers to go away without a thought. Front-line staff is either not trained properly and/or lacks the proper attitude to handle clientele appropriately.

During the industrial era, consumers would simply purchase what was produced, shopping where that product was available and paying the price the retailer demanded. In essence, the manufacturer and the store were in position of strength. As products and consumers have changed over the years, the concept of ‘brand loyalty’ and ‘consumer insight’ came about. As we progressed into the new millennium, the transparency and unrestricted information available on the internet has changed all of that. Today consumers are not only better informed but they are also in control. They can make or break a brand through their actions. So what does this say about listening – and acting?

Consumers will no longer refrain from informing companies on what may have gone wrong ─ whether it’s a particular brand or a competitor’s. With the numerous platforms for consumers to make their voices heard online, brands have to be very reactive and not allow anything to chance. In an age when the consumer’s outcries and influences spread quickly, the results can signify lost sales and a deterioration of brand loyalty.

aaa

When all is said and done

Building and nurturing a brand is what makes an enterprise gather wind under its wings. Common intelligence dictates that the way a customer is dealt with reflects on the integrity of the brand, and the image of the company in the mind of the consumer.

A “Brand” is a promise of something that will be delivered by a business. This promise comes in a form of quality, an experience and a certain expectation in the mind of the consumer. It includes the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Marketing, on the other hand, is about spreading compelling messages to your target audience while branding is a combination of words and action. Marketing is extroverted and communicates quickly, while branding is introverted and a slow process if it’s to produce any real impact. Effective marketing activities are vital in developing a brand. When combined successfully, branding and marketing create and promote value, trust, loyalty and confidence in a company’s image, products and services.

According to an Edelman’s Trust Barometer, it was revealed that 77% of respondents refused to buy products from companies they distrusted. More disturbing is that 72% said they had criticized a distrusted company to a friend or colleague.

When customers are treated with honesty and delighted by a particular brand experience, they begin to bond emotionally with the brand. They become brand loyalists and advocates – buying the brand more often and recommending it to others. This behavior serves to build the brand’s reputation. This approach is priceless –even though it may take longer to take positive effect.

___________________________________________________

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Filed under 1, brand equity, brand positioning, Branding, branding not products, Business, business development, business management, Business success, business transparency, business vitality, cult branding, customer engagement, customer experience, customer service, re-branding, rebranding, small business branding, stimulating brands, total customer experience

Forget Price and Bring on The Product Experience: Justifying Price through CX and Value

by James D. Roumeliotis

Image result for customer experience

What is the difference between customer experience (CX) and product experience? The former is the result of every interaction a customer has with your business whereas, the latter is the overall value of the product and/or service provided to customers. Although the product experience is a factor of customer experience, it is mainly achieved through product design and service/product quality control. In both cases, the customer experience and the product experience require a customer-centric mindset and culture within the organization.

The most important elements of the product experience include:

  • Sensory Design/Shape & Form
  • Practicality/Usability
  • Ease of Use
  • Personalization & Customization (products & services)
  • Performance Element
  • Convenience (products and services)
  • Reliable (products and services)
  • Favorable Terms & Conditions (service)
  • Safe to Use/Environmentally Friendly
  • Identity/Social Status & Lifestyle (products and services)
  • Timely (service)
  • Easy to Do Business (products and services)

Customers’ holistic perception of their experience 

Products in the same class-categories struggle to differentiate themselves. Consumers often take brands for granted. Purchases are not so much conscious brand selection as choice by default. The two following examples highlight this. Going out for coffee in North America usually dictates a visit to Starbucks. When water premium bottled water comes to mind, Evian is usually top of mind. Evian’s focus on lifestyle including health and the environment is reflected in the marketing of its products to both women and men, as well as for its tie-in with Wimbledon.

The product and customer experience are the new marketing and competitive battleground. Today, quality of the product or service is not adequate. Consumers prefer to give their hard-earned money to businesses based on the value they receive along with the customer experience. The majority of millennials (72%) seek experiences over material objects and are willing to pay as much as an extra 21% for appositive experience. At Starbucks, people don’t go there only for the coffee, but also for the overall ambiance as a pleasant place to relish. Over the years, McDonald’s overhauled their store interiors for a more refined look, and in 2016, the global restaurant chain introduced digital self-order kiosks and table in order to cut waiting times for customers. As a result, the efforts and investments paid-off as same store sales growth and positive customer feedback increased by early 2018. McDonald’s initiative demonstrated how important responsiveness to customer needs and expectations is. The McDonald’s store upgrade helped differentiate it from a plethora of competitors in the fast food category, that the company is in tune with the times. Consequently, and most importantly, it elevated its overall customer experience.

In the digital age, it’s not enough to simply copy competitors’ products, marketing strategies, and overall business practices to name a few. It’s also not a good idea to merely compete on price alone. Anyone can lower prices. What begs the question is where you draw the line before your profit margins become eroded to the point of no return. Savvy marketers look beyond pricing and product features. Instead, they search for sustained ways to market their brand rather than their product.

Consumers today are also 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:

  • Visual – lighting, décor, colors, layout…you can get a real sense of movement using these elements.
  • Auditory – music, effects, volume, vibrations…you set the tone and the energy of the room with your sonic selections.
  • Tactile – textures, comfort, climate…this is all about how your guests interact with the environment.  This is a big thing to consider when you are designing the layout.
  • Olfactory – fragrance, emotion, ambiance…this sense is under-rated and powerful. Of all our senses, the sense of smell is most closely linked to emotion and memory. You can use something as simple as burning incense or candles to something far more complex like computer-controlled scent machines to enhance your environment. This could just be the extra touch needed to set the mood.
  • Gustative – with food establishments, the challenge is in finding the perfect balance between sour, salty, sweet, and bitter during menu designs and beverage selections.  The presentation also makes an impact on the overall image.

Image result for product experience

Creating a lifestyle brand through emotional attachment

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 such as BMW, Nike, Zappos, Harley Davidson, Aman Resorts, Louis Vuitton and Rolex ‒ just to name a few. These have given way to consumers to buy products that they associate with a “luxurious life.” They are essentially a status symbol.

Combining high-quality products with equally high-quality customer experiences

Customers no longer base their buying decisions and loyalty on price or product. They prefer to do business…and constant repeat business with companies that offer them a holistic experience. This trend illustrates that shopping is not a need-based activity anymore. It’s about new experiences and one of the main reasons why clients keep returning to physical stores instead of only shopping online.

The benefits of delivering a great product, service and customer experience include:

  • increased customer loyalty
  • increased customer satisfaction
  • Increase of brand image and reputation
  • Increase in profit
  • better word-of-mouth marketing, positive reviews, and recommendations — a competitive advantage by converting more consumers with less advertising spend

Online, reviews are one of the best ways to strengthen a brand in the eyes of the potential customer. Therefore, through positive product and customer experience reviews, clients become  part of a company’s marketing team.

Walker study found that by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. This translates to:

  • 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience
  • 73% of buyers point to customer experience as an important factor in purchasing decisions
  • 65% of buyers find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising

Last but not least, think innovation. Almost every innovation implemented improves the way customer’s needs are fulfilled and improves the way they interact with the business. As such, seek customer feedback, understand what features and updates customers seek the most and if viable, implement changes which will yield enhanced results.

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Filed under 1, branding not products, Business, cult branding, customer engagement, customer experience, product design, Sexy branding, sexy products, total customer experience

The Cult Brand: Providing an exceptional experience to the point of total customer devotion

by James D. Roumeliotis

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There are brands that tout their virtues of their products and/or services with a religious fervor. A “cult” brand is a product or service with a strong loyal customer following, whereby their clients are fanatical about their products or services to the point where their lifestyle revolves around those popular brands. This level of fanaticism also makes those devout followers unsolicited brand ambassadors.

Cult brand examples with customer aficionados include Apple, BMW, Porsche, Fox News, Lulumemon, Zappos, Oprah, Harley Davidson and Starbucks to name a few. As with Starbucks, it offers a superior product and experience that some people would go out of their way, by driving by less expensive alternative coffee shops, to pay for Starbucks’s pricier cup of coffee.

More than just a product or service, it is a lifestyle

Generally speaking, brands that are designed for a lifestyle should have a much higher emotional value to consumers than ones based on features like cost or benefits alone.

Call it “hype” or give it any other label, cult brands are a unique breed which create and are given plenty of attention. Their brand value is also much higher than their closest competitors. They have achieved a special connection with consumers through their distinctive appeal.

Unlike religious or similar type cult following, the cult brand is considered “benign” or a “benign cult” since it satisfies a need and desire in a positive and harmless manner. Some brand loyalists have gone as far as having their beloved brand tattooed on their body.

A brand is considered as a “cult” brand if the following aspects are present:

  1. Customers receive more than a product and/or service ─ they experience a lifestyle;
  2. Brand devotees firmly believe there are no substitutes for their beloved brand;
  3. Customers feel a sense of ownership with the brand;
  4. Loyalty is prolonged over time compared to brands which are considered fads and unsustainable in the long-term;
  5. An extraordinary degree of customer loyalty exists.

Ingredients of a cult brand: using psychology, identity and a sense of belonging

It is not enough for brands to spend plenty of money on glorified advertising. Any company with an adequate budget can do that. The essential challenge is to utilize an approach that makes people to want to embrace a product and/or service that people would enjoy making it part of their life, as well as identity and belonging.

Brand cult status is an emotional component of the brand but it is not as simple to achieve. As per The Cult Branding Company, a brand consultancy firm, there are seven rules of cult brands this author stands behind ─ and are as follows:

Rule #1 – Differentiate: To achieve a special connection with consumers, the brand should have a distinctive allure and be unconventional in a good sense.

Rule #2 – Be Courageous: Cult Brands are successful because they are unlike their competitors. They possess their own personality, DNA and rules. They are also passionate about their offerings and their customers for whom they exist in the first place.

Rule #3 – Promote a Lifestyle: 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 merely a “product-service” in the traditional sense of the term.

Rule #4 – Listen to Your Customers: Focus on serving your customers’ desires by being customer-centric. Encourage feedback and utilize it as an opportunity to form ideas, and provide solutions that establish and retain loyalty.

Rule #5 – Support Customer Communities: Cult Brands build effective and sustainable relationships with their customers by developing and supporting a customer community which allows users, partners, and company employees to share information, answer questions, post problems, and discuss ideas about product enhancements and best practices in real time. Cult brands also gather their loyalists by organizing occasional social events to ignite additional enthusiasm for the brand.

Rule #6 – Be Open, Inviting and Inclusive: Cult Brands do not discriminate in terms of age, race or sexual preference. As such, everyone who believes in the brand’s mission is welcome.

Rule #7 – Promote Personal Freedom: For most, the Abraham Maslow hierarchy of needs pyramid includes elements of self-esteem and self-actualization. As such, a well-regarded brand will express this as much by promoting freedom which is essential in expressing one’s own unique identity and worldview without fear of consequences.

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In the end: Achieving the highest level of emotional connection via brand advocacy

Cult brands have a fanatical customer base. A culture is created around the brand based on consumers of a niche group. From there, the brand evangelists spread the message and enlist more followers.

When consumers are treated with honesty and delighted by a brand experience, they begin to bond emotionally with the brand. They become brand loyalists and advocates – buying the brand more often and recommending it to others. This behavior serves to build the brand’s reputation. This approach is priceless – even though it may take longer to take positive effect.

That said, innovative products, exceptional services, the total customer experience and the lifestyle which comes with being associated with the brand are what truly makes a cult brand exceptional from competing brands. The key objective is to create a relationship of trust. The world’s powerful brands establish trust and friendship with their customers. They develop emotional capital, and gain passion. This is what makes them great, thus “cult” brands.

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Filed under 1, brand equity, brand positioning, Branding, Business, cult branding