Getting beyond “drivel” about brand building?

I just got this in my inbox from Drayton Bird  He does not use my style, but his language is clear and easy to follow.People talk a lot of drivel about brand-building.

British Gas (who supply my electricity!!) and with whom I have spent hours going from one department to another because they are badly organised just sent me what they think is a letter.
It summarised my past year’s bill, and said I have paid nothing and owe nothing.

The first part is 100% not true.

The poor copywriter was obviously told by some “planner” to drag in their fatuous boast “looking after your world”. For the life of me I can’t see how this makes sense. The army could say it more credibly. Good slogans say something nobody else could say.Anyhow, they said this summary was just another way they are looking after my world.

No it isn’t.

I just remembered how much they charge – and how much of my time they’ve wasted.

No doubt this was intended to “reinforce their brand values”.

Building brands starts with what you do, not what you say.

The bit that we believe most strongly is the last phrase   Building brands starts with what you do, not what you say.  Was a thought for the day really

Get beyond conventional theories of growth – Use more science

Science has revolutionised every discipline it has touched; now it is marketing’s turn.  All marketers need to move beyond psychobabble ….. or be hopelessly left behind”
Joseph Tripodi – the CMO, The Coca Cola Company
How often have you heard that “Existing, loyal, heavy users are more important than light users and brand switchers?”
It is common sense.  It makes sense that a heavy user accounts for more sales than a light user then they are more important buyers.  It is also said to be much more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing customer.  So to grow we should focus our efforts on getting the loyal customers to buy more or buy more often.  This group offer easier pickings for more growth.
The problem with this argument is that it is a theory built on anecdotal evidence and hypothesis.  But it is not based on any empirical evidence of how buyers behave and which types of buyers contribute the most to brand growth. 

This post brings some science to analyse this theory.  What science does is to use empirical evidence to discover patterns that repeat themselves.  This validates or contradicts the theory.  Then we understand what actually happens, not our own projection of how it works.  We can develop scientific laws.  It is surprising how little marketers refer to scientific analysis.  But maybe the tide is turning.
Andrew Ehrenberg pioneered bringing science into marketing.  He started this as long ago as the 1960’s using scientific research to explore patterns of buyer behaviour.  Read about Ehrenberg here.
One discovery he made is that bigger brands always have far more buyers than smaller brands.  Buyers are also a little bit less loyal to the smaller brands.  The difference in brand size is almost entirely explained by the different number of buyers. Bigger brands have higher penetration. Differences in levels of loyalty are small.  

There was further evidence of this truth revealed in an IPA report called “Marketing in the Era of Accountability”.  Les Binet and Peter Field used the IPA Effectiveness Awards dataBANK to identify the marketing practices and metrics that truly increase profitability create growth.  Campaigns that aimed to increase penetration were more than twice as likely to report very large improvements in sales and profitability

                                                Target to increase
                                     Pentration  %            Loyalty %
                         Gold               21                        2
                         Silver              20                        6
                         Bronze            18                       3
                         No Medal         41                      89
This has important implications for us as marketers.  Focus on loyalty and persuading existing customers to buy more is not the best way to grow a brand.  Customer behaviour and attitudes mean that ‘loyalty’ does not work as might be expected.   
This means there is the right and the wrong way to use customer loyalty schemes and other types of ‘relationship management’.  This means we need to assess all marketing programmes based on their ability to attract more buyers and increase market penetration.  To keep it simple.
Increasing penetration is the most important objective to get growth
But what about creating customer delight so that we keep our customers?  Surely this is important.  Well it is.  We also need to distinguish between buying customer loyalty with promotions and schemes and creating loyalty through customer delight.  Buying loyalty will not contribute much to increasing penetration.  Whereas creating customer delight, builds advocates who recommend our products.  A powerful way to increase penetration is to create word of mouth referrals.  So customer delight is a tool to build penetration and attract more buyers.
Despite the evidence, Ehrenberg was often ignored by marketers and sometimes dismissed or criticised for trying to bring the rigours of science into the creative world of marketing.   Fortunately for us all, his great work is now carried on by the Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science.
If you want to see why understanding the science of customer behaviour is important.  Please watch this video of Byron Sharp explaining his view at a Tedx event.  (it is also good fun to watch)

For us at Differentiate, we want to bring more science into the art of marketing.  Bringing science into marketing is not about supressing creativity.  We know it is important to be creative and have great ideas.  But we believe these ideas will be so much more powerful if they are founded on how customers actually behave and the facts about how brands grow.  We have been using this evidence to design our processes so that we bring a more robust approach to create better strategy.   We find this is more convincing to the business team.  This helps us to help you create new products and services and messages that the whole business will support and get excited about.

We will develop this theme further.   For the moment we leave you with the thought that we should all
Bring more science into the art of marketing 

The search for the obvious – being both obvious and right

“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?” 
― Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

Great insights can seem obvious to us when we hear them or discover them, but were often so hard to spot before we saw them.  On a number of occasions we have revealed to our clients the most important thing that customers want from their products.  This has been the result of substantial consumer research and management workshop activity and data analysis.  When we explain the conclusions,  the effort and expense in coming up with the finding can seem strange.   the insight just makes perfect sense to everyone, especially with the wisdom of hindsight. 
I once received this remark when making the statement that the most important thing about weed killers is that they kill the weeds.
“How much did we pay you to come up with that Chris!”
N.B. There was more to this insight, and this was not the differentiator, but that was really proprietary to the client, so not for sharing in a blog post.  However the differentiators were similarly simple and obvious with hindsight.
Another example is something that we discovered about estate agents.  It is easy to think that since the estate agent is paid a % of the house sale as commission, they are motivated to get the best price for their clients to maximise their income.  Seems obvious and true, but do the analysis, look at the real motivations and talk to estate agents and you discover this is not true.  In reality they are most concerned that the sale goes through so that they get some commission.  The bigger risk for them is the sale falling through and the longer it takes to complete the transaction the more likely the sale will fall through.  So actually they are focused on the speed of the transaction.  What this means if you have a service to help estate agents, then supporting transaction speed is critical. We found this out in a client study.   Freakonomics also reported on how this works for estate agent clients and used an empirical approach to get it right.  They explain in this video.  or you can read in this post

Many insights about what drives purchasing have an element of the blindingly obvious about them.  The best insights are easy to understand.  However they are often not so easy to spot if your vision is clouded by some existing conventional wisdom or common sense about the market.  In fact it often takes uncommon sense to discover them.
Once we have simple clear insights, we can use these to develop products that will work and the whole business will understand that they will work.  As we all know, insights and ideas seem hard to come by.  But discovering these insights is still easy compared to engaging the business to implement the resulting plan.
Simplicity and clarity are valuable tools to engage the business.