I think Marketing is like Charity: It begins at Home.

Have you ever been to a great restaurant, one that you’ve heard about and wanted to go to for ages, and when you got there, full of excitement and wonder, your waitron messes up your order before you’ve even got your first drink? Or how would you feel if you bought a BMW 3 series and the salesman gave you a plastic keyring and bottle of cheap sparkling wine as a sweetener? The answer is: pretty underwhelmed! My point is, it is your own staff who can often do the most damage to your brand. This is why marketing needs to start at home, with your own “family”, your staff.

Many business owners sadly overlook their own staff as ambassadors of their brand. “My staff aren’t my target market” and “ They should know the business they are in, anyway” are some of the comments that excuse spending time and effort (and possibly money) on educating our staff about the brand experience of our product or services.  And it is a severe oversight.

Your customers or consumers certainly don’t have the same view. In my mind, everyone who works for a company represents that company and is held responsible by me, the consumer, in providing the product or service I expect. I am sure you are all the same. I don’t separate the Caltex petrol attendant from the Caltex fuel that goes into my car. They are all part of the perceived brand experience, and leaving staff out leaves huge gaps in what consumers experience.

We must make sure that our staff are all behind our brand experience, that they understand exactly what it’s all about so that they can help deliver the full service. What’s more, your staff are an excellent testing ground for how clear and effective your marketing communications are: if your own people don’t understand you – people who work on and with your brands every day – how can you expect the public to? So how do we market to our own staff?

Here are 5 tips for turning staff into brand ambassadors:

1) Include staff in your marketing strategy: ensure they are part of your marketing strategy, treat them as a sub target market if you like, allocate some budget to bringing your brand alive for staff.

2) Train your staff on your brand experience:  You can’t expect a consistent brand experience delivery unless you train your staff first. Brand experience training should be part of every staff member’s induction and repeat training carried out for each staff member at least once a year (for customer facing staff I would do this every quarter).

3) Treat staff as “insiders” with preferential access: People who work in a company are expected to have inside info on new developments and secrets. Give them the inside track so that they feel like they are special and have special knowhow on your brands.

4) Ask staff for input: Secretly your staff believe they are experts on your brands, and believe me, they are seen as the experts by their friends and families. So ask them for advice and input every now and then, and if you  get them to contribute you may just be surprised at what value they can add. Also, nothing boosts morale (and fuels office gossip) like the story of the office cleaner who came up with the last marketing campaign (and got recognition for it!).

5) Give staff the tools to be your ambassadors: Just like any target market, you want to give your staff ambassadors the tools to promote you. Tell them about your events, show them your ads and PR articles, share your facebook posts. They can’t spread the word alone, so give them the tools of the trade.

The 5 tips are just the start, but I hope you have realised how important your staff are in your marketing strategy and brand experience delivery.  Creating Brand Ambassadors in your business can often be the difference between winning and losing in this tough market place, and it’s one of the most cost effective strategies out there!

Please share any other strategies you know for turning staff into effective brand ambassadors …


My take on the new Int’l Heineken ad

I recently read a controversial opinion on the new Heineken “World’s Apart” advertisement published by Mark Ritson, a UK-based professor of marketing and host of Marketing Week, a marketing commentary blog site. His article Mark Ritson: Heineken should remember marketing is about profit, not purpose basically asserts that the Heineken ad won’t really affect sales or profit for the company, and is therefore a waste of time and money.  Watch the ad for yourself here: Heineken “World’s Apart” Advert

As an aside, I must confess that I agree with Ritson that marketing’s key role is to create and enable sales and profit for a business – both now and in the future. But there are (and should be) many ways to skin that cat.

Firstly, I would contend the ability of just any advertisement to directly ( I mean immediately) affect sales. People generally can’t buy off their TV’s ( though youtube video’s with online shopping links are changing this). Even adverts with distinct sales push elements and price specials (like most supermarket ads), don’t directly create sales.  They influence the consumer purchase decision. I would say perhaps only marketing materials at the point of purchase could possibly be measured to directly effect sales (and then sometimes not so effectively).  This is because we know that there are more complexities to a person’s decision making than just seeing a product they may need and buying it. So contending whether an advert will or won’t directly affect profits is already incorrectly interpreting the role of adverts in the consumer purchase decision.

Secondly, I gathered he was promoting a sell, sell, sell approach to all marketing, and eulogising purely functional marketing. This then purports that consumers all make decisions based on purely functional criteria. Whilst I agree that function (and features) do play an important role in consumer’s criteria, there is still the largely important (and largely misunderstood) area of emotional factors that also play an integral role. Sure, some product and service categories tend more to the functional (like bread and milk you might suggest), but there are many categories where an emotional link to the category or brand plays a huge role in the purchase decision.

Now to the Heineken ad itself. I certainly believe that beer choice is highly emotional. My experience in beer research has shown me that, though many consumers can’t actually tell their brand in a blind taste test, they will vehemently defend their choice of brand. This is emotional bonding. We don’t know what Heineken’s objective was with this ad, but without a “Buy a 12 pack now for R59.99” tagged on the end, I think we can safely say the aim was more emotional connection than a sales promotion, yes? And yes, it is using a generic aspect of beer (bringing people together) to do so, but as some other commentators have contributed -the first to say/do it is the one who owns it. So a reasonably long, but interesting and emotionally engaging ad it is, and the message comes clearly to me at the end, and I do believe that it is memorable as a Heineken branded ad (contrary to Ritson, I don’t believe that Heineken, a well established brand name, needs to flash its branding all through its ads).

Not only is the ad part of a larger campaign that Heineken have been running called “Open Your World”, which is about expanding horizons (and also has a functional beer “opening” angle), it is also consistent with Heineken’s long term “International Beer”  image which has been the centre of their marketing efforts for ages. So, as a concept it is both consistent with Heineken’s brand (and therefore reinforcing all the previous messaging) and showing that Heineken has a higher purpose than just beer sales. This is important because we have been told that in this generation of marketing, a brand that doesn’t have a higher purpose is not viewed as favourably, especially by our “Millenials”.

However, if we  can assume their aim was to create an emotional connection to 1) make users feel more loyal and connected to the brand (and thereby influence long term sales) and possibly, 2) get people who hadn’t considered using Heineken, to form an emotional reappraisal of Heineken and contemplate including it in their repertoire, they have failed. They might have got away a little with 1, but if they were aiming at Millennials for 2, they certainly failed. But Why?

I tend to agree with Ritson that it won’t help with sales, but for a very different reason. I believe they made a critical error with trying to make an emotional bond with Millenials.  They tried to get emotional attachment through uniquely showing how people who are different can have more in common through beer. But, they weren’t the first with that ad concept -they copied an idea and so the whole emotional bond they are trying to make feels faked and forced. Fail!

If you don’t what I’m talking about take this Danish TV 2 ad: Danish TV 2 Ad, which has 4 million views, and I bet most are in their Millenial Target Market. It seems to be a Danish Phenomenon that has grown, as Danish travel site Momondo also did a “more that unites than divides us” campaign, which I am sure many of you have seen,  and suspiciously (for Heineken) titled: “Lets Open Our World” See it here: Momondo campaign. All of these play on the whole “we’re more unexpectedly alike than our differences” theme, and more authentically than Heineken does.

Heineken has tried to make a conceptual move from “quirky, funny beer ads” to “thoughtful world connector ads” in one big jump, and then by copying someone else’s work. Eish! Heineken actually comes across as a feeble follower of another idea, losing innovativeness, authenticity,  and ultimately, respect. Emotional connection? Perhaps amongst the social media unconnected, but why at the cost of your opinion leaders?

So do we need to make brands profitable? Yes! Do we need to market functional attributes of our brands to make sales? Yes! Do we need to market to the emotional sides of our target market to make sales? Yes! Can we do this by rehashing someone else’s cool idea…I don’t believe so….. and hence Heineken’s error.

What do YOU think -was Heineken’s ad a like or a fail?


(Image is screengrab taken from Heineken’s “World’s Apart”  video published on Youtube -I claim no rights or property to this and all remains Heineken’s)

Why do we let our clients set our fee?

So who are these crazy guys who don’t give a price but ask for a price instead? That’s right, it’s these Wild Dogs right here! Yes -we actually ask our clients to let us know what they are prepared to pay for our services.

You might think we get inundated with requests for full marketing strategies for just a hundred bucks -and we do, but the cinch is this -if we don’t see the value, we don’t have to take the job! Just as a client who doesn’t see value in our work doesn’t have to choose us.

By requesting a client to propose our fee, we can determine just how valuable our service is perceived by them (and how important it is to their business), and what effort and dedication we should be giving the job from our side.  This also automatically lets us know whether the client can afford our level of service. Of course, we can tone down the exact level of input if required to be flexible downwards, and increase the back-end input and effort to be flexible upwards, but the inherent quality of service (based on our knowledge and experience) will be of a certain level anyway, and put us in a certain price band. It’s then our call as to whether we “take on” a client at the proposed rate or not.

Sometimes, when things are quiet, or if it’s a really interesting job, we may actively choose to accept a slightly lower fee (though going TOO low will erode our own reputation and  brand equity), and conversely, when we are already busy or the job involves some really thorny items, we may not even accept a generous fee. This evidences true market dynamics at work and the temporal and personal aspects of value.

Through this pricing policy, both we and our clients are satisfied and happy with the exchange -they pay fair value and we receive our fair due.

This obviously works better for service offerings, but who knows, maybe we’ll all work like this some day?

3 marketing lessons I should have used in high school

I was thinking back to my high school days and wondering what I would  do differently if I could go back in time and do it again, and I realised my marketing experience has taught me some valuable lessons that would have made those days much easier on my teenager self. I decided to share these with you, as they aren’t only applicable to high school teenagers, but to your marketing in your business as well:

1) Never go for the most popular pretty girl.

The competition is just too fierce. She has so much choice that she can afford to be extra picky and difficult (which makes her less desirable anyway).  Even if you were the most popular guy and she was into you, it would still be better to go for the 2nd or 3rd  prettiest girl, who would appreciate you  way more. In your market, are you going for the customer who has everyone vying for their business? Often these are the most difficult customers to please.

2) Don’t try to be “cool”,  try to be yourself

The coolest people didn’t have to try to be cool, they just were. No matter how much you try, you can’t “be” like someone else better than they can be –you’ll always come second best. The only thing to do is to be yourself to the best of your ability. If you really do this well, you’ll stand out naturally and those who WANT to be associated with the “real you” will be attracted to you. If you are never being the “real you”, those who think they know you will be disappointed when they come to know you and you are never really authentic in the eyes of those who see through the act. Are we letting our own brands stand by themselves and not trying to imitate our market leader or competitors?

3) Don’t let others define your success

At school other people always set the bar for us: teachers, parents and coaches all told us what we had to achieve to be successful. This was all based on their ideas of success – an “A” or “B” aggregate, the 1st team in Sport, Prefect, etc. However, no one knows your own strengths and weaknesses and situations like you do. For some, an A was as easy as 1-2-3 whilst others battled to pass at all. No one taught us to set our own goals and measures for success that were tailored to our own situation, or said it was OK not to be good at everything. No one in business is good at everything, that’s why we have different jobs and roles. We set our goals to be better at what we already do well, and get help for those parts we aren’t good at. Are you letting market norms and external factors dictate your measures of success?

What lessons have you learned in business that you could have used during high school? Please share with us.

Do I have a Brand?

I think we all ask ourselves this at some stage. Some of us reckon that if we have a pretty logo with our company name on it that we’re sorted. Isn’t it just supposed to be something that helps people recognise my company or one of my products/services?

If that’s how you want to define your brand, than that’s fine – but it could mean so much more…

Businesses that build really powerful brands, brands that are actually worth money approach their brand differently. They view their brand as a symbol that represents the sum total of all the experiences that each of their customers, past and present, have had with their company, product or service. Every positive experience that customers have had, adds to the value of the brand, and every negative experience that customers have had, detracts from the value of the brand.

This is a significantly different approach to the first one mentioned, isn’t it? Through this approach, we can see how brands like Google, Microsoft, Coke and Nike have been built up into the hugely valuable brands they are today. By continuously seeking to add to their brand’s value through delivering positive experiences to customers, over and over again, they have built themselves into icons.

However, this approach is not one that only massive corporates can buy into. Any size business can aim to make every customer experience a positive one -in fact, it should be easier shouldn’t it? Less customers and more management involvement should ensure we are doing this – isn’t this what we management should be ensuring as their main focus anyway?

Let’s also define “customer experience” here. I am not just referring to the customer enjoying the artisan bread loaf they have just bought, or being happy that their lawyer just won their lawsuit for them. Those are important positive experiences to have and are pretty key. However, there is so much more that defines the customer experience: how easy it was to do business, how they were treated personally when doing business with you and more – these all add up to the total customer experience and can affect your brand’s ultimate value positively or negatively. If you view your brand in this way, it not only acts as a reminder that whatever you place your brand on must always replicate that positive experience you are aiming for, but also ensures you are focused on building that sum of positive experiences at each and every turn. Your business can only benefit in delivering excellence to your customers, and your “brand” will become a valuable asset over time as well.

(Image belongs to Andybutler.net)