Powering Up People & Brands

How to Drive Your Brand Reputation

driving brand reputation

Take every opportunity to manage
your brand reputation

According to the results of Aon’s ninth annual Risk Survey** released in April 2011, damage to their brand and reputation remained the number 1 risk concern for Australia and New Zealand businesses 4 years in a row. In fact it has ranked in the top 4 concerns for 9 years.

Liquidity ranked as the second most important concern, up from 7th in ’09. Human Resource ranked 3rd, up one place whilst Systems and information management are 4th and 5th, with concerns about Information Management rising sharply.

All these concerns are tightly connected with building strong brands, the philosophy behind the way Garnier Marketing approaches its clients’ challenges and opportunities. My associate Siu Ling Hui, Principal of In-Context Finance, addressed the liquidity challenge in her blog post “How to get a Yes from your bank”. I will address in other posts the topics of Human Resource and Information Management. Here let’s focus on key factors potentially affecting your brand reputation.

Is your brand reputation at risk?

Aon’s analysis of the concern about brand damage revolves around 2 axes: The importance of maintaining brand value in the context of economy recovery and Fear of social media.

Having been passionate about building strong brands for years, I am pleased to see that key players recognize the importance of building brand value. That does not mean that every aspect of their brand management is brilliant.

Fear of social media is, in my view, the recognition that not all is well in the way brands are managed and in the way we have been communicating with our markets. The increasing use of social media means for many organisations that they can no longer pretend all is well, ignore the market rumbles or respond slowly and stiffly.

The real problem is not social media; we, brand owners and marketers, are the ones who have been damaging our own brands.

Are you listening to your customers? Are you responding?

When I run my Brand Revitalisation Workshop with my clients, we explore what they know about their target market and how much they really care about their ideal customers before we talk about how they communicate with them.

The aim of marketing is to know & understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him or her and sells itself

Peter Drucker

Good brand management starts with caring for your market and demonstrating your care in a way that will make a difference to your customers and turns your brand “positioning” and its intended benefits into reality and something they value.

Is your brand bringing a great solution to a problem a customer is trying to resolve?
If it does not deliver that solution, there is a good chance that your brand will not be respected, preferred and recommended.

Delay advertising your brand until you have fixed your products, services and how they are experienced by the market, otherwise you’ll waste your precious communication budget without getting worthwhile sales and you’ll only build a negative reputation.

Is your brand “shouting at the market” with traditional “one-way” media (regardless of your budget size)? Are you therefore behaving as a “communication controller” or “manipulator”, as cynics would say? It works to create awareness and interest, especially if you have a big budget and use the right language. Beyond that, it is the brand experience that creates or kills brand loyalty. That concept of “brand experience” is often misunderstood and its scope is now becoming broader.

Understand your brand experience

At its narrowest definition, brand experience is related to the usage of the product and service. Many market leading brands have found it helpful to enrich the brand experience design by applying a multi-dimension market segmentation around the “where, when, why, how, with whom, for whom…” of both brand usage and brand purchase. That requires a real understanding of your target market and specifically your “ideal customer”, their motivations and emotions.

Without using expensive market research, it is now possible to build that kind of understanding through internet research and a variety of simple on-line survey and data analysis tools utilising your customer database… and, dare I say, using social media.

Every business needs a balance of new customers and repeat customers. If you are keen to build brand loyalty and preference, generating repeat purchases, recommendations and more sales, you will benefit from broadening your view of brand experience to span the whole period from pre-purchase to post-usage. Ask yourself the following questions:
– How is your brand connecting with its customers, who and what in your business and trade channels is interacting with the customer before, during and after purchase? How often?
– What does it tell your customers about your brand?
– Are you close enough to your market to notice what matters, hear it see it and act upon it?
– Do your competitors know and do more than you do?
– When and how could you communicate better with your market?

Turning social media from risk to managed opportunity

You need to give customers what they want, not what you think they want

John Ilhan

Disappointing experiences lead customers to seek alternative better solutions and feel cynicism about brands seeking profit and “exploiting” the market for profit.

There is nothing unusual with the desire to “minimize risk, maximize satisfaction” whenever we have to make a decision about buying a product or service, employing someone etc. Referrals, references, comparing facts and hearsay have always been mentioned as key elements in final decision to buy, hire….

What has changed is everyone’s ability to access information and to communicate “wherever, whenever I feel like it” with others who want to communicate too. With that comes a major change in lifestyle, workstyle and in expectations.

The willingness to exchange information to build connections seems to increase rapidly, accompanied by the expectation that others should want it too. That means your customers expect your brand to be willing to connect with them personally, listen and respond faster than before. Most businesses are not ready for that level of flexibility and speed!

Recent research suggests that regular users of social media may be more positive towards brands, probably because they have a stronger feeling of being able to “verify and compare” before buying and to be heard when they are unhappy.

Personal acknowledgement and prompt responses by marketers are certainly not yet the norm. When it happens, what a powerful contribution to the brand reputation! I hear more and more stories of friends and colleagues having complained about a bad experience on Twitter and having been contacted within minutes by the offending supplier who was monitoring mentions of their brand.

What a great way to start balancing a complaint with a delight…, provided you also fix the initial issue. Customers want you to listen to them and act on their feedback. If you don’t, they will not respect your brand, they will feel they have the right to express their disrespect and to move on, which your smart competitors, also monitoring social media, will endeavour to use to their advantage.

Listen, Respond, Act should be your motto when you develop your products and services and manage the experience that matches your brand positioning. Get the brand experience right, and you will not need to fear social media, you will use it instead to grow sales! Start getting ready to grab this opportunty to engage with your market.

Check my recent blogs “Is your marketing building your brand”, “How to navigate your brand” and “from data overload to insights, action and success”, for some tips on growing your brand.

*Aon’s 2010/2011 Risk Management Benchmarking Survey is based on responses from 446 major Australian and New Zealand corporate and public sector organisations in a wide range of industries

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