When you want change, start with the man in the mirror — well at least that’s what Michael Jackson tells us. In business, research comes across as that hard look in the mirror, or that coffee that you must wake up and smell, because it all begins with the numbers.
As marketing executives pursue brand dominance, they often boast about the size of their budgets as an indication of potency, even though it’s said that size doesn’t matter (by those who have small budgets of course). Indeed, if you don’t use your size well, your performance will be disappointing as you fail to arouse your customers desire.
On many occasions we’ve reviewed top advertisers spending patterns with the aim of providing insights and expert advice that will improve their marketing performance. It is quite common to find inconsistent messages coming from the different customer touchpoints which dilute the brand positioning as a result.
In one instance we were evaluating a brand leader’s marketing communications activities and the data showed huge discrepancies across the various communication channels and consumer touchpoints. We combed through tonnes of information including advertising expenditure data, audience measurement charts, customer satisfaction surveys, and market perception studies in order to carefully piece together the brand from the public’s viewpoint. It wasn’t a pretty picture.
Their public relations agency had crafted an image of the company around the CEO and depicted it as an aggressive, money hungry monster only interested in satisfying the massive appetites of their shareholders. On the other hand the corporate communications team built an image of an organization that deeply cared about its customers and considered those personal and community interests as their highest priority.
The advertising aggravated the public image conflicts because every product had its own creative approach which unfortunately lacked credible consumer insights and thus spoke in many voices to many people. Consumer satisfaction was very low because their products were deemed to be overpriced and their customer service unresponsive.
When this mirror image (research) was placed in front of the heads of departments, even they could not recognize themselves. “And no message could have been any clearer,” sings the King of Pop, “if you wanna make this world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”
Indeed, change did come, led by the CEO and the executive committee at the back of a marketshare coup staged by their competitors, who were using their smaller budget to focus on a specific but very fertile market segment.
Once the leadership came on board, the rest was relatively easy. Companywide soul searching sessions were diligently organized, and they generated a core purpose that the team could rally around, as well as a set of values that outlined the positive behavior required as they pursued their goals. Gradually they developed a unified voice across the numerous touchpoints which improved the brand perception, market relevance and, eventually, their financial performance.
In due course they were able to thwart their competitors onslaught and regain their dominant place in the hierarchy. Yes, the world became a better place for the brand, full of fat bonus cheques financed by happy customers making the cash registers ring ceaselessly, and its shareholders were laughing all the way to the bank.