ARE YOU PUTTING UP STUMBLING BLOCKS BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR CUSTOMER?
Imagine that you have a fabulous business.
It has survived the administrations of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and continues going strong.
You compete in a brick & mortar retail niche that is being crushed by the big-box stores.
You are actually, physically as big as a big-box store.
But you are even bigger in that you blow them away with product mix, personal attention, customer service, after-sale follow-up, and overall friendliness.
You have sales people who have been with you for decades.
You have customers who've been with you since day one.
Sounds like a branding juggernaut, right?
Thirty years ago, a shopper would have been drawn into this store via a simple message.
They would have decided whether they liked the feeling of the store after walking through the door.
Today, doors have been replaced by windows. Small ones.
Ours is an age where shoppers do their research on handheld computers. They look at the store through a window the size of a deck of cards.
Or maybe they're using a bigger computer, one with a window the size of a small TV.
Through those little windows, they go shopping.
Instead of walking through the store, looking at the product, talking to the salespeople, and immersing themselves in the ambience, they stand outside. They look at the store through a window.
AND THAT WINDOW IS ONLY AS GOOD AS WHAT'S BEEN PUT IN IT
That website visit, peeking through that window, has to substitute for walking into the store and getting a feeling for the place.
In the case of our long-lived, family-owned superstore, here's what we're seeing through the window: A dated logo. A row of buttons. A column of product photos. A slideshow of products and national brand logos. An offer for email savings. A 90-day price guarantee. A suggestion to shop for package deals. A link to a 7-year-old magazine article. Information on corporate accounts. The news that they take credit cards. A scrolling row of national brand logos.
What does the shopper see through the window?
JUST ANOTHER BIG-BOX STORE
It's busy, it's full of product, it has lots of buttons...
And it feels nothing like the friendly, affable place where longtime consultants have made a home for the shopper who, instead of just a box, wants a relationship.
This website is the product of a template provided by a service that specializes in websites for independent retailers.
And this website is immense. It is robust. It is a feat of website development. You cannot argue the technical expertise that delivered this towering behemoth of web commerce.
Unfortunately, it looks a little dated.
And it is devoid of brand.
WHAT IS BRAND?
Once again, since you pay attention in class, you know the Slow Burn Marketing mantra for brand: it is the ONE way your CORE CUSTOMER should FEEL about your business.
Why ONE? Because focus is essential. Nobody can focus on two things. Multi-tasking is a myth.
Why CORE CUSTOMER? Because when you define a single person to whom your speaking, it lets you have a coherent and meaningful voice.
Why FEEL? Because emotions are key in making decisions. Without emotions, decisions are virtually impossible. Study your neuroscience and you'll find it's true.
So, this store's brand is almost nowhere to be seen or felt on this website. There's an "about" page that begins to hint at how it feels.
As an ironic aside, the company that built this website seems to have a really good brand. Visit their own website, and you immediately get a sense of what they're about and why you should like them.
SO, WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING HERE?
That's a complicated question with a complex answer.
But you don't come here for that. You come here for simple solutions!
So, very simply: as soon as I land on that website, I should feel a compelling reason to stay there and learn more about this retailer.
Why should I get off the sofa and drive down there?
Pique my interest!
Make me feel wanted!
Ask me a leading question!
Right now, this website is the online equivalent of walking into retail warehouse store that has bulk-stacked boxes everywhere.
And that is completely the opposite of what this store's brand really is.
THE WEBSITE IS AN OBSTACLE TO FEELING THE RIGHT THING ABOUT THE BRAND
This is not unique.
It happens all the time.
In some ways, it's a product of looking down the wrong end of the telescope. It often starts with a simple question.
"What media should we be using?"
"We need to have a big retail website!"
"No, we need to be in social media!"
"Social media doesn't produce! We need online videos!"
"We need to move back to traditional media! That's where our demographic is!"
The medium is perceived as the message.
The tail wags the dog.
THE REAL QUESTION REQUIRES TURNING THE TELESCOPE AROUND
It requires asking, "Who is our customer, and what should she feel about us?"
EVERYTHING related to branding and marketing boils down to that one question.
It's all about your customer and what you're saying to her.
How do you want her to feel?
How do you be evocative?
How do you not only be authentic, but convey it in a way that's magnetic?
Once you've done all that, then comes the executions and the media.
PEOPLE HATE IT WHEN I BRING UP THIS BRAND
I do it because it's insanely simple, everyone knows it, and the branding as we know it has been going strong for over 30 years.
Motel 6: "We'll leave the light on for you."
This is the sensible, budget motel chain that cares for you as mom would. They leave the light on for you!
That feeling is basic. It's a fundamental dynamic.
But their USP is something else entirely: the lowest price of any national chain.
That's not so squishy. It could be depressing. But the brand makes you feel better about getting a cheap room.
30-plus years of Tom Bodett's folksy voice coming to you out of the radio, telling you they leave the light on for you, that's what launched the brand juggernaut.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!
Radio made Motel 6 huge. It's a $2 billion company now.
But they're also on Facebook. Look at their posts.
"Top 6 Ways to Travel More in 2017." Hashtag: #ThrillsNotFrills. (Which was also the subject of a radio commercial, which is also available on YouTube, another form of social media.)
There's a link to the best hot chocolate in the country. "Nothing like hot cocoa to warm your soul and your stomach."
Ten winter driving tips. "Keep calm and drive safely."
In an appeal to a new generation: share your sing-along-in-the-car video for a chance to win a free night at Studio 6.
THEIR TWITTER FEED?
Feels exactly the same.
"Rates that aren't a gamble" for a Vegas escape.
AARP and Military discounts right up front.
The site is simple and clean and friendly--just like a Motel 6.
This brand is rock solid.
It is not fancy.
It will not appeal to the die-hard HiltonHonors platinum member.
But I know a hugely successful internet marketer who's also a penny pincher. He brags about how little he pays for a room.
Guess what he likes.
ARE YOU PUTTING UP OBSTACLES TO YOUR BRAND?
Or is it front and center, allowing your customer to feel the right thing and self-select?
Your brand matters.
Especially in an age of peeking through little windows and making snap judgments, your brand matters more than ever.
If you don't make the customer feel the same, right thing across all your touch points--in every place you have your marketing--you run a high risk of losing business to those who do practice that.
Know your brand.
And share it freely, widely, and consistently.
Emerson wanted us to know that "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
But a strategic consistency?
That is the hallmark of a great brand.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.