You’d be right to be sceptical or even ‘roll-your-eyes’ cynical about the world of branding.
You’d be right because so much marketing money, time and effort gets wasted by too many businesses. Understandably the branding world is obsessed with marketing sizzle. But marketing sizzle just isn’t enough. Marketing sizzle – logo change, corporate colour change, website change and more – can all be for nothing if your core offer fails to appeal to your customers.
So how do you know if your core offer is strong enough? How do you know you’re spending your marketing money, time and effort wisely?
In a nutshell, invest time, effort and money in developing your core offer before you invest it in marketing sizzle.
Marketing ‘sizzle’ is the work you do to bring your offer to the attention of your customers. It could be Facebook adverts, email marketing, public relations, exhibitions or an iPhone app.
Marketing sizzle gets all the marketing attention. Marketing sizzle gets all the marketing money. But marketing sizzle so often just doesn’t work.
Here’s why it doesn’t work.
Sometime over the summer you’ll hear the sizzle of sausages on the barbeque. The sizzle and the smell make your mouth water for the taste of sausages (apologies if you’re a vegetarian, but this marketing metaphor is strong). If the sausages taste good you’ll go back for ‘seconds’ and you’ll recommend others to try them too. If the sausages don’t taste as good as the promise of the sizzle, you won’t go back for more. You’ll avoid recommending them too. You might even suggest the project on for them.
Our interior designer went on to double her fee income. Fee income doubled not because of a better website or logo (sizzle). Fee income doubled because she invested time, effort and energy in creating a stronger core offer. A core offer that was directly relevant to the needs and concerns of interior design buyers. This also helped her stand out from her competition.
Simple steps make all the difference…
Our interior designer achieved insight by asking customers what bothered them about using an interior designer. She then explored ideas that could improve her core offer and then tested her core offer to see if it would work. 100% more income suggests it definitely worked!
The Persil difference…Persil, along with most other brands of washing powder, traditionally boasted about the severity of stains they could remove from clothes. They all spent a fortune telling us too but David Arkwright, former global brand director for Unilever’s laundry business instigated some research (like the interior designer).
"We spoke one-on-one with consumers the world over… by asking… "Why is that important?"
David and his team found an insight that crossed national borders. "We began to find that there was indeed a deep connection available, via the deep insight that ‘If you are not free to get dirty, you cannot experience life and grow’." Then they explored ways of expressing their core offer – ‘dirt is good’ they .identified painting as the first experience platform for the ‘Dirt is good’ ritual and instigated painting competitions from Pakistan to Brazil… Later, our story moved to new areas of brand ritual - most notably sport. The indelible connection between playing sport and getting dirty was formed"
Persil is now one of Unilever’s biggest brands with global sales of more than $3billion. Success came because Persil created a core offer distinct from their competitors, and one that resonated with their buyers too: "Now, the narrative is that dirt equates to creativity; and parents aspire to have creative, free-thinking and playing kids, as opposed to those locked into pristine-clean conformity."
TIME TO DISAGREE
"We are too busy doing what needs to be done every day and every week to start researching customer concerns." You’re right, research is anything but an urgent job and whilst you’re happy with your business results, why bother? But if the return on investment you get from your marketing dwindles, or if the results of your business frustrate you, you should rethink your business or product’s core offer. Start with questions.
How much time and effort is required to ask a question or two next time you’re with a customer?
Why not keep it simple just like the interior designer did and seek some insight from customers or prospects about their thoughts, feelings and experiences of working with you and your competitors? "It’s easy to talk about ‘customer relevance’ and ‘distinctiveness’ but isn’t every business looking for the same?"
Yes, you can argue that customer relevance and competitor distinctiveness is the holy grail of marketing. And everyone is after it however most businesses are busy obsessing about the sizzle and not the sausage. They’re mostly focused on their website style or their iPhone app or their advertising or their next exhibition.
"It can’t be as simple as asking customers about their concerns can it?"
Asking well-crafted questions helped the interior designer and helped Persil. Both were able to achieve insight into what might work well with their customers and gain a competitive edge.
The interior designer asked some easy, simple questions: ‘What is it that worries or concerns you about working with an interior designer?, ‘What would a designer have to do for you to use them on your next room project?’, ‘What has stopped you using an interior designer in the past?"
You can do the same. You too can identify a competitive advantage by asking smart questions of your customers. Creating your own questions that relate to your business, your product, your service can uncover your customer issues. In solving these issues you’ll find the power of a strong distinctive core offer.
Tell me more…
David J.Taylor runs a branding business called Brand Gym (www. thebrandgym.com) David’s approach is all about practical workouts to help you grow your business.
"This is not about buzzwords and bull****. It’s about helping making your business more effective at SMS (selling more stuff)."– David J.Taylor, author of ‘… where’s the sausage?’
It’s David’s practical no nonsense approach to brand building we like, which is why we have no hesitation in recommending his book. It’s packed full of practical tips, tricks and tools that reveal how to cut through the bull and buzzwords of branding. It’s crammed with great examples and stories to inspire you too. You can contact David directly via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your next steps:
A core message that answers or resolves the concerns, difficulties and concerns of your customers can make your marketing work better.
Why invest in marketing sizzle if your core message isn’t strong enough?
Start by asking your customers about their experiences…"What stops customers buying more of what you do?", "What would you have to do for customers to use your service more often?"
The answers to these questions, or other well-crafted questions for your business, should influence your core message.