I was at a tradeshow this past weekend for the skincare industry. While it was obviously geared for this particular industry, a lot of what I observed was no different than other tradeshows I’ve attended.

Here’s what typically happens:

  • You meet your competitors, and unless there is a Hatfield-McCoy relationship, you can actually build some goodwill. Whenever you can, do so.
  • You take the opportunity to see where others think the industry is headed. If you’re not doing this, force yourself.
  • You get the scuttlebutt. It’s the only way to know what’s going on.
  • Some use it as a opportunity to copy what they like from other attendees for the next time around. I call it the CASE method—Copy And Steal Everything. But I don’t approve, condone, etc.
  • And you always come across some reps that have no idea what they are representing. You’ll shake your head and predict that that company won’t last very long.

I like tradeshows. If you know what to look for, you will learn more than you expect. If you’re just there for the wining and dining, the most you’ll get out of it is a bad hangover.

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Understanding What You Really Sell

I am working on a new project that started with one purpose but morphed into another because of one “little” question: What is it we are really selling? At first glance, the answer may be obvious, but as you dig deeper and talk with your customers, you’re likely to find there’s more to it than that.

Let’s take a straightforward example like Coca-Cola®. They sell beverages, right? Of course they do. But they also sell their name, image and distribution. What about Honda®? They sell automobiles, motor cycles, lawn equipment, just about anything that can have an engine. And they sell fuel efficiency, technology and reliability.

When you are positioning your brand, you have to understand how your customers view you. To them, you are selling so much more than your product. You’re also selling key things that go with it—that list could include innovation, service, business opportunities, education, self-esteem, fulfillment, joy, entertainment. The possibilities are endless. In reality, you have to focus on just a few and do them exceptionally well.

And make sure they line up with what your customers have come to expect and rely on from you, or you will find yourself in a major disconnect.

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How Well Do You Know Your Audience?

Last week, Next Great Thing reported on their Global Youth Survey: Social Media (which I found via PSFK). While the survey’s intent is to show “how young adults are communicating online, around the world”, the results also show that we may not know who it is we are targeting online.

One key result (quoted from the post):

Young people use the web to shape an identity—or several.

  • 44% or respondents say their online identity is different than it is in real life

So while most prefer to keep it real online, a good number are using the web to try out various personalities and concepts of self on the road to adulthood.

That means that if each of those respondents use at least one online identity separate from their real one and also use their real identity at other times, then over 30% of the people we may be targeting online aren’t who they say they are.

I’m a bit disturbed by that figure; though, I’m not entirely surprised. The more technology allows whoever to learn more about the people who use it, the more users are going to do whatever they can to avoid that scrutiny. And yes, even though “55% of all 14-17 year olds surveyed think that their blog and/or profile should be visible to everyone on the internet”, in time, they, too, will become more suspicious of who might be lurking behind those bits and bytes.

What does this mean for your brand if you want to reach people directly online? Well, there are a few implications.

  1. Avoid relying solely on someone’s profile or blog as a way to target them. There are several people I know personally who do not have accurate information in their profiles, and some don’t even manage their own. They have someone else do it for them.
  2. You can do a little better by using predictive algorithms based on users’ keyword searches, but again, they may be searching with a different profile. It’s harder to do, but it is done.
  3. Your best bet is to be a destination point such as a business profile on Facebook, interactive web page, niche community or consumer forum. This takes a lot more work, time and effort, but it pays off in the end.
  4. If you are going to advertise online, choose broader topic areas or advertise at other destination pages that are directly related to your product.

The beauty of the internet is that it allows us to reach more people at a much lower cost than traditional media. At the same time, it affords us the opportunity to don a different persona, and nobody has to know.

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Establishing Priority Markets and Putting Them to Work

Yesterday, I discussed how you should prioritize your markets or segments with 12 different levels, each with some combination of volume, profit and potential. You could easily consider these as A, B, C and D targets such that:

  • A includes high profit and high potential accounts or customers
  • Bs are low profit but high potential markets
  • C accounts are high profit yet low potential
  • Ds have both low profit and low potential

Assessing which target market, audience or segment belongs where can be elusive. To find where a brand fits, you’ll need to conduct an audit. There are key things you will want to learn:

  • How appropriate is your identified target?
  • What changes do you need to make to the brand or with the product?
  • How well does the brand fit among competitors prices, your own costs and consumer demand?
  • How do you allocate resources for the brand and is that allocation appropriate?

Answering these questions, though, only gets you as far as the priority list. That’s when the additional work begins:

  • What activity, directly related to the brand, can you change? This includes, but is not limited to, product modifications, manufacturing changes, line extensions and promotional adjustments (brand image or identity changes, price moves, new or modified advertising campaigns, PR efforts, etc.).
  • Do you have the capacity and resources to affect the desired changes? Do you have the people, money, time or any other resources available to implement the changes?
  • How do you expect the consumer to respond to your changes? Will an image advertising campaign meet your needs? Will your target market respond better to a grassroots campaign? Will you get more “bang for your buck” through a public relations push through the trade?
  • Who else in your vertical market (staff, intermediaries, suppliers, distributors, retailers) do you need on board to execute key parts of your plan? Are they capable of executing appropriately? If they aren’t part of the plan now, can you integrate them in some way? How else can you use your vertical market to make the plan more effective?
  • Does the capacity exist to support the changes? Can you and your suppliers, distributors and retailers handle an increase in production and sales?

You need to do this (or similar) evaluation at least annually. Getting a handle on how your brand fits in the marketplace, then prioritizing how to focus your efforts will give you more confidence and a greater probability of success in driving your brand.

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Prioritizing Your Marketing Efforts

While doing some de-cluttering, going through old files, I came across a paper I wrote during my MBA years. The research focused on developing a model for determining the net present value of brand equity. One key piece included a table guiding the user on how to prioritize the markets or segments you’re targeting.

Basing your evaluation on volume, profit and potential, the table, in order shows:

1 High Volume, High Profit, High Potential
2 Medium Volume, High Profit, High Potential
3 Low Volume, High Profit, High Potential
4 High Volume, Low Profit, High Potential
5 Medium Volume, Low Profit, High Potential
6 Low Volume, Low Profit, High Potential
7 High Volume, High Profit, Low Potential
8 Medium Volume, High Profit, Low Potential
9 Low Volume, High Profit, Low Potential
10 High Volume, Low Profit, Low Potential
11 Medium Volume, Low Profit, Low Potential
12 Low Volume, Low Profit, Low Potential

Purposely, only volume is assessed in terms of low, medium and high.

As you would guess, your highest priority must be in those markets or customer segments that have both the highest profits and highest potential. Next, you’ll allocate resources to high potential areas with lower profits. The third group includes high profit and low potential segments. Finally, if you must, toss a bone at low profit and low potential groups.

If you’re not focusing your efforts in this way, you’re most likely wasting resources.

Now, you may be wondering where you might find the right tool to determine where a particular market or segment belongs on this list. That’s coming tomorrow.

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What Determines a Brand’s Value Part 3

Here we have arrived at the third and final set of components making up a brand’s value. You can find the first twelve in my posts from Monday and yesterday.

Your staff and intermediaries. Everyone who touches your product, no matter how much or in what way, impacts the value of your brand. That includes what they say and do, even when they think they are not on the clock or doing so in confidence.

Assessing your competitors. The only way to compete is to understand who your competitors are, what they are doing and how it affects you. Having a fuller understanding of the main brands fighting for your customers will give you a better prediction on how they will react to the moves you make, if at all.

The current brand and product life cycles. A brand life cycle and a product life cycle are not going to be the same. One is going to outlast the other. Which one depends on the industry, the market and the company. Planning accordingly will go far in optimizing your brand’s value.

Your processes and procedures. You must have processes and procedures in place that detail what happens when, how decisions are made, the way information flows and who is accountable for what.

Having evidence of your efforts. We all want to know that our efforts are paying off. For that to happen, there must be specific, measurable goals—that you can actually measure. If not, you may be wasting precious time and resources.

Proper alignment of brand goals with the organizational or ownership goals. The way in which you manage your brand must align with the organization’s or owner’s goals. Bad things happen when there is misalignment, such as poor decision-making, improper spending and diminished brand value.

If you take all 18 of these together, then put the brands value at the center, you create a paddlewheel. And as long as each paddle (the components to the brand’s value) is properly weighted, the wheel will continue to turn efficiently and effectively. This, in turn, increases the actual value.

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What Determines a Brand’s Value Part 1

When you talk to most people about brand management, they speak in terms of basic marketing. Others think of basic branding—coming up with a hip name, obscure logo and fluffy positioning.

Brand management is about building brand value. It’s about making a brand worth more than it costs to maintain it. Managing a brand is like managing a business. For several brands, that is the business.

I’ve identified 18 components that determine a brand’s value. I’ll discuss them over three posts, with this one being the first.

The actual brand and product you are selling. There are several types of products—consumer goods, services, social causes, images—all intended to serve existing and anticipated needs. Understanding what your product is and the actual needs it serves is key to defining your brand.

The brand’s positioning. In defining your brand, you have to create an expectation of what it is going to do and represent. It is what differentiates you from the competition. The brand’s positioning tells the story and guides the overall strategy.

The target consumer. Identifying your brand’s target consumer goes well beyond basic demographics. Knowing who your real consumers are pushes psychographics to its limits, describing a typical day, month, year in their lives. Only then can you speak directly to them.

Your promotion strategy. How you package your branded product, craft and communicate your message and allocate the resources behind it are the heart of your promotion strategy.

The product and brand design. Form and function of a product give long-term credibility to the brand. The logo, packaging, materials and how you use them must reinforce the brand’s image.

Consistency of the brand message. Everything—absolutely everything—about the brand must be consistent with its central message.

We’ll cover the next group of six tomorrow.

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