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THE SPIN CYCLE: Companies fail to deliver on their brand promise

Todd Smith

Todd Smith

A brand promise is the cementing of a company’s identity in the minds of its audiences. According to Gallup, companies are largely failing to make good on their agreements.

Only half of the nearly 18 million customers Gallup surveyed strongly believe that the companies they do business with always deliver on what they promise. The other half, not so much.

A brand promise represents everything a company stands for – or does not stand for. It is the unique statement of what the company offers, what separates it from its rivals and what makes it worthy of customers’ consideration.

Brand promises matter to customers – and Gallup research shows that they have a profound impact on business outcomes. The highest-performing companies in Gallup’s database deliver on their brand promise 75 percent of the time, according to their customers. These companies have greater levels of customer engagement, which enables them to surpass their competitors in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth.

Gallup’s analysis also shows that only 38 percent of customers are fully engaged. Fully engaged customers have a strong emotional attachment to a company. They’ll go out of their way to locate a favored product or service, and they won’t accept substitutes. As true brand ambassadors, they are a company’s most valuable and profitable customers.

But the majority of customers (62 percent) don’t feel or behave this way. They’re indifferent or actively disengaged, which also means they’re open to switching brands. Companies that can create strong brand promises and consistently deliver on them have a legitimate opportunity to sway these customers and gain a greater share of the market.

Keeping up with the brand promise keepers

A company’s brand promise can fall short for many reasons – It may be too similar to its competitors, it may be out of line with the company’s greater purpose and culture or it may be unclear and uninteresting. In Gallup’s experience, most companies come up empty on their brand promise because they overlook the single most important component of the promise – their people.

Whether a company is product- or service-oriented, its brand promise lives and dies by its employees and their ability to consistently act on it. Yet Gallup’s research reveals the majority of employees aren’t the brand ambassadors their companies need them to be. When asked, only 27 percent of employees strongly agree that they always deliver on the promises they make to their customers.

Most employees have good intentions, but their actions can be disconnected from their company’s brand promise and what they should really be saying and doing. For example, a pharmacy employee may tell a customer that a prescription will be ready in 10 minutes when the wait will really be 30 minutes. Or, a business-to-business manufacturer may promise to deliver construction supplies to its customer by a specific date and then fail to communicate when those supplies end up on back order. In both cases, these employees believed they were fulfilling the brand promise, but they only ended up frustrating their customers.

Delivering the brand promise from inside out

Employees are the driving force behind a brand, but only if they understand that promise and deliver on it consistently. The challenge many companies have in engaging their customers has more to do with their workplace than with the marketplace. Leaders and managers can tackle this challenge through immediate and long-term actions that help connect employees to the brand promise:

Audit the brand promise

The promises that companies make to their customers today must be deliverable today. Leaders should objectively assess their company’s brand promises and ask themselves:

» Which promises are easy to keep?

» Which promises are harder to keep?

» Which promises are customer focused?

» Which promises define the brand?

» Which promises are gratuitous and could be eliminated?

» Which promises differentiate your brand from its competitors?

Armed with the answers to these questions, leaders can better define their company’s brand promise and ensure that it is truthful, compelling and unique. They can eliminate any promise that is false or difficult to maintain, and focus solely on the promises that their employees can consistently deliver.

Help employees deliver on the brand promise. 

Employees embody the brand experience for customers. Companies must ensure they present that experience the right way by providing them with ongoing tools, education and support. Front-line managers, in particular, should discuss the brand promise with their employees and help them understand how to deliver on it. Delivering on some promises will require employees to partner with coworkers from other teams and departments. Managers should help their employees make these connections and understand how their relationships and actions affect the brand and the business.

Gain a greater understanding of customers’ needs. 

Companies must focus their long-term efforts on gaining a deep understanding of their current and potential customers’ needs and how they can deliver on those attributes. Gallup recently worked with a business-to-business company that learned of a gap in its market. The company conducted a service audit that identified services none of its competitors were providing and was able to sell more hardware as a result. Companies that invest in analytics – not just gathering data, but mining insights from it – can gain a substantial edge over their competition. Equipped with this knowledge, companies and employees can devise and act on strategies that build the brand by delivering products and services that customers want and need.

Advertisers in North America spend the most to be social

Advertisers worldwide will spend $23.68 billion on paid media to reach consumers on social networks this year, according to new figures from eMarketer, a 33.5 percent increase from 2014. By 2017, social network ad spending will reach $35.98 billion, representing 16 percent of all digital ad spending globally.

Advertisers in the US and Canada place a premium on social media and will ramp up paid spending on social networks 31 percent this year to pass $10 billion for the first time. Social network advertising in Asia-Pacific will total $7.40 billion, with Western Europe the third-largest region at $4.74 billion.

North American advertisers’ appetite for social network ad spending is reflected by the amount they spend per user. This year, advertisers in the US and Canada will spend more than $50 for each user across the social landscape in their respective countries, and in just two years, will increase that outlay to $71.37 per user, a reflection of growing spending against a maturing user base.

The US and China will be the leading individual countries in social network ad spending for the foreseeable future, collectively commanding more than half the worldwide market throughout our forecast period.

At a company level, unsurprisingly, Facebook is dominating the paid social advertising landscape globally. eMarketer estimates that in 2015, the company will make $15.50 billion in ad revenues, or 65.5 percent of all social network ad spending worldwide. That portion is up from 2014, when Facebook owned 64.5 percent of the social ad market. Twitter is also gaining share, expected to take 8.8 percent of global social network ad spending, or $2.09 billion, up from 7.1percent share in 2014. LinkedIn will make $900 million in advertising this year, but its share of global social ad spend will dip to 3.8percent, down from 4.2percent last year.

Deflated Mic | New England Patriots staff participated in ball deflation 

A report commissioned by the NFL has found that there was “no deliberate attempt” by the New England Patriots to deflate footballs to gain an advantage over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game – but that a Patriots locker-room attendant and equipment assistant “participated in a deliberate effort” to deflate balls after referees examined them. The report  also said “it is more probable than not that Tom Brady … was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities.” Patriots CEO Robert Kraft says he will “take appropriate actions,” but only because “fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile.” For now, Brady has denied knowing anything about deflated balls. The luster is off the Lombardi trophy, and reigning Super Bowl champs get another Deflated Mic. No telling how this continuing saga will tarnish their image.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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