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TJ Tedesco

View from Mount Olympus

By TJ Tedesco

About TJ

T.J. is team leader of Grow Sales, Inc., a marketing and social media services company operating at the intersection of compelling content, clear vision and quality communication practices. In this blog, fire is a metaphor for print. Hang on, this ride will be weird...

Prometheus crept into Mt. Olympus, stole fire, returned to the lowlands, ran from house to house distributing it, got caught, was chained to a rock, lost his liver to a huge ugly bird and was rescued by Hercules. Leveraging his fame, Prometheus started Fire Enterprises Inc.  (FEI). Since fire was the hottest technology of the time, company success came fast and furious. Two generations later, fire isn't such an easy sale. Now led by Prometheus' grandson Org, FEI's growth is non-existent, competitors are pounding and prices are in the toilet.

What You Think of Your Brand Doesn’t Matter

Last week, Fire Enterprises (FEI) marketing maven Marka showed the FEI tribe how to create a killer tagline. This week, she explains why customer brand perceptions matter, how to discover what these perceptions are, and how to change them. Remember, fire = print.

Zoot raced into the FEI conference room, holding a bunch of baseball caps. “Check it out, guys!” he said. “I got the FEI logo printed on 50 hats for just $100 Drachmas. Doesn’t our logo look great? I love our new brand—it really connotes the dependability and innovation we want to be known for.”

“Is that what our customers think too?” Marka asked.

Crestfallen, Zoot dropped his hats in a pile at his feet. “I don’t know.”

“The fact is,” Marka said, “It doesn’t matter who we think we are. It matters who our customers think we are.”

“Marka has a good point,” Org said. “We can build an awesome brand, but we can’t make our customers buy into it. We can talk all day about FEI being reliable, but we can’t guarantee that customers will actually associate our brand with this trait. Ultimately, our customers make buying decisions based on their perceptions, not ours. How can we find out how customers perceive us, and how can we change these perceptions?”

The room fell silent for a moment. Then, Marka spoke: “Why don’t we just ask them what they think? Let’s identify a representative cross-section of customers and have them describe the three words or phrases they most strongly associate with FEI. Then we’ll have them do the same for our key competitors.

“This useful exercise can help us identify weak spots in our brand,” Marka said.

“How so?” Org asked.

“Our brand attributes are dependable, innovative, and superb quality,” Marka said. “What if many customers mention ‘traditional’ instead? Then we might look closer at how we’re representing our brand—perhaps our Website does a poor job communicating our forward-thinking mentality.”

“I doubt we’ll be able to fix every negative customer perception that easily,” Zoot countered. “Many customer biases are deep-seated and will be difficult to change.”

“Good point, Zoot,” Marka said. “Changing our customers’ minds will be harder than just flipping a switch. It will require real, sustained effort. Delivering stronger, more memorable brand impressions will help us obliterate customer misconceptions. The key is to keep our branded communications short and compelling, and make sure every one answers the question ‘why should our customers care?’”

“One final point,” Marka said. “No matter how hard we work to convince every customer we’re A, some will always think we’re B or C. That’s OK. Let’s focus on what we can control—our own branding activities.”

“Great thoughts as always, Marka,” Zoot said. “So, like I was saying—who wants a hat?”

Next week: Marka switches gears to discuss the effective use of white space in web and graphic design.

Today’s FIRE! Point
It doesn’t matter what you think about your brand. It matters what your customers think. Survey a representative cross-section of your customers to determine their brand perceptions and biases. Change what you can, and focus on delivering stronger brand impressions in the future.

FIRE! In Action: Bold Branding Campaign Grows Sales
The Rodon Group, a manufacturer of small plastic components, had lost many customers to China because they perceived that manufacturing was cheaper there. Rodon launched a “Cheaper than China” branding campaign aimed at showing this wasn’t so. Sales increased 33 percent over the next three years.

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