The 3 Big Questions to Assess Brand Strength

According to Bob Hoffman, the former owner and CEO of Hoffman/Lewis, the advertising industry has 3 major delusions which are holding it back. These delusions relate to brand, digital and age. The theory is that after spending way too much time on another planet, “we need to get back down to earth!”

So let’s zone in on the brand delusion. The first mistake is thinking that people actually care about and are in love with brands. Think about all those brands that love to talk about ‘love’! There’s even a widespread belief that consumers want to be personally engaged and build relationships with brands.

The reality is that human beings care deeply about the people and things that matter most to them. They are more interested and self-absorbed with their own lives than they are in joining the brand conversation, whatever that might be! Of course, there are individual exceptions based on the category care factor.

“It’s very unwise to believe that they care deeply about our batteries, our wet wipes and our chicken strips.”

The 3 big questions that tell the story

Milkshake Marketing

Overwhelmed consumers are seeking simple, seamless and easy lives. So it’s important to address ‘pain points’ and be part of the solution! The micro moments matter so it’s about making a positive and lasting impact as and when consumers choose to interact (which is often when things go wrong).

I believe that brand strength can be critically assessed by asking 3 big questions. And guess what, they have nothing to do with the logo, colours or fonts.

  1. What customer problem/s are you anticipating and solving?
  2. Why do you exist and who would really care if you didn’t?
  3. How is your brand positioning both unique and relevant?

If you think about all the sob stories of business failures, go back to those 3 decisive questions and it probably shouldn’t be of any real surprise. Ask yourself if your business truly adopts a purpose-driven and customer-centric approach in actions and not just words. If it’s a resounding yes, you’re in the minority! 

The evolving role of the marketing function

If you take this a step further beyond simply solving problems, the role of marketing is more about anticipating the needs of customers. These deep unarticulated needs represent the ignition for sustainable innovation. So this customer-centric approach is also the catalyst for differentiation.

When I studied Strategic Marketing with the legendary Su Mon Wong at QUT back in 1995, he passionately espoused the role of marketing as anticipating the needs of customers. Nothing has changed in that regard!

What has changed is the bias away from strategic marketing to tactical ‘busy work’ marketing across every conceivable channel. The art of thinking has been usurped by sheer volume of activity as signals of success.

What typically happens in risk averse and red tape hungry environments is a wait and see approach. This inevitably leads to shuffling out an uninspired ‘product’ after competitors have moved as it’s completely safe to do so!

The marketing industry needs to take a leadership position around customer-centric transformation. In this often misunderstood profession, our lives are consumed with understanding people and influencing behaviour. So ultimately this leadership position needs to also drive customer-centric innovation.

Hiring a milkshake for a certain job

One of the single biggest irritants for customers across most industries is the disorganised disconnect within companies. This is what the “single view of the customer” is meant to take care of. This disorganised disconnect within companies always results in gross disconnect with dissatisfied customers!

That’s why as part of our design thinking toolkit, we need to think about every product or service in terms of the job to be done (#JTBD). So this means I hire <Product X> to do <reason> for me. This classic milkshake marketing example from HBS professor Clayton Christensen will leave you thirsty for more …!

It’s time to think about how effectively your business is anticipating and solving customer problems (beyond lip service). #marketingtrends

So ask yourself those 3 big questions. Then perhaps take the milkshake marketing example and critically assess what job your product or service is being hired for! #designthinking #jobtobedone