Category Archives: consistency

Turkish Airlines and the price of a reassuring brand

I started writing this somewhere over Eastern Europe aboard a Turkish Airlines Airbus 320 bound for Istanbul the third leg of four in a round-trip from Bahrain to Europe and back.  I can’t recall ever having traveled Turkish Airlines until two weeks ago when I made the reverse trip from Bahrain to the UK, but had I not been a captive of my round-trip ticket I would probably have switched carriers at Istanbul, never to return to the carrier again, such were the horrors of my first leg.

I find it hard to remember a more dour cabin crew than that which accompanied me from Bahrain to Istanbul.  I felt sure their training must have included hours spent in front of mirrors perfecting their scowl.  Their general, attitude toward passengers was variably off-hand or aggressive and they seem to have taken their frustrations out on the in-flight fare, which they had managed to suck all the moisture out of before throwing it at us.

What a contrast, therefore, was the second leg of the same journey, where we were greeted by smiles and tended with tasty, well-presented (by airline standard), in-flight catering.

Leg three of the round-trip was even better.  New plane, pretty attendants with nice smiles and truly good food and as I lounged in leather-clad comfort I reflected on how my opinion of Turkish Airlines may have differed, had this been my initial experience.  The final leg demonstrated how great, well-trained customer-facing personnel can even overcome other deficiencies in your offer.  The last of the quartet of Turkish Airlines planes I was to experience was clearly in the twilight of it’s years and it hadn’t been at the front of the maintenance queue either.  I found myself hoping this was because they had spent so ling diligently servicing the engines!  In the cabin there was only one working toilet, a number of the entertainment centres were faulty and the crew were put to the test by a woman with two juvenile delinquents who were sitting behind me and promised to ruin my flight.  However, they didn’t because the cabin crew worked hard to bring the experience back on track.  The complete event has underlined to me the importance for any business of achieving consistency and the essential role that internal marketing plays in that.

I have spoken many times in my seminars and writing about the importance of consistency in the success of a brand.  Not just consistency between the different facets of your business, but within each one too.  Had my third flight been my introduction to Turkish Airlines and what was my first been a subsequent experience I would have been more ready to accept that it may be difficult to get it right every time.  As things are I need more reassurance before I accept that Turkish Airline’s good stuff isn’t the fluke!  I often quote some statistics I picked up years ago that say it may cost ten times as much to sell for the first time to a customer than to make subsequent sales to the same person, but it will cost a hundred times that to entice a customer back once you have disappointed them.  Such is the price of reassurance.

Customers need the reassurance that only consistency will provide and of course while its best for everyone if you are consistently good, with all the implications that has for customer retention, pricing policy and margin; being average all the time is better than lunging from crap to brilliant in a way that makes doing business with you a lottery.

Achieving consistency is about nothing more or less than internal marketing.  Identifying your brand, its values and attributes and introducing them to every employee at every level of your business in such a way that they adopt them as their own.

If you have the right people in place they’ll take this and run with it bringing their personal skills and experience to bear and adding value to your brand and therefore your business.  There’s no shortcut.  Organisations who have chosen instead to apply a dictatorial approach to what they call “training” have consistently failed.  As dictators around the world have learned, dictatorship only works if you can preempt every eventuality, which of course you can’t, so you have to adopt a more nurturing approach and allow well-trained and motivated staff to interpret your brand values. In fact, one of the organisations that has achieved most success in this is another airline – SouthWest Airlines, who famously wooed customers with a consistent, if off-the-wall, brand personality through two industry slumps, almost uniquely maintaining profitability throughout.

These days we are all looking for ways to squeeze the highest return from investment and with the price of mainstream media what it is, communicating within your own business looks like a bargain.  What is more, most organisations find that the return they get on internal marketing significantly outstrips that of external campaigns.

I’m quite sure that had the cabin crew on my Bahrain to Istanbul flight focused on delivering the Turkish Airlines promise my overall impression of the airline would have been a lot better.  As it is, because I was a captive of my round-trip ticket the carrier had the chance to demonstrate what they really could do and I might just be persuaded to book with them again, but probably only if they were cheaper than their competitors.  As I said … such is the price of reassurance!

Maximising marketing efficency. It’s the old strategic v. tactical debate again!

had an interesting discussion with an agency founder the other day that reminded me why I started The Full Effect Company and took to championing the “integrated” cause.

When I set up The Full Effect Company my proposition centred on marketing communications rather than marketing, but while my horizon has broadened the same principle holds true.  When you really get down to business, its efficiency, nothing more or less, that separates success from failure.

And that’s what integrated marketing is all about – getting every element of a business pointing in the same direction.  In the area of marketing communications the elements operate on two levels – strategic and tactical.  Strategic is about building your community, making your customers feel at home and comfortable so they stick around, spend more time (and money) with you and even help you add members (customers).  Tactical, on the other hand, is all about short-term, prompting actions, introductions, sales. (over-simplification I know, but I’m talking to people who know this anyway, so I don’t need to state the obvious)

The thing to remember in all this is that while the influence of strategic communications can only ever be long-term, tactical communications will always not only constitute a call to action, but have a strategic influence as well.  Its unavoidable.  It’s there in the style of execution, the language and the graphics you use. Ignore it at your peril because it will go on working anyway and if you don’t manage it, it could actually be undermining your message and neutralising the investment you have in it.  On the other hand, when the tactical messages support aspects of the bigger strategic idea the relationship become synergistic.  If you make the most of the strategic element within your tactical communications you’ll increase your efficiency significantly and get a whole lot bigger bang for your buck.  And that’s where I started my Full Effect Marketing mission to increase my clients’ efficiency.  I’ve moved on a bit since then, but it’s still the fundamental principle behind all that I do.

While I see increasing evidence that businesses are understanding and exploiting this principle, there’s still a long way to go and it’s certainly not just the small guys who need the lessons.  The friend I mentioned at the start of this piece and I both had first-hand experience of major international organisations with problems that were symptomatic of them forgetting this basic strategic/tactical rule.

A while back I was called into a series of meeting with a major telco who were complaining that they weren’t getting value from their marcoms investment.  They had a strategic message that was getting more woolly by the day and were investing heavily in creating numerous short-term campaigns from scratch each year.  Their problems were two-fold.  Firstly their tactical campaigns were always short and very expensive, so they never had the opportunity to really get up a head of steam and fully repay the investment made in them.  Secondly the tactical messages were so diverse and disconnected from their strategic message that they were not just missing the opportunity for synergy, but sending out confusing, if not contradictory messages that just muddied the water.  This in turn meant their relationships with their customers (Brandships) weren’t as strong as they could be. Yes, it was all very inefficient.

Sadly, while they didn’t disagree with me, the remedy I suggested had political implications that they just weren’t prepared to contemplate.  As is often the case, I was talking to the marketing department and my solution suggested both a change of process and structure and a reduction in head-count, a suggestion that echoed rather hollowly inside their ivory tower.  Oddly enough my friend had a very similar story from a different sector.  Needless to say, faced with an impasse like this my relationship with this telco was short, but by way of my vindication, they were reported in the press last month as having exactly the problem I defined for them, so the cracks are now plain for all to see.  You would think it would be back to basics for them then?  However, I’m not expecting the phone call any day soon!

The key to this kind of efficiency lies in what I call the Brand Model. In the case of my Brand Discovery programme, this is a definition of a brand using eleven parameters, including a promise and a considered set of facts that make that promise credible. If once you have a Brand Model in place you assess every planned initiative in the context of its contribution to or reflection of the promise and these support facts, you’ll not go far wrong.  In the context of your marketing communications this should result in campaign elements with tactical messages that hard-underline one of the support facts and place it in the context of your strategic message.  People who are really good at this are Tesco in the UK with their tactically led messages that culminate with their strap-line “Every little helps”. Philips Electronics’ “Sense and Simplicity” which not only translates back to their product design briefs but results in advertising where the “sense” and “simplicity” are always demonstrated (and these words quoted religiously in headlines and body copy) and to a lesser extent Specsavers’ “I should have gone to …” message.

Until more businesses focus on squeezing the maximum strategic benefit from their tactical initiatives and messages and thereby achieve full efficiency, it’s hard to justify, in these cash-strapped times any purely strategic initiatives.

Need an illustration of integrated marcomms? Should have gone to Specsavers.

I realise that this campaign has been around for a while now, but I find myself eagerly awaiting the next commercial, which in itself is an indication of just how good it is.

“Should have gone to Specsavers” is, on the face of it not a particularly strong proposition.  For one thing it doesn’t actually make a promise, but what it lacks in directness it more than makes up for in the way it has exploited all the opportunities it creates.

The tag line is in the vein of the Tesco “Every little helps”, although I would suggest that Tesco’s is more of a promise, but Specsavers stick to the golden rule by illustrating why I should belive that message in different and highly amusing ways every time they wheel it out.

I like this because it is a big idea that they are exploiting to the full.  “Should have gone to Specsavers” may not be a smack-you in-the-face proposition, the promise is inferred rather than made outright, but I particularly like it because the individual tactical messages back it up with hard facts – discounts, deals etc.  I’m also confident that Specsavers’ data will show that the use of humour has transformed a boring commodity business into a desirable brand by giving it a clear and desirable personality.

In my opinion, Specsavers is one of the very few UK business right now that is producing efficient advertising and demonstrating to everyone how to get maximum bang for your buck by aligning tactical and strategic messages.  That’s integration!

Everything you do is part of touching the customer with the brand

In an interview with Forbes today Horace Luke, Chief  Innovation Office at HTC said “Everything from a sneaker eyelet to a brochure to a trade exhibition is part of touching the customer with the brand”.  Great!  A nerd who gets it!  But why stop there?

What Horace is telling us is that the strength of a brand is in its consistency.  To be credible a brand has to achieve consistency, represent the same values and opinions at every touch point. Organisations can no longer get away with paying lip-service to a brand promise, customers are too savvy, too well-informed and too suspicious and if you slip up at any point in your relationship with them they’ll be on to you like a cheated wife!  You simply have to walk the talk, deliver that promise.  Its a simple and logical concept that’s not so difficult to make happen.  You just have to realise that it isn’t done by legislation.  Only by listening and sharing information will you get everyone in your organisation on the same page and from there consistent delivery is an easy road.  Horace is clearly a department head who you can rely on to pass the message down the line and my bet is that everyone in his group share his perspective and clarity of purpose.

This is my passion and it’s why I created Brand Discovery, the means by which organisations can represent their brand consistently at every level.  But if you are still asking why brand is so important you should take time out to read another of today’s rich veins of wisdom, this time from Graham Codrington (That man again! I promise we don’t have any kind of relationship, but he definitely gets it!)

Consistency – or how to avoid your business going to hell on the back of a truck!

The founding principle of Full Effect Marketing is that efficient organisations are always more successful that inefficient ones.  That’s never changed and I can’t imagine it ever will.  Most of you, I know will think its an obvious thing to say and few people argue with me when I say it.  However, what I mean when  talk about efficiency is often different to what other visualise it as.

When I do presentations on Full Effect Marketing a key topic is always consistency.  It’s simple.  If you are aiming for efficiency the last thing you want is waste and inconsistency creates waste.  I talk a lot about the way organisations view their marketing communications.  They invest large sums in sexy media that reach large audiences in impactful ways and devote inordinate man-hours and effort to honing these communications to make them bring miniscule increments of return on investment – efficiency.  And its tough.  Everyone is getting more efficient, your media dollar buys less every year and production costs go up.  The truth is that we are all so good at communications these days that we are all fighting over that last ten percent of the scope of the media.  But are we so smart?  Because, while we are all beating each other to death over decreasing return with big budget advertising campaigns, most of us are ignoring the fact that the hard-won benefit is leaking out of  a side door.  It’s a little like filling a bucket with a hole in the bottom from a tap.  You perhaps don’t care that much that there’s a small amount of water spilling out.  After all, you are filling from a big tap, dealing with big volume, a trickle isn’t going to make that much difference.  However, it is making a difference and if you ignore the leak for long enough, it will get worse until you’ve probably leaked away the equivalent of a bucketful of water – or, a year’s advertising budget.  Even in its early stages, a leak is making some difference and it could be the difference between what you have in your budget to invest and the extra that your competitor down the road is investing that’s making life tough for you.  Either way, its inefficient.

I talk a lot about consistency in communications and most organisations have a lot of communications.  Usually far more than they at first realise and certainly more than any one person in that organisation can manage.  I don’t just mean consistency between different communications, but consistency between what you say and what you do.  Get any of this out of kilter and you are being inefficient.  That’s the reason for my Brand Discovery programme and it’s why one of the rules of  Full Effect Marketing is “refocus on internal marketing”, because if you have got all this communication going on and no one person can manage it all, the only way you can achieve a level of efficiency that’s appropriate in today’s competitive marketplace is to ensure that everyone in your organisation is saying the same thing and behaving consistently.  And the only way that you can be confident that this is happening is to get all your stakeholders on the same page and committed to playing their part in the big picture.  That’s about sharing information and its the job of internal marketing.  Pretty well every business I have come across could improve their return on communications and marketing investment by switching focus towards internal marketing.  Ten percent of investment, switched from external communications (making a promise) to internal communications (delivering the promise) will almost always deliver a level of return that an organisation could only dream of achieving from external investment.

So, against this backdrop I discovered this short clip from a presentation by a very smart guy called Graeme Codrington who I can’t seem to find anything to argue with on any subject that he covers.  What Graeme does here is illustrate better than I ever could, how an apparently minor leak by a leading brand, that could have been fixed, had they focussed a bit more on internal marketing, significantly reduced their marketing efficiency and points to dire consequences for the sustainability of the business.

Thanks you Graeme!

The community value of a one-pound pee

desperate-for-toiletI have just been reading through the comments on a LinkedIn Post, which started when someone asked whether Michael O’Leary is right to charge a quid to pee on his RyanAir flights.  The comments, as usual range from the amusing to the folks who just don’t get it from any perspective, but that’s life.  So too are brands and, putting aside for a moment the misassumptions and misunderstandings of what Michael O’Leary actually said and in what circumstances, there couldn’t be a better example of what branding is all about.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again – brands are communities and we interact with them in a way that mirrors the relationships we have with our friends. – that’s why I call the relationships we have with brands “Brandships

Its a fact, think about it.  I bet the people who you know who have a large circle of close friends all have vivid personalities.  Insipid people, though they may not upset a lot of people, equally don’t enjoy large communities of really close friends.  You know, the kind of friends you really love as opposed to those that you just hang out with because there’s nothing better to do.  And these are the ones that count.  They are the friends who, when times are tough, rather than just sympathise with you, will rally to your assistance with practical help and support.

When I think through the close friends that I have I see a number of people who sometimes piss people off with their views or style, but could never be accused of not telling it like it is.  I know where I am with them.  I’ve been put in my place a few times by some of them and I genuinely value their criticism, unlike the acquaintances I have who are always very politically correct, inoffensive and full of platitudes.  The latter group are motivated by the fear of rejection.  They just don’t want to piss anybody off and therefore succeed in neither annoying nor endearing anybody.

Brands are EXACTLY the same.  Look, around.  There are  insipid brands everywhere that people buy, simply because there is no alternative.  They are often brand leaders, which means both that they have been able to get away with this approach and why they are vulnerable to lighthouse brands that emerge.  The lighthouse brands being the strong characters in this scenario.

Right now the economic downturn has created a level playing-field and we find ourselves in the era of the lighthouse brand.  Its going to be difficult to succeed just because you don’t piss anybody off (although size and resources alone will enable the biggest to weather the storm).  Today friendships really count, we value the genuine help and support that comes with a close friend.

Of course, its not enough to just go shouting your mouth off, you do have to back it up with actions and those actions have to be consistent with what you are saying.  That way you reinforce your message, live up to your promise, reassure people that you are genuine and transparent.  Its that reassurance that you are someone who others can know and trust, derived from consistency, that makes for a really great friendship … and Brandship.

I’ve been thinking about this for a lot of years.  Full Effect Marketing with Brand Discovery at its core is firstly a process of self-discovery for brands.  Getting to understand the real you, not the “you” that you may have been trying to pass yourself off as for years because you felt that’s what people wanted to hear.

If it turns out that you don’t have what it takes to be popular we can set about addressing the issues, but we won’t create another veneer, instead we’ll make fundamental changes.  Its rare though that there won’t be something about you that’s interesting or attractive to others and that’s the foundation upon which we will build your new community of Brandships.

Making it work will involve firstly getting all your stakeholders behind the promise (your “Brand Promise”) that is inherent in your personality, and gaining their commitment to playing their part in its delivery.  Brand Discovery is the process that I use to achieve this.

So, how does this relate to Mr O’Leary and RyanAir?  Well, firstly I have to clear up the usual mess that has been make by the press, by pointing out that it wasn’t quite as reported. It was a TV interviewer who asked Mr O’Leary how far he would take his stripped-down travel model and suggested that he could charge for using the loo.  O’Leary took the chance to reinforce the RyanAir personality, which embodies fresh thinking, anti-establishment, not taking the press as seriously as they take themselves and a load of other stuff, by saying, in effect, “why not?”

Because you can’t be all things to all people, being true to your inner brand means that people will either take you or leave you, but at least their choice will be real and the result will be strong Brandships that’ll take you through thick and thin.  You’ll succeed if a lot of or most people like you, or if a minority that take you to their bosoms are able and prepared to pay handsomely for your product or services and, as I said, over time you can make adjustments.

Michael O’Leary did a great job of reinforcing his Brandships and in the process gave everyone a choice.  The facts speak for themselves.  RyanAir is an outstandingly successful business, with a very clear Brand Promise and a lot of people who just love them.

The world is watching!

barack-capitolMuch has already been written about the Obama victory in the US elections and I am sure there will be much more to come.  This is, after all, a momentous event to so many people, for so many reasons that it could take a long time to raise and explore them all,  but, as you might expect, I have a few thoughts on this and I’d like to raise two in particular that are close to my heart.

This week the American people have said “enough” in the most emphatic fashion.  Enough talk, enough manipulation, enough aggression and above all, enough indifference.  This is no mere electoral vicissitude, the turn-out tells us that.  This is proof that the criticism levelled at the US in recent years by many Middle Eastern spokesmen and increasingly from their counterparts in other parts of the world, that the US is not a democracy, is bollocks.  The people have reclaimed democracy, this is it in action – big time!  For once at least, the pollsters were right and despite the predictions of the Republican die-hards people were as straight-talking at the exit polls as they were in the main event – they said they had voted Obama and they did.  Make no mistake about it, the American people have spoken and, at what I believe was the eleventh hour, they have said to the world “Bush is not what we are”.

Of course, there has been a great deal of damage done to at least a couple of brands along the way.  Firstly the Republican brand has taken a hammering beyond belief, which itself is an illustration of how a wayward son or sub-brand (in this case Bush) can damage the corporate brand.  I have been saying for years that there’s corporate DNA in every sub-brand and batting on about how this relationship works in practice.  I couldn’t have wished for a better demonstration.  After the most expensive campaign in US history the Republicans are about to discover that it can cost a hundred times as much to bring a disappointed customer back to your store than it does to build on the relationships you already have a sell again to existing customers.

However, the greatest damage has been done to brand USA.  This result can leave no compos mentis person in any doubt that it was voter apathy that put Bush into the White House, but life is a learning process and the lesson of the last few years has been that there’s more to this presidential gig that the electorate had realised.  The President is your representative in every way possible.  What he or she (for that day will dawn too) says and does, is taken by the people of the rest of the world to demonstrate the attitudes of the American people and at last, I think the message has hit home!  If you elect a buffoon, we think you are all buffoons, if you appoint an aggressive war-monger we take this as a fair indication of your general state of mind.  And who would blame us?  You have, after all, always told us you are a democracy.

Just as the president is not just a local act, neither is he or she just a figurehead.  As many corporate brands with high profile and popular spokespeople have discovered, its not just a case of putting the right celebrity with an attractive message on your promotional material you have to deliver, and that’s the hard part and my second point!  The enormity of the task facing Obama right now is mind-boggling.  He has to be certain that his promise is clearly defined – in Full Effect Marketing terms create a brand model.  Just as we do with Brand Discovery he then has to ensure that every one who is enlisted by him understands the promise and its implications and is totally committed to playing their individual role in delivering that promise.  This much alone could be a lifetime of internal marketing, given the way that governments and civil servants operate.  However, only when he has done this can he be confident that every government action or initiative is consistent – that’s consistent with each other and with the brand promise.

Nevertheless, I’m not worried about whether Obama understands this.  I am sure he does.  What I’m worried about is the possibility that having nominated a driver for this bus the rest of America might think that they can sit back and enjoy the ride.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  This thing is only going to work if the people play their part too in demonstrating to the world that the brand USA promise has substance.  Having mustered the strength of purpose to stop the rot, it would be one of the world’s biggest disappointments if the American people were to slide back into apathy and indifference.

If the lessons have been learned, this could be the biggest watershed in American history since the declaration of independence.  This is not just the appointment of a new President, its not even the nomination of the first black President, nor is it just the re-birth of democracy in the land that was founded on that principle, its the chance for the American people to stand around and behind their President and the promise he represents and tell the world this is what they stand for and above all, play their part in making sure America delivers.  It never was more true.  The world (really) is watching!