Top 3 Box

Ever heard of the concept of Top 3 box? This describes your prospective customers shortlist which they will be walking around with in their head, when making a key purchase.

In times gone by (not that long ago), a multi-million pound branding campaign would be needed in order to be one of those top 3 on the consideration list.  Today, if you work at proximity (using social media), you can ease yourself onto that list by being around at the very moment when the customer may be close to purchase, by listening.

This gives smaller businesses a crack at the title, particularly niche and boutique brands.  Outside of work, I’m a passionate road cyclist.  I worked with a bike brand to launch them on social media and we increased consideration of their brand from 25% to 90% through regular engagement.  Doing a consideration survey, there were a staggering 25 brands on the unprompted consideration list, so this was quite an achievement.  A stack of the other brands weren’t even using social media platforms - pretty poor when the audience is so engaged with the sport.  Some of the larger brands were simply broadcasting, with little real interaction. #fail

By always being around, you’ll be front of mind.  By being front of mind, you will be part of the conversation and ultimately the consideration.  Don’t be too pushy, be helpful and chatty buyers will resonate towards you.  You can then ride off into the sunset with more customers.

Starbucks Re-branding

Yuh, I’ll have venti, skinny, de-caff, wet, latte to go please.”  Sound familiar?  The social media channels were awash with buzz about the re-design of the Starbucks logo today, customers old and new debating the why’s and wherefore’s of Starbucks dropping the Starbucks name from their logo and the word “coffee”.  Do you like it?

Clearly, something is going on behind the scenes.  In the UK, Costa coffee have really challenged them on the High Street and other chains such as Coffee Republic and Nero are all chipping away at their market share.  Their response has been to upgrade the stores, with a new look, more focus on space and being a destination. 

However, the logo re-design is a global initiative, so it’s obvious that there is a bigger plan brewing (working a nice coffee related metaphor into the post).  My guess is that they want to move away from being singly associated with coffee.  Starbucks = Coffee in anyones language same as Google = search.   Dropping the word coffee could lead them to re-position stores to serve alcohol and other related foodstuffs, expanding their footprint and share of wallet.

With one eye on the bigger picture, new markets is where it’s at moving forward, the mermaid image representing being the key logo/brand mechanic across cultures/languages – brave move.  There’s certainly been an outpouring of feedback, positive and negative, from experts and armchair commentators. 

I talked a lot about “glocalisation” in 2010, the rejection of global chains as consumers look for more authenticity in their lives, searching out better quality or localised suppliers in favour of the big brands.  Starbucks have had a brilliant decade behind them, whether some new look shops and a new logo will be enough to address this? We’ll see.  What’s obvious is, they may not be able to continue their rate of growth without a new strategy, new markets and some new products (breadth and depth).

Starbucks also need to continue to expand their “perkonomic” activity, such as free wireless, to continue to add further “perks” to justify the price of a cup of hot milk with a coffee shot in.  Still, one thing you can say, we’re all talking about them, so phase one of their comms plan must be in the bag.  Cheers!!

If they’d paid me a quarter of a million in brand consultancy, I’d of said “remove the word coffee and don’t mess with anything else.”  Job done – award won.  Otherwise, what are they?  The brand formerly known as Starbucks?

Branding vs. Demand Generation?

I attended a conference in Manchester today called Brand vs. Demand, which aimed to address this issue. It’s not easy topic to tackle as there are many different factors which should dictate where you spend your marketing dollars.  Are you a B2C or B2B brand?  In an established or new market?  What your route to market is? And so on infinitum…

It’s the traditional tussle which exists between the Marketing Director and the Sales Director in many big businesses (except if you’re both in my case and you find the right balance).  Activity which tells a brand story, reaching out to the emotional decision making criteria of your customer vs. activity which generates instant leads and ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment).  In a recession, all the spotlights get turned to ROMI, for obvious reasons, sales matter, the bottom line matters.

Branding is easily overlooked, seen as a luxury, not a necessity.  Capital is impatient.  Most pieces of commissioned research tell you that for every year you underinvest in branding, it takes you triple the time to catch back up again.   Notwithstanding the above (what you’re selling, to whom and in what phase of the market you are), you need to keep your credentials out there.

When people decide to buy things, if you meet all the basic hygiene factors, price, performance, place, then other factors come into play.  Generally, people narrow their choice down to three brands, you need to be in that top 3 box of consideration.  If not, you’re not in the game.  So, getting the balance right is all about shifting your weight on the see saw, appropriate to market conditions, your budget and your objectives.  If you launch a killer product in a recession, get behind it, spend and take advantage of all the cheap deals out there.  Now might be a great time to get on and do some branding work to take advantage of your key competitor not spending, for example.

There was a promising line up of speakers today, some delivered, some didn’t.  The Rt. Hon Lord Heseltine was interesting, still bright as a button, despite his accelerating years.  He’s been the brains behind the Haymarket Publishing empire for many years and it was interesting to hear his views around printed media.  His prediction is that the specialist marketlaces continue to remain to be profitable as customers “don’t know what they’re looking for.”  As someone that regularly buys road cycling magazines, I concur with that, page by page consumption is typical behaviour for me and my bedtime browsing, however, things will change in time, of that I’m sure.

So in conclusion, you have to do both.  Big or small.  Recession or not recession.  Big budget or little budget.  What it’s for you to decide is how where you put the weight (your budget) on the see saw of spend (brand vs. demand)  Over time, it should be balanced.  In recessions, it can shift much more to demand generation (making the numbers) or branding (taking advantage of great deals), it’s for you to decide the “how, why and when.”

How are you spending your money at the minute?

The Smartest Brains in Business: 2010 and beyond."

Website for start ups and growing businesses Smarta have just launched a great e-book called “The Smartest Brains in Business: 2010 and beyond.” You can download it here. It features short and snappy insights from 30 people about how they see the immediate future. What I like about this is how quick it is to read and how interesting it is to see the contrasting views and perspectives from a diverse group of people (you might recognise the guy on page eight). It’s a fanastic example of how much quality information is available on the web nowadays and not everything has to be a massive thought leadership paper to cut through. I really enjoyed reading (and contributing to) it.