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You don’t always have to keep up with the Joneses

You don’t always have to keep up with the Joneses

Are you using the right language for your brand and your customer? Ask a brand consultant

When it comes to branding, the Joneses have much to answer for.

The root of the idiom, “keeping up with the Joneses” has been a driving force in capitalism for generations.

Many corporations, businesses and brands have survived, thrived or failed though their ability (or lack of) to create desire amongst their respective target audiences.

The Wikipedia definition is damning enough in itself – to fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority.

Whilst desire is a very strong emotion there aren’t many of us who wish to admit to any kind of inferiority.

The language you use with your customers is important

The language you use with your customers is important

Coming from that most neighbourly of competitions is our inherent overuse and misuse of superlatives or exaggerated descriptors:
– “…excellent night out…”
– “…a fantastic meal”
– “the service was amazing”
– “an incredible holiday at the most beautiful hotel”
– “the best customer service…”
– “…the No 1 brand…”

Not one of the above lines would be out of place in a Tripadvisor review but when it comes down to it the truth can be hugely disappointing.

Most of the time.

Each year Superbrand surveys 2,500 consumers across 1,600 “brands” to determine the ”Superbrand of the Year”

The 2016 award went to British Airways and over the last number of years the number 1 spot has been occupied variously by Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon.

Not just anyone can be a superbrand however and there are a series of very strict selection criteria, including:

– 30% + of revenues must come from outside the brand’s home region
– the brand must have a presence in at least 3 major continents, as well as broad geographic coverage in emerging markets
– There must be sufficient publicly available data on the brand’s financial performance
– Economic profit must be expected to be positive over the longer term, delivering a return above the brand’s operating and financing costs
– The brand must have a public profile and awareness above and beyond its own marketplace

Thankfully consumers score brands in real time somewhat differently but I’m yet to encounter a truly “amazing” brand experience.

Are you a Superbrand?

Are you a Superbrand?

In fact I’m pleasantly surprised most of the time if the customer experience is only slightly north of OK.

Being “brilliant” is not a pre-requisite – nor is it possible, despite what the Joneses say, but there are certain characteristics which are more than just a “ticket to play” when it comes to above average brand performance.

A good starting point is Not to be disliked, both corporately and “personally”

Getting more than a “Yiz gettin?” at the counter is one thing but “likeability” is much more than moderate levels of customer service.

Corporate behaviour can have just as significant an influence on consumer behaviour, and as I write this I think back to the early-90s and the intense dislike for Barclays Bank amongst students who did nothing to disguise their South African business interests. Starbucks, Amazon, Facebook et al need to take a look at the benefits of tax-avoidance over increasing levels of customer disengagement. For some it’s not an issue but for others, it’s becoming a serious problem of corporate ethics.

I often use the example of Starbucks and their “5 ways of being” as a template for customer service and brand consistency, yet it is hard to balance this with their tax-avoidance and poor treatment of casual labour.

Misuse of sweatshops (NIKE), eco-friendly production (APPLE), tax avoidance (STARBUCKS), country of origin (Anti_Israel lobby) should all perhaps become part of the Superbrand scoring system – they certainly influence the behaviour of customers.

Great products aren't always produced ethically

Great products aren’t always produced ethically

When consumers are put under greater pressure from a proliferation of choice, they either tend to ignore or revert to form. Dependability is pretty important for brands regardless of what sector or business type but for each customer, dependability might mean something entirely different.

Tough – the burden of proof is not with the customer but with the brand, and if you are in a service industry, where there is arguably greater expectation, the need for constant training is key.

Being authentic is hard to fake.

So many “Irish Bars”, “American Diners”, “French restaurants” try hard to imitate but fail miserably. So many white-collar businesses create marketing campaigns to support online presences, which promise so much but ultimately deliver so little.

Being authentic takes great talent – I probably am only aware of maybe a handful of truly authentic brands. You’ll know them when you see them – they’re just harder to find than you’d think.

All brands are trustworthy, right?

I wish they were…

Trust again is measured on an individual scale, but with relatively common characteristics including Capability, Intent, Competence, Character, Results…

More so now than ever before, brands are dropping their guard and the more communicative customers become, the greater risk of brands being found out.

Many brands die through an inability to consistently deliver on their brand promise. Customers place great significance on consistency – decision-making is made easier, faster and it becomes a validation of their thinking.

Inconsistency is a brand killer.

communciate your value EVERYWHERE

communciate your value EVERYWHERE

Value delivery goes without saying, right?

It does…doesn’t it…?

Given more time and more space, I could go on. Ultimately it is easier to sense-check your brand by measuring it against consistency, dependability, authenticity, honesty, empathy, veracity and of course value, rather than the Superbrand model.

Knowing that you should measure is one thing, doing it is another story.

Shift Control is a Belfast-based brand consultancy specialising in brand management, sales strategy and business growth for SMEs and Start-Ups



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