Since February, JCPenny has promoted their brand with flashy commercials reminiscent of today’s trendy and modish brands (think Target and Apple), along with an updated logo and name: JCP. The brand revitalization seems to be focused on attracting younger, hipper shoppers—a demographic the brand hasn’t appealed to since their catalog days.
For the holiday season, they’re launching a full blown guerrilla holiday giving campaign called the Holiday Giving Tour jam packed full of experiences that are meant to wow.
- In Langhorne, Pa., the JCP hired lumberjacksto distribute free firewood;
- In Knoxville, Tenn., a blimp will shower small gifts on passersby;
- In Kemmerer, Wyo., the company created a drive-thru tent where customers are given free warm drinks and a complementary car wash by attendants dressed like Santa and his elves;
- In Dallas, TX a tobogganing course will be set up for warm weather sled rides.
While these experiences are most certainly creative and fun, are these tactics just gimmicks to grab attention or are they brand-defining experiences that map to a bigger strategy that will truly shift the JCP brand?
We’ve seen lots of brands successfully revive themselves: Frye modernized their cowboy boot styles to fit today’s broader fashion preference; Levi’s developed new styles to appeal to the modern woman and man.
The difference between these brands and JCP? They didn’t just create some fun advertising; they created an integrated strategy that shifted the entire brand experience—from their products, to their stores, to their leadership, to their marketing.
While JCP had developed marketing experiences that are fun and fresh, I can’t say that you’ll find their products have shifted to align with this new vision. With brands like Target and Niemen Marcus creating compelling brand experiences of their own and great products to boot, JCP will need to do a lot more to satisfy the needs of shoppers.
Are you excited about evaluation? No? You’re not alone.
That’s the problem that Organizational Research Services (ORS) came to us with: They do outcome-based evaluation consulting, but it was hard to get nonprofits excited about evaluation, often seen as only one more hoop to jump through for getting funding. Our job was to show nonprofits that evaluative thinking would make their lives both easier and their work more impactful.
Parker LePla recommended making an animated video that poked fun at the world of evaluation, entitled “Learning to love evaluative practice!” Using ORS’s white paper as the basis for the script, Parker LePla, in collaboration with Silver Fox Productions, created a funny video that helps ORS convey what they do.
The response from the video has been very positive with a tweeter stating it was “the first funny video ever made on learning.”
Do you think you can learn to love evaluative practice? Take look and tell us what you think:
Integrating Evaluative Practices - Components and Approaches from ORS on Vimeo.
Why is internal branding essential? Internal branding helps create employees whose interactions create a compelling experience. As relationships move to cyberspace, the opportunity for employees to develop influential relationships with customers and influencers has never been greater. But along with this comes the need for greater management transparency, employee empowerment and a stronger company culture.
Internal branding is the process of aligning culture, infrastructure, leadership, and metrics. It empowers employees to live the brand through how they do their jobs, their internal and customer interactions, and personal expression.
Whether you work in a product or service business, a for-profit or not-for-profit, it is ultimately people who make the difference. Your employees, from research and development (R&D) to customer support, create and deliver your uniquely branded experience. It’s your employees who form the unbreakable relationships between you and your customers. In short, your employees must live your brand for sustainable success. But a well-defined brand only creates a framework and direction for employee behaviors and specific actions; living the brand is ultimately the way to energize the talents and enthusiasm of employees as they forge their own unique takes on your brand.
What does effective internal branding look like? It aligns all employees—including those in the back office and in supporting roles as well as those on the front lines—with your brand promise. It arms all employees with actionable brand tools, which are the compass that enables them to deliver consistent customer experiences. It supports and builds the corporate culture into something that is rewarding to employees and that delivers the company’s brand experience.
Making internal branding part of your normal management and employee processes will ensure adoption and acceptance. Here are 10 tips for building a successful internal brand strategy, in additional to some of components (below) that we use to assess the success of employee engagement and develop brand strategy programs.
- Employees talk in compelling and consistent ways about the value of the brand delivers
- Employees know how to act in ways that demonstrate and build the brand’s value
- Employees can site examples of their managers and senior team walking the talk
- Employees are emotionally bought into the brand’s story and promise in ways that shine through in their conversations and interactions with customers
- On-brand behaviors are recognized, rewarded and shared with employees across the organization
- Staff is engaged with the brand community both online and offline
- Frequent measurements are taken to address any gaps between what customers value and how the brand performs
- The strength of the company culture and brand community are evaluated on a regular basis to identify areas needing improvements
Looking for more information on how to build a successful internal brand program? Check out how Health New England motivates their employees to live the brand.
This blog post was originally published on Create a Brand that Inspires, a new book on internal branding written by me, Joe LePla, and Wolfgang Giehl.
Shout out to client Seattle City Light for its latest ad campaign. In research done with the utility’s consumer panel, our new ad beat out both the utilities’ previous creative and an award winning, best in class ad from another utility. Viewers rated this ad the most likable, the most compelling, and the easiest to understand.
As a brand consultant in the healthcare industry, I spend a lot of time with providers talking about what makes for a good healthcare experience. Strangely, these are relatively few and far between for the average healthcare consumer. However, today I had an amazing healthcare experience so I thought I’d document a bit about what made it so special. If you’re not in healthcare, I bet there’s still something you can take away from this.
1) Availability and expectation setting: I called last night to schedule my physical therapy appointment and there was actually a time slot available this morning at 7:30am. Not only did I get in right away but I also missed no more than an hour of work. The office told me precisely how long I would be there and the appointment took precisely that long.
2) Provider preparation: The provider I saw this morning had clearly read my chart, knew about my previous injuries and had already anticipated how those issues might be related to what I was experiencing today. Her thoughtful questions were meant to better connect the dots and to better understand my experience, not to re-hash my medical history.
3) Humor and empathy: I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it when something is wrong with me. It doesn’t make me very happy. My provider this morning blended just the right amount of humor into our conversation so that I felt like everything was going to be OK. I know healthcare is a serious issue, but we all need to laugh—it’s healthy! Her humor also managed to subtly communicate “I know this is hard, and I’m sorry.”
4) Active listening: I have no doubt that entire years of medical school are spent training doctors and other providers to do this, but I am often surprised at how little I feel heard. This morning, however, I was pleasantly surprised to be engaged with my provider in a conversation about what was working and not working. She used appropriate cues to let me know I was heard, asked thoughtful follow up questions. Before giving a recommendation, she’d ask first “what are you doing already?” to make sure she wasn’t telling me something I didn’t know.
5) A path to resolution: One of our clients, the Mayo Clinic, really stumbled upon something when we were helping them with their brand positioning—Mayo is where you go when you need answers. That’s because so much of healthcare is uncertain, hard to diagnose and scary. There’s something so satisfying about leaving an appointment with some amount of information that makes you feel empowered and like you’re on the path to recovery. Even if it’s just a little bit. I left today with some hope that my pain will be resolved. And that’s a great healthcare experience.
Healthcare experiences, wether good or bad, can affect the strength of the organization's brand in big ways. And, in the era of healthcare reform and consumer choice, healthcare organizations are going to have to focus on how to build their brands if they want to stick around, let alone be profitable.
Want to learn more about creating a better brand experience for the people you serve? Check out our Creating a Better Brand Experience Toolkit--full of great information on how to build internal brand alignment, design your customer experience and develop a digital brand strategy to tie it all together.
When companies are creating a new product or service, the first question is often “What should we name it?” And before they know it, there’s an afternoon brainstorm scheduled in the conference room. Or worse, the internal code name gets leaked to the market and then there’s no turning back. In both these scenarios an essential step has been skipped—where does this product fit in our current brand hierarchy? By that I mean, is this an extension of the current brand or a new one altogether?
At the heart of this issue is whether your current brand name will help or hurt the success of the new product and will the release of the new product help or hurt the success of your current brand. It has to do with how you define your current brand’s value and whether this new offering feels like a good fit with that value.
While it made sense to Hooters that they should launch a Hooters branded airline, customers didn’t quite see the connection between boobs and travel. And while Precious Moments figurines do appeal to the heart, the idea of a Precious Moments Coffin didn’t appeal to anyone at all. Both these brands could have launched the products in question, but they could have created new brand names for them that distanced them from the existing brand. In the case of Seattle-based Group Health, they had the opposite problem. They had eye care centers and other types of providers who were delivering outstanding experiences. But because they weren’t branded Group Health, patients weren’t attributing their positive experiences back to the brand.
There are many ways to brand a new product or service offering. Here are just a few:
1) Closely held sub-brand: As in Apple iPhone
2) Distantly held sub-brand: As in Courtyard by Marriot
3) Separately branded: 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea (Starbucks)
If you’re looking at a new offering and wondering what type of brand hierarchy you should pursue, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) Audience: Would the same customer who buys your other offerings, also buy this offering? If so, then this could be an easier sell if you can say “brought to you by the same people who brought you x.” If not, then maybe it doesn’t matter because they might not know your existing brand anyway.
2) Fit: Does this product further support and enhance the value of your current brand? Or is it a departure? If it’s a departure then customers could either be confused about the new offering and/or be less clear about the value your original brand provides. Ideally, customers would find the fact that you’re offering the new product believable and your brand would help prime the market for what they should expect from the new product.
3) Future: Is this product indicative of where you’re heading as a company? If you’ve historically been known for providing something that’s either becoming obsolete or commoditized, then offering a new product that feels like a departure can help move the existing brand forward. It can signal to customers “hey, look where we’re heading, isn’t it cool?”
This decision isn’t simple. Not only are there many strategic considerations, there are also many options to consider. If you’d like to discuss how to bring a new product you’re considering to market or how to reconcile that product or service with your existing brand hierarchy, consider setting up a complimentary brand consultation with us.
I, like 65.6 million others, watched the debate on last Tuesday night. Romney and Obama were clearly courting the female vote; however each used a very different brand strategy to do so. Like different brands attract different types of consumers, Brand Romney and Brand Obama were clearly differentiated.
One way of tracking brands is through Twitter, which gives people’s personal stories and reactions in real time. So when Romney proudly uttered the statement “binders full of women,” within seconds, Twitter users reacted with the hashtag #BindersFullofWomen. “Binders full of women” also became Google's third top-trending query Tuesday night; a tumblr blog was quickly started and a Facebook page, Binders Full of Women, has reached more than 350,000 likes. Amazon has even received comments on their product review pages for binders, which reference this meme.
What was Brand Romney saying with this statement? To Romney, binders full of women shows progress, because now at least women are considered for top positions. But to many of the viewers of the debates, instead of setting up Romney as a champion of women’s rights, it made him look antiquated and old school—who even uses binders anymore?
Brand Obama, through addressing the actual hard issues of equal pay through his support for the Lilly Ledbetter act, instead showed himself as more modern and truly empathetic.
On the other hand, Romney has been gaining in the polls with some women around the issue of Libya, because they think Obama is hiding something.
Well, I guess we will see which brand women select in November.
Just because you have a branded website and a company Facebook page or Twitter account, doesn't mean you have a digital brand strategy. There, I said it. Not to be harsh, but being online is only the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the iceberg is what enables your brand to generate more leads and close more business through greater brand awareness, preference and loyalty. In the olden days, brands differentiated mostly through products. Brands must now--due in large part to the internet and social media--differentiate through experiences.
With the shift to connected and always on devices, such as tablets and smart phones, a digital strategy is no longer just a series of digital tactics like social media or a website or mobile app that may or may not connect to one another. It's about a connected experience.
Let's say your brand sells shoes online (not to pick on anyone in particular here). This is what a customer experience map might look like for this:
If all of these pieces and parts (1-4) of this experience aren't seamless and compelling, you may be lucky to get one sale from that customer. And, because consumers have plenty of ways to share their discontent about their experience with your brand, you may lose many other sales from many other potential customers as well.
A digital brand strategy looks at your entire customer experience--from initial awareness to post-purchase or engagement--and defines the ways in which your brand can deliver on its promise through digital or virtual interactions across the entire experience.
A digital brand strategy:
Starts with your brand promise (your brand value) and uses this as a driver for strategies and tactics
Outlines the business and brand objectives the digital strategy will seek to achieve
Stems from a deep understanding of your brand's target personas--their goals, beliefs, behaviors and motivations
Utilizes customer experience mapping to understand the customer's experience from beginning to end
Identifies the digital channels at play across the customer experience
Outlines the digital brand opportunities, activities and processes necessary to enable a compelling and seamless customer experience
Defines the internal resources and investments necessary to achieve objectives
Defines how success will be measured and adjustments will be made
Developing a digital brand strategy for your organization will require a bit of a cultural shift, but the degree of that shift depends on how readily your organization has adapted to the web 2.0 and 3.0 world.The good news is that this shift has the opportunity to result in greater sales and brand loyalty.
Check out our white paper on digital experiences that make the sale to get some instant ideas on developing your digital brand strategy.
When Parker LePla started working with Creating IT Futures Foundation (CITFF), the organization was in flux. Was it a training organization? A connector organization? Was the main audience employers, or candidates for training? Was it an apprenticeship organization, or did it connect people to apprenticeships?
Through a brand strategy process, we helped the organization realize its unique role in the IT world: providing on-ramps to entry-level IT jobs. Sometimes CITFF would do it with training,
sometimes with apprenticeship programs, sometimes through partnerships with workforce
development organizations, sometimes with direct partnerships with employers. The brand strategy process helped Creating IT Future Foundation understand that the way they did it would evolve over time, but that the overall reason for being was to build more and faster on-ramps to the IT industry. As a result, unemployed and underrepresented people, such as veterans, women and minorities, would gain a foothold in the fast growing and in need of people industry of information technology.
Since working with us, CITFF has recruited, trained and placed 23 people in IT apprenticeships. It has proven its model, and can pass it on to other workforce development organizations.
Strong brands offer memorable, distinctive experiences that wow their customers. They have used their brand not only as a driver of marketing and messaging, but also as a touchstone for training staff, designing retail environments and creating new products. Think Southwest Airlines’ safety briefings, Double Tree’s warm chocolate chip cookie, BMWs European Delivery Program. To create these brand experiences requires a fair amount of discipline that typically includes the following steps:
1) A clear definition of what your brand stands for and how that’s different from your competitors
2) Input on the existing customer experience, and what customers need and want
3) A vision for how to create a new brand experience that delivers what customers want while also demonstrating your unique approach
Group Health here in Seattle took this process to an extreme this past year, however, while building their newest clinic. Not only did they create a new type of experience that would wow their members and continue to build their brand, but they also used some pretty cool techniques to pull it off. Group Health first built their newest clinic out of cardboard. They used a process pulled from the Lean Manufacturing Method along with their own research and analysis to create a prototype of the most ideal clinic experience. They brought in sample patients to walk through the clinic and perform specific tasks, asked them for feedback and then tweaked it in real time.
The result is: No patient waiting, care delivered in one room, fewer errors, and an easy way for staff to collaborate on patient care—all specific ways Group Health is fulfilling its promise to be innovative, coordinated and personal.
What customer experience would you recreate to demonstrate your company’s brand and wow your customer?