Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Brand’ Category

Branding-cropped

The haters are having a field day on social media.  The over 3,000 followers of the I hate United Airlines Facebook page have every reason to be cheesed off.

There really is a disconnect between the airline’s renown brand messages – “Fly the friendly skies” and “We are United” – and everything the public has witnessed since April 9, when a passenger was removed from UAL flight 3411.

The video of the bloodied, screaming passenger being dragged off the aircraft and the reports that followed, have left the impression of an airline that is anything but friendly – that customers’ needs don’t count,  employees have no empathy and that the airline will solve problems in its own way.

According to the company’s website, United Airlines’ brand is “more than words on paper.  It is shaped by every aspect of (the) customer and co-worker experience.”  If this is true, should we assume that what happened on April 9 was an isolated incident?  Should we believe United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz’s statement three days later that the incident does not reflect “who our family at United is”?

Although we would like to consider that this was an isolated incident which does not define United Airlines, the behaviour of the CEO has led the public to believe otherwise.  The delayed response and initial statements of the CEO have reinforced his employees’ lack of empathy for clients in favour of operating procedures and demonstrates that there is a glaring gap between the customer experience and the United Airlines brand.    Here’s why:


The aftermath: United Airlines’ brand equity is depleted
In a television interview on April 12, Mr. Munoz said that he felt shame after seeing the viral video and stated that every passenger on the flight would be fully refunded.  Even though he also said that it’s never too late to do the right thing, it will take more than compensation to fix the damage.

It will be a long shot for United Airlines to restore confidence in its promise “to make to make every flight a positive experience for our customers.”  This is because its brand equity has been depleted.  Recent poll results indicate that the incident has adversely impacted the perception and preference for the United Airlines brand, potentially resulting in financial losses.

  • According to aMorning Consult poll that surveyed a national sample of 1,976 American adults, 79 percent of respondents who had heard about United’s recent news said they would choose a different airline if that airline — the poll specifically used American Airlines as a stand-in — offered an identical flight for the same price.
  • Among those respondents who hadn’theard of United’s troubles, only 51 percent would choose an American Airlines flight over an identical United flight, with 49 percent choosing United. The near-exact 50-50 split among respondents who haven’t been following the news about United indicates that the recent incidents have had a massive, polarizing effect on public perception of the airline among anyone who’s been paying attention to the news.

Those who are in charge of United Airlines’ marketing and public relations are best placed to explain if the incident and the subsequent statements are the result of misinformed or uninformed employees and CEO who don’t understand the true meaning of the company’s brand and how it ought to flow through to operations, customer service and communications.  These poll results are a reminder that brand equity losses have the potential to cancel out the fortune spent by Marketing departments and agencies on the careful crafting of brand definitions and deployment of brand strategies.

All areas of the organization play a role in brand credibility and equity

In many organizations Marketing is regarded as “the lipstick on the pig” – the stuff that makes for well-crafted, feel-good advertisements that mask the ugliness of complicated back-office operations and procedures that contribute to unfortunate customer experiences.

Very often the brand and brand promise are defined by Marketing, without connecting the dots to all areas of the business.  When this happens, the back-office is not configured to support the customer experience; customer-facing teams are ill-equipped to serve customers; budgets don’t get approved for investments in training, IT development and operational processes that ultimately impact the customer experience. This is how brands lose credibility and consequently, brand equity.

Brands build credibility and equity when all customer and public touch-points reflect an accurate understanding of customer needs and expectations.

With organizations having access to large amounts of data, customers are increasingly demanding more personalized service with the expectation that communications will be transparent and that customer convenience and needs will be prioritized in operating processes. The language used by corporate representatives at every level or the organization, whether to inform, communicate or react, has to be consistent with all that the company says that its brand stands for.

Invest in marketing programmes and in people

It is not enough for the C-suite to sign off on brand strategies and to be impressed by the number of ‘likes’ on social media and business leads generated by modern marketing technology.  Time and money must also be continually invested to train the C-Suite and all employees, to reinforce the connection between the organization’s brand, corporate values, client service and communication protocols.

Only time will tell if the United Airlines brand will recover from this disaster.  Real work has to start on the creation of a clearly defined brand, ensuring that everything the brand stands for prevails in every aspect of the airline’s operations and in the public’s perception of all its employees, including its most senior officers.

There is much to be learned and corrected by United Airlines.  This is also true for many other organizations.

See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com 

@Camille21162

 

Read Full Post »

Source: Why Customer Service is killing your Marketing plan and how to stop it

Read Full Post »

How-To-Use-Social-Media-For-Effective-Customer-Service-Feature

 

As marketing continues to evolve, there’s no shortage of articles, research and blogs giving advice on data analytics, engagement tactics, content marketing.  Marketers read voraciously to find solutions to ensure that marketing programs contribute to new and incremental revenues and to the pipeline of qualified leads.  Effective marketing automation and performance metrics are the highly regarded hallmarks of success.

Although performance metrics can tell us about past performance, the single determinant of success is, and has always been, the consistent delivery of the brand promise throughout the customer’s journey. 

Giving the customer what he expects is everything 

One bad customer experience can be amplified in a nanosecond through social media and damage a brand’s reputation, undermining the investment in marketing programs. 

Recent experiences with a fender bender, having my old smart phone replaced and finding my lost luggage, have given me some valuable insights on how companies are either hitting or missing the mark when it comes to delivering on the brand promise.

It came as no surprise when I read in the 2016 Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council’s Predicting Routes to Revenue Report that

Only 16 percent of marketers feel that their organizations are delivering customer experiences that truly fulfill their brand promises, while two-thirds (66 percent) say their efforts in this area are hit or miss, and 14 percent say they are completely missing the mark.

Return to marketing fundamentals

The CMO Council’s finding points to the need to return to marketing fundamentals – the why, what and how products and services should meet the needs and expectations of the customer.  Every marketer knows that the brand promise is what the customer can expect in his interaction with the brand.

So why is there a disconnect between the customer experience and the brand promise?

In my view, very often the brand promise is defined by Marketing, but it is not understood by other areas of the business.  The back-office is not configured to support the customer experience; customer-facing teams are ill-equipped to serve customers; budgets don’t get approved for investments in training, IT development and operational processes that ultimately impact the customer experience.

The real answers to the why, what and how questions, can’t be just be statements of Marketing’s pipe dream, nor should they be the responsibility of some other area of the business.

The answers require deep understanding and insight into customers’ needs and their motivation to purchase, which may not be as straightforward or as obvious as is commonly taken for granted. 

Why is there a demand for your product or service?

Like it or not, a well-crafted end-product or service may really only be a means to an end for the customer.  For example, travellers use airlines to get to the family reunion or to the once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation destination.  Delay or lose the passenger’s luggage and the family reunion or the dream vacation is ruined.  Back-office operations that send an automated e-mail promising a response in 3 days, and a CSR who tells the customer that the “system is still searching for your bag” fully discredit the brand promise to “provide the best service possible.”

What is the fundamental problem has to be solved for the customer?

The perceived need that is being fulfilled may in fact be secondary.  The person whose car was damaged obviously needs to have it repaired.  But the real problem is the inconvenience of being without a car and the hassle of making alternative travel arrangements while the car is being repaired.  Armed with this insight, the promise of “personalized service for each guest” translates to a simplified sign-up process and flexible return schedule for the rented car replacement on top of a first-class repair job.  The combined work of the body shop’s Repair Services and Administration teams adds up to an A-grade score from a delighted customer, who then becomes a brand advocate.

How does the client want to be served?

And so what if you have a leading-edge product?  The average consumer doesn’t deeply understand (and doesn’t want to deeply understand) the technical features of many products they use on a daily basis.  Advertising the hi-tech features of smart phones won’t buy customers’ loyalty. The promise to provide the “best possible customer experience…treating the customer the way we would want to be treated” is really about ensuring that the customer’s experience is delivered on the customer’s terms.  What really matters is easy access to personalized service when and where the customer wants and needs it, delivered by tech-savvy customer service professionals.

The BIG picture

Empowered with information, customers are driving the way business is done.  That said, there has to be a common understanding of the brand promise and a common view of how the brand promise will be delivered through interdependent relationships throughout the organization.  This, in my view, is the BIG picture.

Focus on what’s important

What’s really important is the consistent gathering of customer insights that is used to validate the brand promise and where necessary, adjust every aspect of business operations ensuring alignment with customer expectations. In practical terms, this means that organizations must do 3 things –

  1. Dedicate specialist resources to gather and analyse data on customer behaviour,
  2. Avoid analysis paralysis by requiring the delivery of actionable recommendations, and
  3. Commit to drive change in every area of the business so that the customer experience matches the brand promise.

 

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

@Camille21162

Read Full Post »


BRAND

Although it was a cold day in winter, I had a warm and fuzzy feeling.  The CEO of the company where I worked pulled me aside during his annual Christmas meet and greet employee meeting, looked me straight in the face and said, “Thank you so much for all the great work you do for us, Camille.  We really value and appreciate your contribution.”  And for a few seconds after he said this, I felt as if I could have given the company back the bonus cheque I received a week earlier.  Personal recognition from the CEO was priceless.

So several years later, with most of them spent leading cross-functional teams and direct reports, I finally nailed down the real reasons why I entertained the absurd thought of refunding a hard-earned bonus cheque.

  • Essential alignment of personal values and corporate values

After a particularly unpleasant experience with a previous employer, I vowed never to work anywhere where management did not walk the talk of their corporate values.  More importantly, there should be no conflict between my core values of truth, integrity and respect and those of my employer.

Respect was listed among the company’s values.

Pulling me aside to say how much my contribution was valued was in my view, a genuine act of respect coming from the CEO, not just for my work, but for my personal and professional commitment to the success of the company.   I didn’t feel that he was being politically correct or doing his duty to be polite.

In later years when I did have to manage a department, I learned a very hard lesson.  If the personal values of a highly competent employee are not aligned with corporate values, the best designed bonus compensation plan is ineffective.

  • Personal recognition of a job well done is more impactful than a formal recognition program

The company had a formal recognition program, governed by a process of nomination and specific selection criteria.  Exceptional actions and contributions to special projects were recognized in the formal program.  The consistent delivery of good work was not.

Very often, the employee doing the most critical work is several steps away from the front line.  In my case, I was the one preparing the quotation and response to the request for proposal, and the data required for the finalist presentation.  This was my job.  My work was reviewed and approved through a long chain of command.  I felt honoured that the CEO had taken the time to find out who were the behind the scenes contributors.  His personal statement of appreciation meant more to me than seeing my name among the crowded list on the Recognition Program roster in the quarterly employee bulletin.

  • Fitting in & contributing to something larger than oneself

People need to feel that they are contributing to something larger than themselves, and that their contribution really makes a difference.  The CEO clearly made me feel that the company needed and valued my contribution.

Employee recognition and the employer brand

And this last point leads me, as a marketer, to make the connection between employee recognition and the employer brand.  The employer brand defines for employees, why the organization is a great place to work and sets expectations for employees’ experience throughout their career there.

Employee buy-in to the employer brand creates engagement, encourages discretionary effort and results in committed and outstanding performance, which is the basis for employee recognition programmes.  To be meaningful, the employer brand has to be brought to life, and if not, it remains an empty set of words.   

Bringing the employer brand to life is all about equipping employees to do their jobs with enthusiasm and building commitment to the company’s values.  To do this, I have three suggestions:

  1. Human Resources and Marketing should work together in the on-going management of the employer brand. When there are changes to business strategies, the employer brand must also be adjusted and communicated to employees.
  2. Business leaders and managers should commit to an on-going programme of internal, bi-directional communication activities so that employees understand the importance of the role they play in the success of the company.
  3. A mix of formal recognition programs and opportunities for leaders to give employees personal recognition goes a long way to motivate employees.

 

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

@Camille21162

Read Full Post »

Can you tell me about yourself?   Prospective employees come prepared to answer this inevitable question in the job interview. They know that recruiters and hiring managers very often use the response as a key element in their final selection criteria. Job-seekers are advised by career counsellors how to and how not to respond. “Don’t give a chronological account of your life or career. Do tie relevant aspects of your professional experience to the job description.”

Good advice? Maybe.

In today’s ever-changing business environment no one can bet that the job description at the time of hiring will be the same twelve months later. All of this begs the question: to what extent should the interviewee’s ability to explain how his or her professional experience is aligned to the job description be considered as a deciding factor in the hiring process?

The context of constant change
Changes in the economy, the impact of new technologies, market demand and the availability of talent, are some of the factors that require organizations to make frequent and important adjustments to their business strategies. These adjustments give rise to the need for employees to expand their knowledge and for companies to seek talent with specialized skills. McKinsey reports that over the past three decades, advances in technology have impacted companies. An important trend has been the disaggregation of roles into more specialized functions. For example, social and digital media have caused new and more specialized marketing roles to emerge in companies that previously only hired generalist, corporate marketers.
Adaptability, resilience and loyalty
In the context of constant change, hiring managers and recruiters can no longer rely primarily on the alignment of past professional experience with the current job description in the selection process. Constant change requires employees to be adaptable, resilient and loyal: adaptable – willing to embrace new knowledge and skill requirements; resilient to successfully work through the inevitable disruptions and stresses of change; and loyal, so that the company benefits from their experience over an extended period of time.

Rather than relying heavily on the best match between past professional experience and the current job description, hiring managers should aim to find out the value of skills and differentiating attributes that potential employees bring to the organization that are relevant now and in the future. The most likely way to find out is to ask the question: What is your personal brand?

Having a personal brand is important
A brand definition outlines a promise of value that is different from other providers who are perceptively similar. The term personal brand was first defined in Fast Company magazine (August 1997), in an article written by Tom Peters. In his words, “You’re hired, you report to work you join a team. Along the way, if you’re really smart, you figure out what it takes to create a distinctive role for yourself – you create a message and a strategy to promote the brand called You.” But long before landing the job, anyone who wants to thrive and prosper in their prospective place of work will define their personal brand. This brand differentiates potential employees from other candidates, positions the potential employee as an expert and establishes credibility and value to the potential employer.

The personal brand provides answers to key questions
Potential employers should expect that at a minimum, candidates for professional and leadership positions should be able to articulate their personal brand. The best responses to the question: what is your personal brand? include:

  • Succinct explanations of the specialized skills and differentiating attributes a person brings to the organization;
  • How personal values support the corporation’s values; and
  • The factors that drive commitment to the mission of the organization.

Recruiters and hiring managers should also be able to gather answers to other key interview questions: what can you do for this company that someone else can’t? and why should we hire you? In fact, so much more information can be gleaned from the potential employee’s definition of his/her personal brand with probing questions. By asking for specific examples that demonstrate the personal brand in action, recruiters can gain some insight into the interviewee’s resilience and ability to navigate change.

Bringing all this information together will help both potential employees and hiring managers determine whether or not there is a good fit for the role and the company over time. Recruiters and potential employees will agree that information on qualifications, competencies and shared values ought to be the key elements in the hiring decision. A well-defined personal brand can initiate the discussion of these points during the job interview and provide valuable information required to make the final decision to hire employees who support the immediate and longer-term business needs.
________________________________________
Camille N. Isaacs-Morell is a marketing professional whose personal brand is expressed in the statement “See the big picture. Focus on what’s important.” She passionately believes that all departments play a role in the delivery of marketing strategies and that employee engagement and the alignment of personal and corporate values are essential to make work a gratifying and satisfying experience. Read more at www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

This blog was published  on 11 June 2013 at Your Workplace.

Read Full Post »

Attracting and retaining the employees who are a good ‘fit’ has become as important as the skills and professional experience presented on the CVs of prospective employees. Many organizations are investing time and resources to develop compelling reasons why potential employees should work for them. Corporate values, benefits packages and special incentives are communicated in job descriptions, hiring advertisements and on career portals.

The term “employer brand” has become almost a buzzword in the language of HR professionals, brand specialists and marketers.

But what really is the employer brand?
In a nutshell, the employer brand defines what the company offers to its employees. It’s the identity of the company as an employer. More specifically, the employer brand conveys the reasons why the organization is a great place to work and sets expectations for employees’ experience throughout his or her career.

A good example of a company with a strong employer brand is Google. Google is renowned as a great place to work because the company offers a fun, energetic place to work that encourages new ideas and innovation. An astounding number of prospective employees from around the world know this and want to participate in Google’s international internship programme and apply for jobs in their Silicon-Valley operations. According to global employer branding firm Universum’s global talent attraction index “The World’s Most Attractive Employers 2012”, Google has retained the top position in both categories — business and engineering — for the fourth year in a row.

The BIG picture
Defining and communicating the employer brand to attract prospective employees is only one element that contributes to business success. A well-defined and well- managed employer brand has a much bigger role to play than attracting and recruiting employees. It is important for employers to understand that the definition and on-going management of the employer brand should not be treated as an after-thought or delegated to the Human Resources department.

To be meaningful and effective, all business leaders and people managers in the organization must buy in to the definition of the employer brand and understand its alignment with the business brand. Businesses cannot be successful unless employees see the connection between the roles they are expected to play in the business plan of the company. This, in my view, is the BIG picture.

Connecting the business brand and employer brand
One reason why companies fail to retain top talent is because employees don’t see the relevance of their role in the overall mission of the company. Far too often companies attempt to develop an employer brand without any reference to the mission and business brand of the company. The business brand gives expression to the mission of the organization so that it is perceived as having a competitive advantage. The aim of a well-defined business brand is to create interest and engagement among its target clients and to win their business and loyalty in the long-term. Companies do this by establishing a brand promise – what customers can expect when they do business with the company.

Like the business brand, the employer brand must aim to give the organization a competitive advantage by defining what employees can expect when they join the organization. Employees generally expect that their employer will enable them to successfully contribute to the delivery of the company’s business brand promise.

Google is able to attract employees who are a good fit because the company establishes a clear connection between its business brand promise and employer brand promise. Google’s brand promise is to provide access to the world’s information in one click – making simplicity out of complexity. Google succinctly weaves its business brand promise into its employer brand so that prospective employees join the company expecting that they will be enabled to solve complex problems every day to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible to Google users. And this is done in a fun, energetic, innovative work environment.

Defining the employer brand
The process of defining the employer brand is not dissimilar to the process of defining the business brand. Key steps include:

Clear understanding of the corporate goals and business strategy of the organization – develop a definition of the employee profiles required to execute the strategy

Qualitative and quantitative data gathering – on the internal experience of employees and external perceptions of the organization – its values, culture, image, performance management and rewards

Gap assessment and opportunity identification – comparison of strengths, weaknesses and differentiators with those of competing organizations

Understand target audiences – an understanding of the needs and values of the target recruits and existing employees

Connections – matching the organization’s values with those of the target employee audiences and constructing a clear definition of the employer brand.

Giving expression to the employer brand clearly requires the combined use of Marketing and Human Resource expertise to determine the appropriate messages and ensure that there is an obvious connection between the employer and business brands and that they are both aligned with the overall strategy and vision of the organization.

For example, an innovative company that chooses to base its business brand on its customer-centric focus, would do well in its employer brand definition to highlight its people-focused culture – how it enables its employees to develop their talents and encourage customer-focused innovations.

What’s more important….bringing the employer brand to life
Defining the business brand is a very important starting point. What’s even more important is bringing the employer brand to life by ensuring that employees are equipped to deliver the business brand in a workplace that is truly a great place to work.

 • Equip employees – for on-going employee training and development programmes, Marketing can and should be regarded as an important contributor to help non-Marketing staff understand and perform their tasks in ways that support the marketing strategy (e.g. cross selling and up-selling) and brand identity (e.g. style of communication).

Manage the employer and business brands in tandem – Human Resources must involve Marketing in the on-going management of the employer brand. When there are changes to business strategies and adjustments are made to the business brand, the employer brand must also be evolved and communicated to employees.

Communicate constantly– business leaders and managers must commit to an on-going programme of internal, bi-directional communication activities so that employees embrace the essence of the business brand and enthusiastically promote it.

A final word
To be successful, the communication of the employer brand should be genuine, persuasive, differentiated. The employer brand must be internally embraced, positioned appropriately to external audiences and most importantly, be consistently delivered by the organization during recruitment and on-boarding activities and throughout the employee’s career. In this age where social media platforms are accessible, it is very easy for potential employees to validate whether or not organizations are in fact being true to their employer brand and business brand.

See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.
www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

Read Full Post »

In an earlier post, I highlighted the need for departments to work together to make organizational change effective.  No one would object to this.  But the notion that there could be synergies when Marketing and HR work together seems counter intuitive.

Marketing involves identifying and meeting wants and needs of people.  To do this, marketers need to be up on the latest trends, creative, adaptive and strategic.  They’re seen as always having fun, standing in the spotlight and having the ear of senior executives.  On the other hand, HR involves the development of strategies, policies and programmes to manage people and promote a healthy corporate culture.  HR practitioners aren’t often seated at the senior executives’ table.  The perception is that HR is always on the receiving end of instructions from upper management to hire, fire, manage performance and deliver those training programmes which are the first on the chopping block when budgets are cut.  If you really believe this, you would say that HR and Marketing are polar opposites!

Before the objections start to pour in, let me point out that although their mandates are different, Marketing and HR Departments do share similar and very important roles – that is, getting people to do what is best for the company – whether they are clients, prospects, the general public or employees.  More specifically, Marketing and HR departments

  • are involved in incentivizing people,
  • reinforce consistent messages,
  • measure engagement,
  • provide proof of a value proposition, and
  • undertake activities that impact the delivery of the corporation’s strategy.

So, why is it important for both Marketing and HR to work together?  The answer is simple.  Employees are the key to business success.

Marketing develops and manages the business brand to create awareness of products and services, build on-going customer loyalty and contribute to business success. It’s the employees who represent the company and its products and services to customers and as such, they influence customer loyalty and business success. To ensure that employees understand what the business brand stands for and enthusiastically promote it, Marketing and HR must work together to ensure that employees are equipped to deliver the business brand promise to customers.

Some specific areas of Marketing and HR collaboration can be:

  • Recruitment and on-boarding activities – should reinforce consistent messages and provide proof of the corporation’s value proposition to employees and clients

 

Meaningful connections between the values of the corporation and the values of target recruits ought to be consistently communicated in recruitment advertising and bring these values to life in on-boarding and on-going organizational development activities.  Marketing should to be in a position to provide insights and research on the values of demographic groups the organization hopes to attract as potential employees and the reasons why they are likely to be a good fit.   As well, Marketing should be able to provide HR with guidance to select the right media, position employee and recruitment messages, adopt the appropriate style of communication and select the call to action channels that are appropriate for the target audiences.

  • Performance management, training, recognition and reward programmes – incentivize employees and impact the delivery of the corporate strategy

It is important for Marketing and HR to ensure agreement on the resources, skills and behaviours that support the delivery of the business brand and corporate strategy.  Real inputs that Marketing can provide HR include customer research and feedback on specific areas of interaction such as service, communication, in-store experience, loyalty programmes etc.  HR and Marketing can jointly identify what matters most to clients and determine the required skills and content of training programmes to support employees in the fulfilment of client needs in ways that reflect the business brand promise and achieve the corporate strategy objectives.

  • Cross-referencing employee metrics and marketing metrics – measuring engagement of employees and customers/target customers

Both HR and Marketing use surveys to measure engagement albeit of different groups – employees, in the case of HR and customers /target customers in the case of Marketing.  It has been proven that employee engagement directly impacts customer satisfaction and financial performance.  High levels of employee engagement correspond to increases in customer engagement levels – even when there is no direct customer contact.  More specifically, the quality of product development and the creation of the corporate reputation are the outcomes of employee engagement and ultimately influence customer satisfaction.  By cross-referencing results of customer and employee engagement surveys, HR and Marketing can identify areas in the company and/or customer segments for improvement and potential solutions to address the challenges.

Make it happen!

Aligning the efforts of Marketing and HR in the areas cited above begins corporate senior leadership recognizing that business success is wholly dependent on their employees’ capacity to deliver on the company’s brand promise.

When identifying areas of cooperation, it is essential for Marketing and HR to look beyond departmental objectives and focus on aligning their roles and efforts in relation to corporate business strategies and objectives.

Once the areas of cooperation and alignment of roles have been identified, both departments need to create forums for collaboration and communication comprised of persons with the expertise required to do the work.

 

This blog was written for Your Workplace and published on 11 March, 2013.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »