Thursday, April 14, 2016

3 Questions to ask about Trump, Nenshi and your brand to have people believe you.

 I am going to break my self-imposed rule about not talking politics because I think that there are a couple of politicians that can illustrate some important principles about how you can enhance the authenticity of your brands.  Donald Trump has shattered conventional wisdom with his high level of authenticity to a broad section of Americans (despite some fibbing and flip-flopping). Before Trump, who has yet to win any election, there was a total stunner here in Canada named Naheed Nenshi the mayor of Calgary. The anti-Trump.  Nenshi could be thought of as the smartest kid in the class, who is also happy to help you with your homework. He is beloved in that city, proving that the people of Calgary don’t care if you are bookish, inexperienced and Muslim. They want good government and a mayor they can trust.

 In Build Belief™ workshops we dig through brands to uncover Belief Assets that are available to a brand but are not being used effectively. Those same queries can help us understand how politicians like Trump and Nenshi develop remarkable credibility. Having people believe you is contextual and nuanced. It comes not just from what you do, but also who you are and what your motives are - in the eyes of your prospects.

Who are you?
A natural place to start is the Creation Narrative. Trump’s narrative is of a scrappy, successful, self-made, entrepreneur.  It has been bolstered by his reality TV show; people believe what they witness for themselves. His publicized story is crafted to ignore his generational wealth and privilege and certainly his many business failures.

Nenshi’s is a story of gratitude and sacrifice. It is an archetypal immigrant story in which his parents emigrated from Tanzania while his mother was pregnant so he could be born in Canada. He has remarked, “Had my family been just on the other side of the lake in Africa we might have arrived as refugees.” He has seemingly devoted his life to public service in gratitude.  That devotion included a Master’s degree in public policy at Harvard, a stint with McKinsey and consulting for the United Nations before he decided to run for mayor as an outsider.

What is your motive?
Many brands deliberately demonstrate shared values with their prospects as a way to convince their audience that they are worthy of trust and a deeper relationship. Some are credible (Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays), some fail (Starbucks wanted to “talk about race”), many are in the middle (Bell: “let’s talk”).  Regardless, people will consciously and unconsciously sense what the brand’s true motive is.

Trump is the “true outsider” whose motive is revolution to “make America great again”. What is critical in supporting his claim is his Belief Asset that he is “paying for his own campaign and not soliciting donations”. That is apparently how “entrepreneurs” do it and it allows him a measure of arrogance.

Nenshi’s motive is service.  His archetype is that of a humble servant leader. It is most evident in his ongoing demonstrations of respect for his citizens (and others). He oozes respect and it is irresistible. It allows him to be shockingly frank because he is not haughty.  A good example is how he spoke out on Stephen Harper’s anti-niqab election issue, “This is unbelievably dangerous stuff...this is disgusting” is how he described it to the media . Clearly not pulling punches but gaining credibility along the way.

What have you done?
We know that actions convince people but as marketers we sometimes become obsessed with copy far past its usefulness.  Instead we need to showcase demonstrations of what our brands are about rather than explanations. When you message Nenshi, he often messages you back. To which some respond “what the heck are you doing responding to messages?” To which he always quips “what is more important than responding to citizens. This IS my job.” In 2013 when council voted in a 6% pay raise, Nenshi publicly gave $20 000 to charity... and on and on.

Trump’s great demonstration was, of course, his TV show. To bolster that he points to: the plane, the hotels and the personal wealth as proof of his leadership acumen “I always win. I am very smart”. It is anti-intellectual, real world “intelligence” that he peddles. He is combative in ways rarely seen before. He will “pay your legal bills” to encourage you “take action”. He acts out his traditional common sense promise when he chants “get ‘em out!” at speeches and dissenters are manhandled and tossed out.  It all supports the belief that he is passionately committed to the mission far beyond the suave political rhetoric of most candidates.

These same queries and their extensions can be applied to brands for things and services. Frequently there are Belief Assets that have been overlooked or under-exploited. Only by asking and exploring are they uncovered, creating the opportunity to get consumer feedback and potentially be part of communication that Builds Belief™ and by extension, profitability.

Feel free to add your own insights or additions in the comments below.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Who the heck is the Quaker guy?

In 1901 when the Quaker Oats Co. was founded in New Jersey they used the trademark that they had previously acquired for the innovative product of packaged cereal. Notably, the company was not run by Quakers or associated with Quakers. In fact the guy who trademarked the symbol had simply read about them. I suspect he knew that people thought of Quakers as principled and honest folk - the kind of people who would put out a high-quality box of oatmeal.

It’s fair to say that in the 114 years since Mr. Quaker appeared consumers have been trying to see through the hype and manufactured imagery that brand owners have been flinging at them. The consumer’s challenge to suss out authenticity is not new. It has, however, been amped up. The first
big change is brand proliferation. The shopper has many more choices available in most categories. The second obvious influence is the information fire hose online – manufacturer sites, social, experts, consolidated ratings and reviews etc.

Until recently, there was a well-established brand strategy approach that was applied by most disciplined marketers and is still in use today. Put simply: identify the consumer need, articulate how your brand fulfills that need as a benefit and provide one or two nuggets that support your benefit claim. These “nuggets” are often called “support points” or “reasons to believe” or “proof points”.  Mass media, especially TV, only has room for one support point. A critical decision has always been what the winning support point for that benefit should be. In a classic sense it is an ingredient (Trident with Dentec) or a formulation (11 herbs and spices) and so on.
The opportunity for brand owners now is to exploit the new found dialogue with consumers to expose them to multiple support points in whatever ways are appropriate. Marketers rarely concentrate intensely enough on discovering and polishing these potentially valuable gems. They don’t always know what they are looking for and they don’t necessarily know how to look. That is why I developed a collaborative approach to doing that called Build Belief™.

Build Belief starts from a model of four key areas to uncover Belief Assets: Recognition, Observation, Intention and Action and roughly 20 specific triggers among those areas. The approach is a series of workshops and quantitative research to determine the best array of support points for a brand’s desired benefit.

 I think the Build Belief method is rigorous and valuable but if you prefer not to hire help I think that you can still make gains “going it alone”.   Get a broad array of operations, R&D and sales people who are intimate with the brand into a room with some facilitation and, chances are, you will discover assets you didn’t know were there.

Pepsico acquired Quaker in 2001. It was really Gatorade that they wanted, not so much the oatmeal.
I buy my grains, including oatmeal, from Bob’s Red Mill. There is a Bob; he wears a bolo tie. There are a lot of reasons to believe that he sells high-quality grains. You can read about them here.

On one side is Quaker with longevity but not really “heritage”. It is completely contrived. On the other is Bob’s Red Mill: founded by Bob Moore - entrepreneur, passionate about milling and its craft, single-sourced in Oregon, philanthropic and employee-owned. Back in 2010 Bob gave the business to the employees. I am sure he had offers. Maybe even from Quaker. Bob just felt better handing it over to the people who had built it. Okay, I’ll buy your quinoa.

Lighthouse Clients

Cases, examples and client references are available upon request. Some of my clients over the last few years are:

Toyota Canada
Labatt Breweries/AB-InBev
Canadian Blood Services
Cadbury Adams
Constellation Brands/Vincor
Prime Restaurants - Casey's, East Side Mario's, Fionn MacCool's, Bier Markt
Sigma Alimentos - a large food company in Mexico
Multiple Sclerosis Society - MS WALK
Yellow Pages Group
New Balance Canada
Ideazon -(Gaming Hardware)
Edwards Builder's Hardware

Going further back:
Pfizer - Viagra, Detrol
Volvo Canada
Red Lobster USA
Xerox Canada
Sprint Canada
Absolut (Maxxium)

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