Is Your Brand Ready to Connect?

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
-John Wanamaker, American Businessman (July 11, 1838 – December 12, 1922)

The famous quote above reveals the difficulty that businesses had reaching customers in the early 1900’s. But surely things are much better now? Unfortunately, the answer is no. As recent as 2014, Nielsen reported that 40% of online ads were not reaching their intended target audience. That’s a failure in the fifth of our five gates of branding: delivery.

Brand delivery is where your brand finally puts it all together and closes the loop with the customer. All of the work that you have done through the previous brand gates has led you here. Now it’s time for some big decisions: how and where to actually connect with the customer.

This is also the gate that is dramatically impacted by outside costs. Where the previous gates are primarily internal and not overtly customer facing, delivery is where you go public. For those reasons—cost and public acceptance—getting it wrong can be catastrophic for your brand.

Return to Sender

When your attempts at delivery fail, you won’t get a “return to sender” notice in most cases. But unlike even a few years ago, where your communication would disappear into the void with no feedback, now with data and technology you can often determine varying degrees of customer engagement, even if it didn’t lead to a final sale.

The number of options and communication channels available and the expectations for delivery have expanded exponentially in the last several years. That’s both good and bad for marketers.

The Good:

  1. The vast number of choices have driven down some costs, and removed many barriers to entry. This has allowed opportunities for many smaller organizations that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
  1. You can be very granular and efficient in targeting your audience.
  1. Brands can find channels that precisely match and align with their characteristics.


The Bad:

  1. There are so many choices that it is infeasible to be everywhere.
  1. It is nearly impossible to reach an entire audience through one channel.
  1. If you get it even slightly wrong, you could miss your audience completely.


Six Challenges Ahead For Brands

The challenge for mature brands is to know when your delivery is working and when you need to make changes to ensure longevity. There are two main considerations. First, are you reaching your audience and do they have the opportunity to choose your brand. Second, if you are reaching them and not getting chosen, why? Following are six signs and triggers to consider when evaluating your brand delivery.

1. Lack of Budget Commitment.

While it’s true that some marketing costs have decreased, if the reductions haven’t been the result of increased efficiency, your brand could enter a decline. When revenues are tight, myopic companies that view marketing strictly as a cost often cut their marketing budgets—and cut themselves off at the knees in the process. If cuts are required, they should be strategic to maximize efficiency, not broad cuts across the board.

2. Wrong Place.

Times and communication channels have changed. If your audience has moved to different channels, your message and offer might never be seen. Additionally, new members of your audience might never know that you exist if you aren’t present as they enter the market. For example, a demographic that historically watched the 6:00 evening news might now be found on late-night TV. Or where 35 – 45-year-old news junkies read newspapers in the 80’s, the same age group might now get their information from Facebook.

3. Packaging Fails.

Packaging, both in appearance and physically, can dramatically impact consumer decisions. Some audiences will never consider a product with a dated design and relish change. For others, any change would be blasphemous. Consider bar soap for hand washing. Bars of soap used to be the most common, if not the only option. Now it’s more likely that you’ll find some kind of pump or liquid soap dispensed for that purpose. Soap manufacturers that don’t have a liquid option now miss a huge part of that market.

4. Lack of Applied Data.

Companies are collecting more and more information. The problem is that few organizations are able—or even trying—to use that data to make better decisions to drive their business. If they are using the data, it’s looking backward at the delivery their audience used to prefer. Truly data-driven organizations will use the data to see forward and navigate to where their customers are, not where they used to be. When that happens they’ll unlock repeatable pathways to increased success.

5. Mistaken Identity.

While imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, too much flattery can flatten sales. Competitors will try to borrow and steal, that’s a given. One step can make that behavior more difficult and more legally defensible: align your identity to what you do as simply as possible. For example, if there is a single element, golden arches for instance, there is less to borrow from without crossing the line into plagiarism. The more elements, the more competitors can choose similar components that collectively can encroach on your brand.

6. Multiple Personalities.

What makes a brand so powerful is that it provides a shortcut in consumers’ minds. They know what you stand for, what they’ll receive, and they know what you look like. When you are inconsistent in any of those areas it creates doubt and uncertainty, if they can recognize you at all. That’s why it’s critical to be consistent in your actions and appearance in all of your communications and across channels. Just like a true best friend will treat you with the same respect whether you’re at a party with hundreds of people or riding together in a car, your brand should be consistent in its interactions.

Gathering Momentum

Don’t let your hard work go to waste this close to the finish. Carefully evaluate your audience’s preferences and meet them where they are. Watch and listen to what happens. Use the data and technology available. Mr. Wanamaker did not have the technology resources we have today to test, examine, and refine our efforts to improve marketing efficiency. In that regard, we’re never finished. Because all markets are continuously evolving, change is inevitable. But when you know the right questions to ask and issues to look for, you can navigate ahead of the curve and maintain consistent growth.

This post is the fifth in a five-part series. Check out the previous editions:



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