The number of high profile figures who have hit the headlines recently might take issue with Oscar Wilde’s famous line: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” I’m sure they’d be quite happy to fade from the front pages and disappear from Twitter timelines for a while. Sometimes any publicity isn’t better than no publicity.
But for brands and businesses, it is now more important than ever to be top of mind and tip of tongue. According to research by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, customers are spending less time thinking about the subtle differences between brands, and instead are interacting with the brands they find interesting and distinctive. No surprise there.
“If you want your brand to remain relevant and be part of consumers’ consideration and conversation, then stand up, stand out and stand firm.”Do you spend lots of time contemplating the relative uniqueness of your local supermarket? Are you more prepared to consider the contrasting claims of alternative brands than you used to be? Do you like having brands compete for your intention? Or do these questions never trouble your thoughts? We increasingly have less time and more choice and, in this context, being memorable is the only thing that matters.
Consumers (and I, of course, am one) have never spent their time thinking deeply about the various claims to differentiation with which companies bombard them. Rather, when contemplating a brand, we have always connected with a feeling or an association, something distinctive underpinned by a specific set of features or benefits. Something that made us feel good and would give us things to talk about. What has changed is the relentless focus, energy and imagination now demanded of brand owners to remain remarkable.
So, to be remarkable, where do you focus and how do you do it? The answer lies in three simple principles. If you want your brand to remain relevant and be part of consumers’ consideration and conversation, then stand up, stand out and stand firm. Let’s take an example from a sector about which consumers rarely have anything good to say – banking. In 2010, Metro Bank became the first new UK high street bank to launch in more than 100 years. It has fast become one of the sector’s most positively talked about.
Metro Bank understands that first you have to know what you want to be remarkable for. You have to champion what matters most to your customers and build your offer around that. Metro Bank uses language customers can remember; it is ‘a bank that puts you first’. In fact it doesn’t talk about customers, it talks about fans – a simple premise that is revolutionising UK high street banking.
To get people talking about you, you have to do something worth talking about. Metro Bank doesn’t offer the most competitive rates of return but it purposefully invests in what its customers most value: convenient opening hours, friendly staff and instant account opening. It lets dogs in and kids can play on a magic money machine. Its branches are easy to find and easy to do business with.
Metro Bank knows that it is not for everyone and it is comfortable with this. It knows that delivering a remarkable customer experience requires a business to make choices. Its systems are designed to empower staff. It has a simple service ethos; it takes one person to say ‘yes’ to a customer and two to say ‘no’. Staying true to its promise is yielding significant results.
Adhering to these principles and supporting them with PR and social media means your customers will do much of the talking for you. Metro Bank has spent less than £100,000 in conventional advertising in six years but has brand recognition of 82 per cent. As Robert Stephens of Geek Squad says: “Marketing is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.”
How much ‘tax’ are you paying?
This article was originally published in British Airways Business Life Magazine, February 2018.
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