Years ago, I heard a presentation of customer segmentation research findings at Whirlpool. Among other things, we learned that there were many women who cared deeply about their families but were not emotionally invested in housework. Chores were chores - things to be done - with little meaning or gratification.
We called these women “Active Balancers�? and set out to show how Whirlpool appliances help lighten the load. Unfortunately, so do most other appliance brands, so our strategy did little towards advancing how consumers saw the brand.
It took another ten years for that very same insight to be turned into a meaningful strategy. Last fall, Whirlpool launched a new brand campaign that elevates chores from just “things to be done�? to genuine ways to show how much you care. The “Every Day, Care�? campaign has been a sensation, and it’s responsible for above-category revenue growth for the Whirlpool brand.
As this story illustrates, knowing your customer is not enough, you also have to know how to turn insights into strategy. Customers see appliances as a way to get chores done. Connecting that insight to the brand and making it resonate with customers was not an obvious or easy task.
Customer insights lay the foundation for creating the branded connections that build value for your business. Once they are identified, here are two ways to leverage the Vennli three circle model to get the most from those insights.
1. Providing Meaningful Benefits
The heart of a strong brand strategy is a benefit that provides a compelling reason to own or use your product.
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The intersection of company offering (value proposition) and customer needs (desired attributes) provides a starting point for identifying compelling benefits. Attributes are not benefits, so this requires deeper thought than simply prioritizing attributes. Start by categorizing the attributes into those that enhance consumers’ lives intrinsically vs. those that improve it extrinsically.
Intrinsic benefits are the tangible and intangible ways that using or owning your brand makes consumers lives easier, more pleasant, functional, or economical. These attributes answer the question, what does your brand do for me?
The more specific the better. For example, be sure to ‘ladder up’ from the obvious (e.g. “makes my chore easier�?) to the more emotional (e.g. “it’s a way to show how much I care�?).
Extrinsic benefits are those that help the customer feel better about themselves in their own eyes or in the eyes of others. These benefits include feelings of prestige, nostalgia, belonging, and competence. These attributes answer the question, what does your brand make me feel?
Once you have the attributes categorized, then prioritize. Which are most relevant or meaningful? Which allow the consumer to tell a story that matters to them?
2. Building Your Competitive Advantage
Most companies do not actually have unique offerings, and, if they do, the advantage is often short-lived. However, every company needs to be distinguished and ideally differentiated. The job of a brand strategy is to focus on what makes your offering special, if not necessarily unique.
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Your list of meaningful benefits must now be separated into points of difference and points of parity. Before you can do this, you have to answer the question, different relative to what? What is the competitor represented by the red circle above?
To ensure you have the right competitive frame of reference, ask what is the customers’ choice set? This may be another brand in your category (direct competitor), but it could also be a different category altogether. For example, Coke competes not just with Pepsi but with other soft drinks and even with other beverages like juice, water, tea and coffee. Coke’s competitive advantage (green zone) is relative to which competitor is being considered.
Points of difference can be the basis of a powerful brand strategy, but they can also be difficult to create and even more difficult to sustain. For this reason, points of parity (gray zone) should not be overlooked. Many great brands have been built on points of parity, when there’s really no discernible difference amongst competitors except how it’s messaged to the customer (think of “Tastes Great, Less Filling!�? “Finger Lickin’ Good�?, “Like a Good Neighbor�?). The key is proper frame of reference and relevance.
Developing a brand strategy that resonates with customers requires a deep understanding of customer needs and wants. While many organizations conduct customer or market research, only the top performers are able to translate these insights into effective strategies to grow their business. Focusing these insights to provide meaningful benefits and build competitive advantage can be the difference between a campaign that falls flat, and one that takes the brand to the next level like Whirlpool’s.
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