Brand Voice: What Your Business is Saying Could Make or Break Sales
There are certain brands that are considered “lifestyle” brands: Apple, Harley Davidson and Louis Vuitton for example. These brands evoke a particular image in the mind of the consumer. This image speaks to the type of person who uses these brands. We are told what they like to do, what they value and even the places they like to go. There’s no question that these companies have a delineated voice that expresses quite distinctly who they are to the public and how they relate. Not every brand has a clear voice, and those that don’t suffer for it.
Think I’m exaggerating? Think about RIM’s Blackberry, JCPenney or Crocs. All these brands have suffered revenue losses as a result of the inconsistencies in their voices. Once industry leaders, these brands have muddied the waters with respect to how they speak to the public, who they are and what they offer, resulting in consumer confusion and declining sales. Let these brands teach you and learn from their mistakes.
Know Who You Are and Own It (Blackberry)
Blackberry, once referred to as a “crackberry” because users couldn’t put it down, has been the topic of much conversation lately due to their declining sales within the ever-evolving smart mobile phone market. Blackberry once established themselves as the must-have mobile device within the professional community, connecting employees and clients via email and telephone. The flashing red light served as a Pavlovian signal to users that an email was waiting for them.
Originally the domain of business executives, it wasn’t long before average consumers wanted 24/7 connectivity as well. RIM (Research in Motion), the makers of Blackberry, sought to address that need and started creating sleek designs and attractive colors appealing to the mass market. I have to admit it, I had a Blackberry and was quite fond of it, until I began wanting the user-friendly features of competitors such as iPhone.
Blackberry, once an invaluable tool for companies, is now seen as inferior to other more desirable competitors such as iPhone and Android. These phones are simply more intuitive and fun to use compared to the pedestrian features of Blackberry. RIM, instead of trying to compete as a generalist within the smart phone category and falling short, might have been best served to truly own the niche that created them, the business sector. If their strategy and also their voice stayed true to their expertise (creating business communication solutions), things may be different for them today.
Lesson #1: Speak with a consistency and don’t let the competition tempt you into trying to be something you are not. Carve your space, create your own niche and tempt them to be more like you.
Pace Yourself or Risk Losing Focus (Crocs)
In 2007 Crocs was on top of the world. They seemed to be untouchable as they continued to grow at a remarkable pace. Their shoes, while in my opinion unattractive, are extremely comfortable to wear. They quickly won the hearts of those who work on their feet, moms of young children who found them easy to put on, in addition to anyone else interested in comfortable shoes. Crocs are colorful, comfortable and functional. They found a space in the ever-competitive footwear market that they could own and they did… for a while at least.
As with most fads, interest in the plastic clogs waned. Unfortunately, Crocs didn’t slow down their aggressive growth and development plans. They continued to speak with a voice that conveyed expansion. Sadly, most people weren’t interested and sales dropped dramatically. Is there still a market for Crocs? Sure. They learned quite painfully to pace their growth so that consumers can keep up with the changes.
Lesson #2: Speak slowly so that consumers can follow along. Just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Trust in What You Know (JCPenney)
Nearly 100 years old, JCPenney has been a shopping staple for consumers looking for affordable products. Judging by their one-thousand-plus stores, along with their impressive longevity, one has to believe that they have a solid understanding of what shoppers want. There are probably not too many people around that do not know of JCPenney.
Looking to compete within a struggling economy, JCPenney took a bold stand and abolished promoted sales and coupons in favor of an everyday low price business model. While this may be a successful strategy for retailers like Walmart, the JCP consumer wants more from their purchase. They want the “deal” and better quality. When times are tough, little wins like getting a $50 dress for $30 can be quite meaningful. By changing the price to an EDLP of $30, JCP was still providing the same great value, but they took away the feeling of accomplishment from their consumers, resulting in lost revenue.
Had JCP trusted in what they knew to work, they might not have suffered the level of revenue decline they’ve experienced so far this year. Sure, it’s a tough economy and I understand the competition is getting brutal. I don’t think it’s good to do nothing and hope for the best. That said, trust in what you know — JCP knows consumers want quality products and they want them for a “steal.” They might consider returning to promoted sales, while researching top product trends to better equip buyers and merchandisers to populate the stores with products that will draw the customers in, and once there delight them with promoted sales and coupons.
Lesson #3: Don’t let external pressures detour you from a solid market insight. That said, times change so don’t be afraid to evolve, but do so while staying true to yourself.
Don’t Make the Same Mistakes
When I was in business school we studied one case study after another. Why? So that we would take note of lessons learned. As a company, you are a brand with a voice that speaks to the public. Be it silent, concise or muddied, your business is saying something. Learn from these companies’ mistakes and speak in a manner that leads to success. Know who you are, pace your growth and trust yourself. These very simple principles will speak volumes to the public and build a rapport that will help build longevity.
About Insights Discovered
Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, Insights Discovered was founded by Penny Redlin in an effort to share her professional expertise within the children’s product category. The company’s mission is to give every mompreneur an opportunity for success. Insights Discovered exclusively services children’s products brands. The specific industry focus demonstrates a strong dedication to the unique needs of children’s products companies. Insights Discovered offers strategic planning, market research and traditional marketing services.
For more information, visit www.insightsdiscovered.com or call 702.218.5707.