No brand is perfect. Whether the problems are minor stumbles or the-sky-is-falling, an exceptional CMO is naturally equipped to grab the steering wheel.
What approaches do these stars take to light the afterburners? Here are ten good habits we find time after time in successful brand leaders. (Make this your checklist, and you may join their ranks.)
1. They don’t believe in cash cows.
A timid CMO might be lulled to sleep by a mature brand and fail to invest in it, while an action-oriented CMO might find an unexplored new use or market segment. Watch how Target is winning over U.S. Hispanic Millennials to make inroads into a $1.4T market.
2. They don’t trumpet “superior customer service.”
Ask a CEO why his company is loved by clients, and you’ll get some version of “superior customer service” (SCS). Unfortunately, every competitor CEO says the same thing. Plus every other business owner. Plus the local taco stand, chevy dealer and palm reader.
SCS is a totally empty claim, so it’s worthless as a brand message. Everybody else claims it – more important, buyers today expect perfect service as a minimum. But wait, you say, don’t Nordstrom’s and Zappo’s say it? Not really – their customers say it.
3. They look for gaps.
If claims of customer service fall on deaf ears, brand problem solvers do a gap analysis. What do competitors claim? What attribute is left open to exploit?
Brands must be better, cheaper, different or doomed.
4. They know the differentiator must be relevant.
What motivates your most leveraged market segment? That must be thoroughly understood, to make sure you’re addressing a real need. This often calls for motivational research, not just guessing at personae.
5. They don’t over-value or under-value brand equity.
Brand equity (BE) is real money. If you under-value your current BE, you may make changes that upset or confuse customers and prospects. On the other glove, if you over-value BE, you may fear changes and miss a golden opportunity.
6. They don’t fear change.
Every company has an internal constituency that resists changes to “the way we’ve always done it.” Sometimes they’re right, of course, but most often they’re just frightened.
7. They don’t fear those who fear change.
Brand problem solvers know the politics of building alliances, doing the early spadework to build consensus, and setting reasonable expectations. If the CMO or CBO doesn’t have the confidence of the CEO, initiatives are DOA, PDQ.
8. They don’t fear complexity.
Today’s CMO has more options, more numbers, more skill sets, more resources, more media choices, more meshuga pressure. And yet she Fears. It. Not.
9. They know which axis to invest in.
Branding occurs in a 3-dimensional space. Every brand occupies a point in that cube versus competitors. The axes are brand strength, differentiation, and relevance, so our brand problem-solver has to deploy resources against the axis which delivers the most leveraged ROI.
10. They know there are 50 ways to love your lever.
How to identify and invest in the most leveraged opportunity? It’s part art part science part great partners. And it’s a relatively rare gift.
That’s 10. Reply to add an 11th.
Maybe this is more a CEO issue than a CMO issue, but to maintain a brand over the long term, uphold quality over short term profits.
Shareholders want big profits every quarter. Lowering quality or outsourcing customer service overseas to people who barely speak English might increase profits temporarily. In the long term, the brand will suffer.
One of the many reasons Radio Shack went bankrupt is that we went with the lowest cost suppliers who produced cheap products that failed frequently