Communications Providers and Customer Service

It never ceases to amaze me how often communications providers rely on promises of “better network coverage”, “faster Internet access”, or “better pricing” to differentiate themselves from competitors and lure consumers. Such advertising, in my opinion, does very little to make their brands truly stand out in the consumer mindset. Other than perhaps offering exclusivity for a particular product, such as an iPhone, it seems that you could insert any brand in any campaign.

How can a communications company stand out and be remarkable? How about innovating around customer service? Wouldn’t it be amazing if your cellular provider contacted you mid-contract, to advise you of a better and more cost-effective cell phone plan based on your usage? Would that perhaps build your loyalty to the brand, and reduce the chance of you switching when your contract expires?

Communications companies could also benefit from establishing themselves on social media, to open themselves up to customers and engage with them. Yes, they can and will receive criticisms from customers that can be viewed by anyone. However, putting a human face on a cold, corporate brand has a tremendous upside. As an example, read about Comcast Cares.

What are your thoughts?  How should communications providers innovate, so they can stand out from the competition?

Bucky’s Buzz #4 – Some Marketing Concepts are Losing Relevancy

Marketing thoughts and insights to help you stay ahead of the game.

To Brand or Not to Brand?

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend whose company, a business to business distributor of industrial products, is considering creating a brand for an already existing non-branded product line. Needless to say, there are many factors that need to be evaluated when deciding whether creating a brand is a worthwhile endeavor. I would like to share a few of them here, with respect to branding a non-branded business to business product line.

Revenue Potential

First and foremost, will the move from a non-branded product line to a branded product line have generate opportunities to increase revenue? Revenue can be enhanced by increasing the product price, leveraging the brand to increase the market share, or a combination of both. Realistically, it may be difficult to increase the product price, particularly if the market segment is very price competitive. Further, existing customers, used to paying lower prices, may be sensitive to an increase.

It seems that the greatest potential to increase revenue is by leveraging the brand to expand the customer base and overall market share. Can the creation of a brand, supported by a significant investment in marketing, open doors to new customers and possibly new markets?  If a price increase is necessary to cover increased marketing costs, will new customer acquisition offset any loss of customers due to a price increase? Should a dual non-branded and branded product strategy be considered, perhaps augmenting the branded product with premium services to build value?

Competitive Landscape

What does the competitive landscape look like? Are there many competitors, with well-established brands? How are those brands positioned, and what key and valuable points of difference would your brand have? If your brand will be competing against a number of others that are firmly established, it may be difficult to gain a foothold. However, if your competitors are also unbranded, and do little or no marketing, then there may be an opportunity to attain a leadership position by being the first to launch a brand.

Should an opening exist to create a brand, then the potential reaction of your competitors must also be considered. How easy would it be for them to launch a brand? How assailable would your brand be? Do they have the resources to match or out-power you? Your ability to carve out a unique, own-able and profitable position in the market is key.

Resources and Commitment

Creating and building a brand takes resources and commitment. Are you willing and able to allocate sufficient resources, including talent and budget to build and execute a proper marketing strategy? Do you have full support and buy-in from senior management as well as the sales team, those who are on the frontline?

These are just a few considerations that come to mind. Do you have others you would like to add? I would love to receive your thoughts and feedback.

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What’s in a Name?

Selecting the right name for a company, product or service is an important element of building a brand. A well thought out, strategic name can poise a brand for success.

Here are some important factors to consider when deciding on a brand name:

Ownership: Is the name unique and distinguishable? Are you able to trade-mark it? Will people be able to connect the name to you? Goodrich and Goodyear are both tire brands. Which one comes to mind first?  I’ll be you didn’t say Goodrich.

Simplicity: As Chip and Dan Heath convey in their book “Made to Stick”, people are more likely to remember names that are simple. Think about the last time you were introduced to someone who had a unique and more complex name. Was it easy for you to remember? Nike. Coke. Google. Apple. Enough said!

Descriptiveness: Does the name reflect a unique benefit about your product, service or company? Will it fit given the category or industry you’re operating in?

Synergy: Does the name complement your overall corporate vision? Does it reflect your company’s values and ideals?

Positioning: Should your name reflect a position in the market that is unique to your company? For example, Costco, PriceSmart Foods and No Name reflect value brands. A luxury brand might choose a name similar to Infinity.

Media representation: Does your name have a graphic possiblity or some sort of representation on all media?

As you can see, there is lots to consider. Do you have any comments that you would like to add? Please feel free to share them!

Looking Forward to 2010 and Beyond

This post is also published on the BCAMA marketline blog.

Ten years ago at this time, on New Year’s Eve 1999, there was a significant amount of uncertainty worldwide regarding potential computer failures. Ah yes, the infamous Y2K bug. It was also a time for reflection and anticipation, particularly given that it was not just the dawn of a new year, but also a new century.

It is amazing to look back and observe the innovation and changes that have occurred over the past ten years.

From a marketing standpoint, we have witnessed a number of things, including:

  • The rise of Google and the importance of search engine optimization. “You are what Google says you are”. Try typing in the name of your own brand, or heck even your own name, and see what you get. As many as 59% of online consumers now use search engines as a source of researching product information. How did I find that stat? Well, using Google, of course!
  • Media fragmentation. Over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of available methods for communicating brand messages to target audiences. A recent global study revealed that, for the first time, the Internet is more popular medium than TV. Now, more than ever, companies need to figure out who their target market is, and determine the best methods for engaging them.
  • Social media. Some companies, such as Starbucks and Ford, have done a great job at leveraging social media to truly engage consumers, deepening relationships and enhancing loyalty. However, it seems that many companies and their respective agencies are still trying to grasp the power and potential strategic applications. See Motrin and Toyota. With countless blogs, and tens of millions of people using social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, social media is here to stay. Your customers are talking about you. Have you joined the conversation?
  • The long tail. Made possible by the Internet, and popularized by Chris Anderson in a 2004 Wired magazine article and his book “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More”, companies such as Amazon have achieved success through a niche selling strategy of selling a large number of unique items in small quantities. This has resulted in some new marketing techniques, including the strategic use of word-of-mouth and viral marketing.
  • Mobile access and smartphones. Smartphone usage and WiFi access is increasing worldwide, and so is mobile commerce. Consequently, companies must consider optimizing their websites for mobile access. Opportunities also exist to develop marketing strategies involving mobile applications and augmented reality.

These are just a few highlights that came to mind, as you know there are scores of others.

As I write this, on New Year’s Eve 2009, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds for marketing and advertising. However, there is also significant opportunity for companies to thrive  – leveraging new mediums and technology to grow awareness for their brands, as well as engage and deepen relationships with consumers.

The computers did not stop working on January 1, 2000, and the sky is not falling right now. Far from it.

It will be interesting to see what the next ten years have in store. What are your predictions? Please feel free to share your thoughts here. It would also be great to hear your insights on the decade that just passed.

Wishing you all of the best for a successful and prosperous 2010.



WestJet vs Air Canada: My Experience

A few weeks ago, I posted  that I was going to Edmonton on a business trip, flying there on WestJet and returning on Air Canada. From my observation, consumers have somewhat different perceptions of Air Canada and WestJet. WestJet is often regarded as a young, fresh upstart that has provided travellers with a friendly alternative to Air Canada. Their advertising campaigns really project a strong human element on the brand – an employee-owned company in which staff really will go the extra mile to satisfy customers. On the other hand, Air Canada comes across as being more corporate and less sensitive to the needs of travellers. Case in point, the PR fiasco they faced as a result of how they responded to the severe winter storms that hit Canada in December 2008, with disgruntled travelers as a result of many delayed and cancelled flights.

I thought I would take the opportunity to compare my experience with each airline on my Edmonton trip, from a marketing perspective. I should mention, I have done a fair bit of flying before, mostly with Air Canada and other international airlines. The WestJet flight to Edmonton was only my second with the airline.


It may be a small thing, but one thing stood out for me right from the get-go with WestJet. The itinerary confirmation I received by email included the line “Have a great flight!”. At the gate, their staff was open and friendly, joking as I was the last person to board the flight. The crew on the flight had the same demeanor, and wow was it ever refreshing. On the flight, I really enjoyed the convenience of having access to satellite TV, giving my choice in viewing pleasures.  All in all, it was a pleasant flight and an enjoyable start to the day. WestJet lived up to expectations, based on my perception of the brand.

Air Canada

My flight back to Vancouver the next day was very routine, the staff at the airport and the crew onboard the flight were friendly. On it’s own, a good experience. However, when compared to WestJet, Air Canada didn’t quite measure up.

Upon further reflection, it’s the small things that WestJet did, and the conveniences they provided, that made a difference. “Have a great flight!” being included on my itinerary. The staff that told jokes. Access to satellite TV. Going the extra mile.

WestJet vs Air Canada: Comparing Brand Experiences

It has been awhile since I’ve flown, and I earlier this morning I booked a trip to Edmonton for next week. My flight to Edmonton will be on WestJet, and my return flight will be on Air Canada.  Over the years, much has been made about the different experiences consumers have with each airline – particularly given the emphasis WestJet places on customer serivce.  I intend to write a blog post comparing my thoughts on each brand next weekend.

I just received my confirmation emails from each airline. WestJet’s subject line said “Have a great flight!”. Will that be an indicator?

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