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The Brand-Choice Algorithm

We were in the supermarket today and my wife asked me to get a bottle of laundry detergent. She did not specify the brand, so without “thinking”, I picked up the one that I usually buy— Woolite. This reminded me of a book I was just reading.

Why I Picked Woolite?

The other night, I read that “brand choice (is a) predominantly subconscious, memory-based process that follows a fixed algorithm.” The ideas in the book challenged me to rationalize my selection process a bit – something I usually don’t do. I recognized that my selection of Woolite was not really based on a conscious effort, i.e. getting more facts about the product, reading the specifications, thinking about our past experiences with the product and comparing it with other brands in the store. The truth is, Woolite simply came to mind as the preferred option and I chose it. Any conscious deliberation process which could have vetoed this choice came later.

Now that I think about it, there are two simple reasons why I chose Woolite over the others. First of all, the brand name itself – Woolite – suggests that the product is not harsh and is sensitive to clothes. These are features of a laundry detergent that I value. Secondly, the white packaging seems to elicit the same meaning. So I really wasn’t buying Woolite because of its specifications. I was buying it due to a perception I had from its name and packaging. It was a subconscious choice. A choice I have been making for a couple of years now!

Do You Know Why You Buy Apple Products?

Once, a friend of mine posted a question on Facebook – asking about the difference between an iPhone, iPod, iPad and the about-to-be-launched iPad Mini. One of his friends answered that it was the size – arguing that most of these products’ functions are very similar. In fact, most of the apps you use across different Apple devices are the same.

True isn’t it?

So why do so many of us own an arsenal of all those gadgets, if they really mostly do the same things? Think about the last time you bought an Apple product. Do you know why you selected this brand versus others in the market?

Branding with Brains

The book I mentioned earlier, entitled “Branding with Brains” by Tjaco Walvis, offers a good explanation. “You can rationalize with hindsight, but the fact is our brains make these decisions without really thinking about it,” wrote Walvis. “This is why successful brands appeal to customers on the basis of emotional association, images and experiences rather than just on the back of their product specification.” As one Harley-Davidson executive describes in this book’s convention-shattering case studies, “We don’t sell motorbikes. What we sell is the ability for a 43-year old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through a small town and have people be afraid of him.”

Buy and read the book, you might just find yourself rationalizing your buying behavior just like me!

Photo courtesy of Cogs and Gears

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Branding IT Organizations

Recently, I was involved with the redesign of a newsletter for our organization. I have always believed that communication is an integral part of any service organization – including IT. What we communicate is our story and our promise. This creates a perception to our internal customer about who we are and what we are about. At first glance, IT organizations and branding seem to be mutually exclusive.  However, I disagree. 

Branding in General

First, let’s talk about branding in general. Many professionals confuse the term “branding” as synonymous to “advertising”, “communications”, and “marketing”. They use it interchangeably. This confusion is costing companies a lot of money. Companies that market their products or services without first establishing their brand identities are not likely to achieve their objectives. Branding is about the customer’s perception of your product. It is the image of your products and services in relation to your organization.

Now how about branding in an IT perspective? This goes in line with the general concept of branding. IT branding is finding and knowing your IT organization’s identity. In many small- to medium-sized companies, internal customers only interact with IT when they have computer and IT application issues. This shapes their understanding and perception of the kind of IT organization they have. Branding for these IT organizations is getting their users to think that they are the sole solution to their IT-related problems. Once your IT is perceived as “only”, there is no place else to call.

How to Grow your IT Brand

The IT organization’s brand grows as the company expands. The IT organization’s brand evolves as the enterprise matures through the different levels of Process Culture maturity. Take time to revisit the article that I posted last year on Process Culture. As your organization’s Process Culture evolves and IT takes on a more important role, your IT brand grows with it. The IT organization’s identity is linked to this Process Culture maturity. 

Just like the most popular ones in the market today—Apple, Coke, Marlboro, Google, the business has to strive to grow and improve its IT organization’s brand. It is important that the IT organization must have a good understanding of the internal customer segments in order to position its services appropriately. In small IT organizations, this means positioning support so as to solve more IT computer issues and improve internal customer service. In more mature organizations, IT can position services to create more business value. IT branding will help your organization become the partner of choice internally.

I like the article Russ Aebig wrote about branding for IT organizations, entitled “Attraction of Identity”. He started with some very good questions and I am sharing it here because I want to end this article with the same questions: “As an organization, who are you? What is your internal and external story? If you cannot crisply define yourself in a few words you likely have a problem on your hands.”

Photo courtesy of ignitionblog.

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