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The last thing you want is more stuff in your inbox. But it's sometimes good to read about new thoughts and ideas. Brand Matters aims to communicate a few ideas about Brand in the shortest possible time. It will come out occasionally, when we have something worthwhile to share. We hope you like it and find it useful. Let us know (either way).


When times are hard, typically people react by cutting their marketing budget and focusing on sales. What they often forget to do, while they're wielding the knife, is to sharpen their brand. A clear, differentiated and relevant brand promise can make the limited marketing budget go further and make selling more effective.

So now is the time to:

  • Focus even more on your core target market
  • Really define sharply what you stand for
  • Make sure you stand out from your competitors
  • Express your brand personality more boldly
  • Increase the emotional bond through stronger relationships
  • Produce crystal clear messages supported by robust evidence
  • Articulate the value and find new ways to deliver more
  • Make the customer experience consistent
  • Engage everyone internally and mobilise them as a selling resource

And what's really nice about all this is that it costs very little. Brand projects have a reputation for being vastly expensive and largely superficial. But it doesn't have to be this way. Sharp branding is about alignment, not spend.

It's still the same pencil, but it's sharper than before. The result is that everyone can see more clearly what you're trying to say and do. You stand out from the crowd. You strengthen your market position. And you put yourself in a much better place for eventual recovery.

Powerful things brands!

Sharpen your brand



Our painter is a model of outstanding customer service. Nothing is ever too much trouble. He delivers a great end result and is always a pleasure to have around the house. Which makes the story of a recent experience with his bank even more entertaining.

He was taking cash from the cash machine outside his bank, when he decided that he really needed to see the bank manager to discuss his business. Actually, from where he was standing, he could see the bank manager wandering around the bank. So he rang the bank and spoke to India. Asking if he could arrange to see the bank manager, he was told that the helpline couldn't fix that. He would have to speak to Newcastle. Newcastle rang him back and he once again asked if he could see his manager. He was told that the manager was too busy to see him. "But I can see him walking around the bank!" he cried, to no avail. He might have been in another country for all that was worth.

What have we done to customer service?

NPS image


As life becomes more sophisticated and information becomes more extensive and accessible, it's refreshing to find something that makes life simpler. One such is Net Promoter Score (NPS).

The argument goes like this. There is one question to ask your customers that is more important than any other and that is a direct indicator of growth. The question is: "How likely are you, on a scale of 0-10, to recommend this organisation to a friend or colleague?"

Those who score 9-10 are termed Promoters. Those who score 0-6, Detractors. And those who score 7-8 are Passives. Ignore the Passives. Subtract the % of Detractors from the % of Promoters and you have your NPS.

Fred Reicheld, who wrote the book, describes it as "the ultimate question" (also the name of the book). And it is.

As Reicheld points out, you have to be pretty certain about an organisation before you're prepared to risk your own reputation by recommending them.

In fact, "...two conditions must be satisfied before customers make a personal referral. They must believe that the company offers superior value in terms that an economist would understand: price, features, quality, functionality, ease of use and all the other practical factors. But they must also feel good about their relationship with the company. They must believe the company knows and understands them, values them, listens to them and shares their principles."

(Cue sounds of brain racking as the reader tries to identify any company they would recommend!).

What better indicator of brand leadership than a brand with the highest NPS in its category. That's something worth aiming for.


When I'm not working, one of the things I do is row. Rowers are dedicated individuals. We all love the sport. You have to really in order to enjoy doing it at 7.30am on a Saturday or Sunday.

So with that in mind, I had a very instructive experience a few weeks ago. I rowed as part of an eight where the cox didn't have a functioning "cox box" – an electronic aid to being heard. Bad enough in itself. But the cox was also a lady with a very soft voice. So she really couldn't be heard, at least beyond the first four or so oarsmen. So those of us in the bows had very little idea of what was going on or when.

I should make it clear at this point that there were eight very experienced oarsmen in the boat. So you might have expected them to be able to row together to a reasonable standard, even without the help of an audible cox. But the rowing was atrocious. In fact, after the outing, I commented that I thought we had rowed at about 20% of our potential.

How could eight experienced oarsman do so badly? The answer is a complete lack of communication.

There was no-one telling us what we were planning to do throughout the outing. There was no clear instruction when we all had to act together. There was no-one telling us when we got it right. There was no indication of what was going wrong.

The emotional results were interesting. I began by being as motivated as ever. Very quickly, I became frustrated. Then I became resentful that there was a small group who clearly could hear but didn't much care about those who couldn't. Then I decided to do my own thing – not the best thing to do in an eight. Then I simply became demotivated, so that I lost interest and started looking at the scenery.

Actually, that's not entirely true, because, as all this was unfolding, I began to think about the parallels with communication (or often lack of it) inside organisations. I've always known that internal communication and engagement are important. But this experience taught me just how critically important they are and also just how much communication is needed, at the beginning of and throughout any initiative. No matter how much experience there is in the team, you need someone telling people what's going to happen and why, what's happening now, what's expected of each of them and how well or otherwise they are doing.

There is a happy ending. The following week, I experienced the reverse. Cox box in place, clear instructions, constant communication throughout, positive feedback on our performance. And I estimate that we rowed at 80-90% of our potential. QED.