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The Secret Ingredient of a Successful Brand

The Secret Ingredient of a Successful Brand

Posted in Concise Webinars by on November 21, 2019
Last updated on 25/01/2023
The Secret Ingredient of a Successful Brand

What is your brand? And more importantly, what can you do to improve your brand?

Many business people think their brand is the logo they use on their business card, signs or website. They think a better logo will improve their brand.

Michel Hogan, Brand CounselAccording to Michel Hogan, nothing could be further from the truth.

Michel Hogan is an independent Brand Counsel based in Melbourne. Michel joined us as the guest presenter for this Concise Webinar, and shared her thoughts on ‘The Secret Ingredient of a Successful Brand’ and what you can do to build your brand.

Michel is a sought after contributor and speaker and is the author of two books titled “Between Making Money and World Peace” and “The Unheroic Work”.  For over two decades Michel has advised different organisations (big and small) about their brand. Some are laying the foundations for new ventures, others are responding to change or re-inventing themselves to take advantage of new opportunities. Webinar attendees on the day received a free copy of Michel’s ebook “The Unheroic Work“.


Video Recording of Concise Webinar

Transcript of Webinar

Richard: Hello, good morning and welcome everybody. This is Richard Keeves and welcome to this Concise Webinar, The Secret Ingredient of a Successful Brand. I would also like to welcome our guest presenter for today Michel Hogan. Good day Michel.

Michel: Hey Richard, good to be here.

Richard: Thank you very much for being here and of course Gareth Lane.

Gareth: Gareth Voice reporting for duty as usual.

Richard: Thank you to everyone for participating in this webinar today. For those people who haven’t been to one of our concise webinars. These are a 100% educational. That is the intention, no waffle, no sales pitches, expert advice that you can use. That is what it’s all about and tips for helping grow your business. That is the focus. Before we begin housekeeping, we are recording the session. You are welcome to ask questions as we go along and also have live Q and A at the end. Now, I’m going to hand over to Michel who is going to be running today’s presentation. Take it away Michel.

Michel: Thanks Richard. Hello everybody. It’s really good to be here. This is going to be a romp. We are going to go through a lot of information in a pretty short and fast pace. If there’s ideas and concepts that you want to dig into a bit more. There’s plenty of articles out there that I have written that will help you do that and also everyone who attends today’s session will get a free copy of my eBook which goes into more detail about the stuff as well. I really want to give you the tools to be able to use the stuff that we’re going to talk about.

As the title said The Secret Ingredient of a Successful Brand. That is really where we’re going to start. I’m going to flip through the deck and you’ll notice that my slides are pretty straightforward. Not lots of text and stuff because I really want this to be more conversation. The Secret Ingredient of a Successful Brand, it hides in plain sight is the interesting thing. It’s something we all do make, keep and break all the time. It’s impossible to avoid even if we wanted to we can’t. It’s an inherent part of how we trade in what we do every day. Every business, every organization is always trading stuff. We’re trading this for that internally and externally. The secret ingredient of your brand actually sits within that activity and wraps around it. The secret ingredient of a brand is your promises.

This might sound like a pretty generalized idea of what a secret ingredient might be but hopefully by the time we get through the end of this you really understand why it’s such a powerful and pretty transformative comment. You might think when you hear of a promise especially with relationship to brand you might take about brand promises so agencies and people love to come up with the brand promise. That is not what I’m talking about. It’s certainly part of the promise but the promises that I’m talking about are much more day to day. They’re implicit. They’re explicit. They live in everything that we do. They’re in the agreements that we make about what we do, how we do it and they’re really driven by why we do it.

These aren’t the sort of promises that this guy makes. Quite often when people make promises you get the hope and apologize. She’ll be right mate, we’re making this kind of promise. We’ll figure out how to do it later. The promises that I’m talking about are actually promises that you can keep. How do you do that and how do you think about that in a way that gets you to the point of a brand that people want to stick with because again, if we go back one of the things that I used to describe a brand is the secret ingredient lives in my definition and description. Brand is a result of the promises that you keep.

I remember one of the early conversations I had with Richard actually about this topic and he made the point isn’t it more about they’re the promises that you’ve got to make promises that you can keep. It’s not just the ones you keep. Doesn’t that mean that your brand is also the result of the promises that you don’t keep? Actually yes, that is true because the promise that you don’t keep is the promise that you make. If I make a promise and I don’t keep it what I did becomes what people get. If my brand is a result of all of that. I better make sure that I’m doing and saying stuff that I can do. That is why it’s such an important and powerful concept. You don’t want this to be happenstance. You don’t want it to be something that you’re winging and that you’re not really making with a lot of intention.

A promise is fundamentally how you communicate what you intend. If you think about that for a minute. We want to do this as a business. People can use this product, have this service, be a member, whatever the nature of your organization is. How do you communicate what you intend about that to people so that they engage, so that they buy from you, so that they join, become part of what you’re doing because when I’m talking about promises you can keep I’m not just talking about customer promises. I’m actually talking about promises that you make to every human that you deal with, to everyone internal and external so customers, employees, partners, investors, other stakeholders. They might be government. It might be industry groups. The list is almost endless. Suppliers, vendors and on and one it goes. All of these promises matter and they are all basically a communication of what you intend within that relationship.

In order to do that well you’ve got to do it with some discipline. Discipline is a really misunderstood thing in business. A lot of people mistake it for a sense of rigidity. This is what we’re going to do the same way every single time. I think of discipline as more of a habit. It’s a way that we do things that we almost just bring to the table no matter what the situation is and to get really good at promising it has to become a discipline that you have. It’s no good trying to do this stuff on the when something big comes up and you’re trying to make the right decision about what you say you will intend. You actually have to bring it back so that it’s ingrained. We’re already and we’re always doing it.

I’ve been a lot of research around promises and the relationship they have to the brand results for a couple of years now. I’ve assembled a bit of checklist for some key things that you need to think about in that intended. We have to think about our risks. What is the risk to us and the risk to the person that we’re making the promise to if we don’t keep the promise? What is the reward if we do keep the promise on both sides because keep in mind the promise we’re making includes two parties. We’ll leave promises to self for another time but a promise always includes two parties. It’s the promise and the person I’m promising to. This is something that you need to think about. What is the risk? What is the reward? Do we have the resources to keep the promise? These are really big components here in terms of the skills, the people, the finance, the technology. Do we have the resources? Do we have time to keep the promise? If we don’t have some of those resources in place, if the promise is away then we might have time to do it. If we don’t and we make a promise then we have kind of screwed ourselves before we begin. Every time we break a promise we are effectively eroding the brand result that we want to have. We have an idea of where we want to be, how we want people to see us, what we want them to think about us and what we stand for and the way we do things. In order for that to be true we’ve actually got to do it. Every time that we do something that erodes that we are eroding our brand result. Every time we keep a promise we make we are actually continuing the result. We’re allowing it to grow to get stronger, to get more robust. There’s a reason why that matters that I’ll get to in a bit.

A couple of other things on the checklist you might want to think about. Do we have the culture to keep the promise we’re making? Are we promising to do something really quickly but actually we work a bit more like a tortoise? Is the environment that we’re making the promise within one that we can count on to help us keep the promise? Are we thinking? Are we automatically setting ourselves for failure because there’s some legislative agenda that is going to undermine the promise that we made. These are all things that you can either touch on really quickly just almost like a flick through or spend a lot of time if it’s a really big important promise but the key is you’ve got to do it before you make the promise. That is the discipline. The discipline is doing this ahead of actually saying what you’re going to do, ahead of the agreement.

Make sure you know what you want to promise. Again, what do I want to communicate about what we intend. Make sure that you’re clear and really understand what that is because then when you do that and you do it over and over again it builds consistency. If promise has two bedfellow ingredients that are really important to achieving a brand result discipline and consistency would go along because it doesn’t matter if I make a promise, if I keep a promise every now and then if the rest of the time I’m breaking them. It makes no difference. You’re still going to be absolutely eroding your brand result to the point where it virtually doesn’t exist. If I’m doing it consistently so what do I need to do to make sure that I’ve got the discipline in place so that when I’m thinking about the agreements that we’re making, what we say we’re going to do that I’m doing that in a way that I can be consistent. What are the processes and the practices and skillsets that we need to incorporate and build up internally so that that’s true. This is the work of brand that people don’t talk about. Everyone spends their time talking about the creative endeavour of brand and all the artifacts and the visual stuff. That is just how people pick you out of a line up. It’s not actually what people relate and build relationships with what you do and how you do it and absolutely central to that are the promises that you make and keep.

To help you do this in a way that is kind of that you can be consistent with come up with this brand formula. Anybody can use this. It’s simple for a reason. It’s simple to look at, simple to get your head around but it requires a lot of discipline and consistency to do well. The first piece of it is I, identity. Your identity basically multiple out through the promises that you make. Those promises are then kept or broken and the experience that you deliver to people, any people, results in your brand. This is the brand formula. I’ve going to touch on each element of this really quickly. I just spent a bunch of time talking about the promises piece. Let me now to connect it to the identity and the experience piece for you. The next pie is identity. Identify is your purpose and values. Effectively it’s our intention. What do we believe? What is important to us? This is the nature of intent of identity and I’ve got really no time for the kumbaya folks that they have to be good. They have to be stuff that everybody likes and feels nice about. I actually am interested only in two things. Is it what you believe and is it how you do things because that is what intent identity is.

If you think about two people and you would ask somebody so what do you think of that other person? Their response is going to be based on their experience of that person what they do and say and how they show what is important to them. That is identity. Organizations are no different. When you’re thinking about your purpose what is most important to us. I’m not making a judgment on what that should be but what is most important. What are we willing to stand behind and put a stake in the ground about?

Values, how do we do things around here? Put the stuff on the wall that we’d like to think we do but actually literally what are the things that shape how we behave the decisions that we make, how we act. That is really your values. Understanding those two things is absolutely critical to the brand result and I basically would say you can’t make good promises if you don’t understand that about yourself. What is your identity is the first element of the brand formula that is so important.

We talked about promises as I said. I’m going to jump to the experience piece because this is where so many people these days are spending a lot of money and a lot of time and getting it way wrong. Experience is just where your promises get kept or broken first and foremost and it’s the experience of everybody that you deal with not just customers because I can tell you from experience I can say the clients that I have worked with and organizations that I’ve observed if you’re making promises that you can’t keep there is absolutely no chance that the people that you’re working with are having a good experience. Those things don’t correlate. Experience is very much around what is happening, what have you said I will do, what is the expectation that you said, what is the agreement that we have made and did that follow through? This isn’t about wow and delight and going the extra mile and all of that stuff which is really toxic to organizations because you’re going to run into a point where you can’t do more where you can only do that thing that you said.

When it comes to experience I have a really simple formula. It’s set expectations and meet them. You can see how that relates directly back to promises. Make promises that you can keep and keep them. If you want people to be satisfied, to be happy and have a good experience. That’s it. There’s no hidden special sauce to that. It continues as a loop. The identity promises an experience. They work together in alchemy day in and day out action and decision at a time across the full scope of unheroic work. I call it really specifically unheroic work. It’s actually the tile of the eBook that you’ll be getting from me for free. The unheroic work is this day to day block and tackle of the business that nobody wants to talk about as being relevant to brand and the result. It’s all of it. There is no high profile visual campaign. There is no sexy anything that you could do that will replace the concept of an organization working together on the unheroic work to the same end that they all understand the value of the person making the phone calls, answering the phone, the person stacking the shelves, the person entering the data, the person on the manufacturing line, the person sitting in the grind, taking the orders on the e-commerce, the person getting the fulfilment taking care of. All of that stuff is the mother’s milk of achieving something that people want to stick with. Words are cheap. You can say whatever you like but it’s what I actually experience that stays with me. It’s nearly always the little stuff that people trip over because oh, I’m never going to work with them again, because I don’t agree with their strategy said no one ever but plenty of people have said I’m never going to work again with them because they didn’t do X that they said they were going to do. That is where this stuff is really important.

Just going back to where I began. Brand is a result of the promises that you keep and promises are the secret ingredient. Get that right and you will have a robust and resilient brand result that people do want to stick with. Again, the transformative word is think about it as a result. Move it to the end of the equation. Spend your time focusing on how do I bring my identity to life through the promises I make so that people get the experience they expect. Rinse and repeat over and over again. Thanks so much and I’m happy to answer any questions. I didn’t give people much time to ask any as I went through.

Richard: Michel, that was a great run through. We’re really happy to take questions now and we do have some coming through. Please type them into the chat box. Michel also said you will be getting more material on this. There’s a lot to take in. It’s a big subject but it’s such a massively important one. The first question. You said, it’s not good to over deliver on your promises. That goes against what I’ve been taught in the past. Can you please explain?

Michel: It’s probably the number one question I get asked especially in today’s climate of experience is the mother’s milk of everything. You can’t pretty much turn around without running into something about customer experience or experience in general. There is a meme out there. It’s a myth. It is a myth that for people to be happy I’ve got to do more I’ve got to over deliver. It’s actually better to say sort of set a low expectation and exceed it than it is to actually do what I say I am going to do. Here’s the problem with that. You can only exceed expectations for so long. Eventually you’re going to run out of runway. Then what? Then your people who have become trained to expect you to do more because every time that you exceed an expectation that becomes the new expectation and you’re training people to expect you to do more. When you can’t what is going to happen? They’re going to be disappointed for no other reason that you simply do what you say you’re going to do.

The point in fact is that this is where the delight things are quite toxic and I really dislike it a lot. Delight can only ever be a response. If you think about delight the way it’s defined really. Delight is essentially you’ve exceeded my expectation but here is the thing. You didn’t know what my expectation was. You didn’t ask me what it was and even if you had I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you because we’re really bad at being able to say what we expect. If I could say it it would probably be different tomorrow. There’s really no way that you can delight me. What you can do and this has happened to me and I’ve written about this a couple of times is you can be prepared. You can have a mindset that when that rare opportunity presents itself for delight that you can actually without changing an expectation go a little bit above and beyond because the situation calls for it. It’s not something that you’re promising to do all the time but it is that momentary thing. Go for it. That is fine. I’m not saying never delight customers. I’m just saying don’t make it a promise that you will because the minute that you make a promise that you will you pretty much set yourself up that you’re not going to be able to because if it’s my expectation that you’re going to delight me then you’re not going to be able to because that requires you to exceed my expectation which you don’t know what it is anyway.

Richard: Someone just added into the chat. We do have some questions and we’ll be going through those but someone just added into the chat here. “The talk of the guest speaker today is more or less about keeping your promises which should be a no brainer anyway.”

Michel: That is a really good point. I would argue though that go through that way and count the number of promises that get broken. It’s a lot. We’re really bad at this. Yes, it’s a no brainer and it sounds the most obvious thing in the world but we are incredibly bad at making promises in a very deliberate and consistent way. Our general tone seems to be let’s what I call it’s a promise and apologize sort of thing. We’ll make a promise and if we don’t keep it, that is okay we’ll just apologize.

Richard: Make the promise to get the business and then apologize later.

Michel: Apologize when we can’t do it. I push back and say yes, it’s obvious. Yes, we should all do it and lots and lots of people don’t. All you’ve got to do is look at the cratering satisfaction scores across any business or any sector to know how that plays out on a day to day basis.

Richard: Gareth, did you have a question?

Gareth: I do. Thanks Michel for taking the time to spend with us today.

Michel: My pleasure.

Gareth: My question, many of our clients are e-commerce only businesses where all of the experience is somewhat faceless i.e. limited human interaction with customers. What are some tips that these e-commerce businesses could apply to their websites/digital experiences? There’s the question.

Michel: Just because something is online, just because something is not literal between two people physically doesn’t mean the promises aren’t being made, doesn’t mean that you’re not setting expectations. In fact I would say in a digital environment it’s even more important to be very clear and explicit and set expectations. Do the work behind the scenes to understand what you can and can’t do consistently, what you will and won’t do consistently then find a way to make that clear through your website. An example of this might be shipping times. This is a great one for e-commerce businesses because it always includes sending people something in the mail and depending on where you are and what service you use for your shipping and all the rest of it some of those times can be quite elastic. It’s still really important to give people a sense of what that is.

A story I tell a lot, Zappo’s is world famous for they say make people happy and “work on delighting people at every turn” but a friend of mine ordered some shoes from them. Chose three day shipping because she was going to be out of town. She wasn’t going to be home to get the package. Zappo’s knew better. We knew what she wants so they sent it overnight. She wasn’t home to get it. The package sat on her doorstep for two days in the snow so not so delightful. There is an arrogance to thinking that you know. I would say the other thing for commerce people it’s really important to do the work of thinking like the people that are coming to your site. That is not about them. That is a different thing. When I think about you I’m like I think you’re going to like this and this and this. Thinking like means literally being you. How would I feel if this happened to me not how do I think the customer is going to feel if we do this to them. How would I feel if this happened to them? How will I feel if this was what was told to me, this promise was made to me? That is a really great way to actually start to bring more humanity into that digital interaction.

Richard: I think it was a long time ago in the origins of advertising David Ogilvy said something like always write ad copy as if you’re writing to your mother.

Michel: Yes. There is a question here. How do you get clients to remember the good experiences since it seems they remember you as good as the long thing that you did, the last game? This is a great question because the brain science around this stuff is fascinating and I always encourage people to dig into it. We are hardwired to disproportionately remember and value the negative. When we people say to me about complaints and compliments I always say what is the ratio because you’re always going to get more complaints than compliments, always. It’s just how we’re hardwired. You think about yourself, something bad happens you are now on it for a week. You tell everybody you meet, every coffee is like oh my God, you won’t expect, you can’t believe what happened to me last week. Where is the good stuff? We barely mention it. We file it away and like oh, that was nice. We hardly ever tell anyone. That dynamic hasn’t changed dramatically via social media by the way.

How do you get clients to remember because they tend to remember the last thing? That is also brain science. There is a single peak end rule where again the last thing we experience is the thing we remember. I always say to people if you’re thinking about the experience and you’re thinking about the promises that you’re making really make sure that the ones that impact the last point of contact, the last piece of experience the customer or anybody has with you is the most positive because the rest we’ll rationalize for the most part. It’s irrelevant having a terrific on boarding experience for your employees if when you fire them you treat them like crap because they’ll remember the latter. They won’t remember the former. The same with customers. It’s no good spending all this wonderful time on boarding them if then the checkout experience is terrible or when they get their package in the mail it’s in a crumpled up bag that’s been all broken on the corners.

Richard: It’s the most recent experience they remember the most.

Michel: Along with the point of highest emotion. It’s called peak end but the end is disproportionally important.

Richard: There’s another question. How do you get internal buy in into the brand strategy without sounding fluffy? Do we approach by reviewing our end points with customers and stuff?

Michel: I care about what I connect with. I care about what I feel is “meaningful and relevant”. What organizations, universally in my experience that I’ve worked with fail to do is they have whatever their high level statements around this is what we care about, this is what we stand for and this is what we’re about and they don’t help people in the organization connect that to their day to day work. They don’t show them what the path is between that and what they do. This is everyone in the organization whether you’re in IT, finance, in the warehouse like out in the field on sales whatever it is I need to be able to say this thing that I’m doing right now because I do this, this happens, this happens, that happens and then that happens and that means we do this thing that we care about.

Richard: Part of it is to show everybody within the organization that their role in delivering the promise is actually really important.

Michel: It’s not even just their role. It’s literally, tangibly, tactically how does what I’m doing, the physical activity that I’m doing contribute to that because it can be really hard to understand. The best of example of this and again, I don’t say that I don’t use the promise. How does it contribute to our identity is probably a better way because I use promise universally not as a meta thing that we point to. How do we deliver our purpose, how do we achieve our purpose, how do we meet our purpose and how do we demonstrate our values because that essentially sits at the heart of what the brand is of what the brand result is. How do I make sure that people no matter what they do in the organization, understand how it does that.

FedEx is a great example. People talk about it as the NASA story. I use FedEx because that is how I heard it. Guy sweeping up the dock in FedEx. Guy doing a consulting gob comes along and says, tell me what you’re doing. He says I’m helping parcels get out to our customers overnight. The guys says, what do you mean? You’re sweeping the dock. The janitor says yes, but if I don’t sweep the dock and keep it clear of all the rubbish and packaging trucks can’t come in. If the trucks can’t come in we can’t unload and load. If we can’t unload and load the packages don’t go out. If the packages don’t go out the customers don’t get them. He was able to connect his job of sweeping the dock to actually how to keeping FedEx’s promise which was absolutely positively overnight. The question I ask is how many people in your organization could do that, can make that connection? When they can do that you don’t need to worry about brand strategy. It will take care of itself.

Richard: If anyone’s got any other questions, we do have one more but if you’ve got any others we’ll be wrapping up soon so now is a good time to ask it. One question, this one here. Are you saying all the marketing that I do doesn’t really matter? How does this fit in with marketing?

Michel: Marketing is just one function of the business that makes promises. It’s only one function. The problem when you talk about brand is because brand quite often sits as a marketing thing that is back to that visual, how people pick you out of a line-up stuff that I talked about. I’m largely talking about marketing communications here because marketing broadly is a different discipline that helps drive product development and all sorts of things. Absolutely marketing still has a role to play. It’s actually a really important role because it is often the connective tissue between the organization and the external. If marketing really isn’t being really deeply connected to the promise the organization is making and what promises they can keep there’s a really big chance that they set the organization up for failure by overpromising. Nearly all the failures of the promise that I see that people respond to the result in unhappy customers are failures of marketing to actually understand the nature of promise and the role that it plays. The broader business though is no less important. If your warehouse isn’t well set up to understand the promises that are being made and if you’re not paying attention to how those are being kept then products don’t appear on shelves or in inventory and then somebody goes and buys something and it’s not there. This starts a web. It’s an ecosystem of which marketing is a part but it’s not the only part. It’s not even the most important part. They’re all equally important.

Richard: Good stuff. Michel, thank you. That has been really inspiring and enlightening and challenging as well. Thank you very much but I would also add totally relevant and anyone who thinks that they’re keeping all their promises at the moment. We do have two more webinars planned for this year. I’ll just quickly introduce those for the people who are here. Smart e-commerce Strategies is coming up on the 26th and Ransomware Traps to Avoid and Tips and Tools. That is December 5. We’ll let you know about those ones. If you want to take anything further, if you want any more help with any of this stuff then you can get in touch with Michel about brand. You can also get in touch with us at Concise. We can introduce you to Michel or we can assist you with what it takes to understand and apply some of this stuff that Michel is talking about. Michel, have you got any final comments to wrap up?

Michel: Just thanks so much for the chance to come and talk to people about this. It’s so important. I’d be delighted to share as I said, get out a copy of my book The Unheroic Work to everybody. There’s a lot of stuff in there that builds on this that they can actually use sort of day to day in their businesses. The big thing is that you own your own brand result. It’s nothing that you can outsource. Every organization has to own and take responsibility for it. I’m all about helping and sort of give you guys what you need to do that.

Richard: Thanks very much. Gareth, comments?

Gareth: Nope, just thank you very much.

Richard: Thanks everybody for attending and thank you Michel for your time and your brilliant thoughts.

Michel: Have a good day.

The Secret Ingredient of a Successful Brand

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