You have to align what you sell with the principals you have.
When you misalign what you do, it undermines the association others have with you.
The last thing you want is conflict where messages become messy and there is no connection.
When it comes to alignment, the ventures that you pursue have to match your mission.
The Athlete And The Chocolate Bar
This is something that Cadbury’s seem to have missed last week. They will be the Premier League’s next sponsor (currently Barclays). Premier League football from August 2017 will endorse high sugar confectionary.
Not the best choice for an athlete, but great for a boardroom of men in there 50s wearing suits.
Whilst this is a decision by Cadbury’s to ‘stay relevant’, it says more about market share and share price than it is about the relevance of the health of the nation and dealing with obesity in the UK (if a sugar fee chocolate bar is released, I will delete this post).
The company has its origins as a meaningful ethical Victorian firm, set up by Quakers. Cadbury’s values were founded in looking after former employees. In 2013, something changed from board level. The alignment went off the scale.
Long-term employees were given a gift each Christmas, as a small thanks for their service over the years. The owners then decided to scrap the gifts and since Christmas 2014, no more ‘thank you for the years of service,’ gesture. Not even a packet of Buttons.
Sport and food will always be a sensitive alignment for any brand. From McDonalds and Coke being Olympics sponsors, the door will always open for attack.
If Cadbury’s made a promise to invest in grass roots football and community initiatives, then that changes the balance. The connection has to be easy, rather than people having to dig deep.
What I am trying to highlight, from a business perspective, is what you sell and the alignment that you create from it has to be something that you are proud of and what others can easily connect with.
Finding The Links
On a personal level, the work I stand for is ownership and how businesses can build their own media brand by communicating to a targeted audience on a consistent basis. The You Are The Media Lunch Clubs are ways to validate this by bringing in others who are already doing this or endorse an approach of ownership and delivering a more compelling message. The message, at least, is consistent.
When your product and your message do not match up, it causes conflict. It doesn’t become believable.
Alignment is critical, as it is something that is with you for a very long time. This can become the bargaining power that becomes your heart pendant (where the other half is with someone else), where you are both focused on helping the same person.
For instance, this is where it doesn’t work when it comes to alignment:
- An estate agent aligns itself with sponsorship opportunities for various local business events.
This is alignment:
- An estate agent aligns itself with likeminded suppliers from the property ecosystem from removal companies to solicitors. They team up and the focus is on the customer and the process for the whole home moving experience.
Alignment is about others recognising something you genuinely believe in, in order to build trust. As highlighted in the Edelman Trust Survey, we are all at an all time low where people trust businesses. Have a read of the Edelman Trust Barometer 2017 UK article that highlights that business trust is at its lowest since 2012 and CEO credibility is at an all time low.
Authenticity And The Belief System
In an age where the content that people and businesses produce and distribute is what they want you to see, at least make it genuine to the thing that you believe in.
To have alignment with what you sell and what you believe in, you need to have some key foundations in place:
- CLARITY. From the social posts to the ongoing content that is promoted and distributed, if it’s not clear, people are going to walk away. Can your main message live in one central place?
- ASSOCIATION. In the various places where you are present, people need to make an association with your angle of attack and what you believe in.
- LEAD. With a viewpoint or approach that is shared with others, it has to come from a place of conviction, rather than a short terms sales tactic.
- CONSISTENCY. It becomes easier, over time when you can demonstrate an approach. A good place to start is recognising the one word you stand for (click here to how this works).
- AUTHENTICITY. In a world that encourages businesses to be more transparent and open with others, being reliable is a valuable trait to have.
- GUIDANCE. When others make an association, what you create has a role to guide and for people to come back to, knowing that what you produce is consistent, rather than an infrequent tick box mentality.
- PARTICIPATION. To be seen as real, a company must realise that it must collaborate and encourage the participation of others.
- CONNECTIVITY. When people make the association between principles and product, the strength of connection can be greater than just an association with a product ie. a garage that offers an MOT, to a garage that offers an MOT service after hours during the week as they understand that vehicles are in use during the day (this creates a service partner perception).
- ATTITUDE. When a businesses takes an approach that goes against others within a marketplace and can do it consistently can define an approach.
- PATIENCE. Building connectivity with others takes time. You need to be able to look at it for the long-term building that creates the equity.
In Marketing 4.0, Philip Kotler highlights that, ‘in the digital economy, digital interaction alone is not sufficient.” The way that we differentiate should not just be reserved to the confines of behind a screen it is every touchpoint that we present to others.
The connection with what you do can help set the tone and encourage interaction. Whilst Cadbury’s would never conjure up a perception of a brand that was looking to help and encourage change, that is where the opportunity lies for other businesses.
Whilst Cadbury’s can now travel on the coat tails of the Premier League brand throughout the globe like a mouse catcher with cheese, there is an alternative. Instead of hunting for the next customer, a company has to be recognised as having clear intentions and to interact with a clear role to help.
Throwing everything at brand identity that is inherently false ie. the logo, the foiled logo on the brochure, the logo GIF that is on the website, the logo on rice paper on cupcakes, doesn’t mean anything to anyone anymore. Whilst a key requisite for traditional marketing and a way to interrupt and repeat, is that relevant today? Customers that are willing to make a deeper connection have places to look, interpret and make their own decision.
Customers are in a place where they can have closer relationships with companies, if they choose to. If a company has a number of touchpoints to interact and have that conversation it can drive action and advocacy.
Your beliefs and products should match if it is made out of love…..should have left this article for Valentines Week!