A university study found that concentrating marketing activities around 'brand values' had a huge impact for a local Auckland eatery.
Most companies still and in fairness most of our own clients, insist on focussing their marketing activities around their products or discounts. But in doing this they are missing out on one of the most significant marketing breakthroughs of modern times. I am of course referring to social media networks and the "always-on" online community.
Brand values and the communication of them to customers, has become an integral part of marketing with the rise of social media use. Using social media as an active marketing initiative has also received a huge amount of attention in the media and amongst academics alike because of its ability to connect individuals together, creating powerful brand communities where many-to-many communication can flourish.
In 2014 we took on the task of re-generating an underperforming Asian Food outlet in Auckland. The proprietor gave us 8 weeks to turn around his latest central Auckland outlet.
We immediately noticed that this particular fast food brand had a strong commitment to healthy ingredients and food preparation. This wasn't just a marketing ploy from the owner but a personal commitment from him and his family. Their personal values and beliefs that food should be wholesome using the freshest ingredients available, was a great selling point for their brand.
And so it proved, by concentrating our marketing efforts on these 'brand values' people developed a loyalty to the brand and this was reflected in the numerous positive comments on Facebook in particular.
Our tactics during this period included monthly 1 minute videos of how a favourite dish was prepared. Pictorial blogs about how the vegetables were sourced locally by an experienced team member who had favourite and loyal suppliers. Punters loved that they were able to connect with the brand in this way and actively bought into these 'brand stories'. Consequently the brand was enthusiastically shared among other members of the growing 'brand community' and business boomed.
The success of such 'value based' marketing strategies and their particular relevance in the age of social media have been well documented for a few years now. Authors such as Grams (2012), Legorburu and McColl (2014), Richardson (2013) and (Leboff, 2013) all described this growing trend and the huge power that social media was adding to the brand awareness and loyalty debate.
The marketing success described above contributes to this debate, investigating the role social media plays in the use of brand values as an emotional connector between consumers and businesses.
Brand values are nothing new and have always been part of the culture of a brand, they encourage more human contact, mimicking the effects of traditional word-of-mouth. The difference today is that because of social media these values have taken on incredible new importance with recent stories about young people particularly, buying into the values of a brand rather than merely a product or service.
An actual study of this phenomenon was completed in 2016 by Nigel Grimshaw-Jones, the founder and current director of Touch Marketing as part of a Masters Degree. You can read and download the study here.
The research uncovers the importance of brand communities, how customers act as co-creators of brands and practical topics businesses should consider around transparency, integrity and authenticity in their marketing initiatives.
It should also be noted that the research highlights that 'brand awareness' is indeed a tangible metric, one that most business owners commonly refuse to accept labelling it as not of the same importance as sales and orders. This study begs to differ and can point to a stunning increase in turnover of over 133% in a year.
The research suggests that the arrival of social media driven activity between customers and businesses is here to stay and introduces how the collection of 'rich data' will become a game changer for both customers and businesses alike.