Thursday, June 25, 2015

What's Your Brand Appearance?

Does how you look really matter? It's not a matter of "should it," because the answer is... IT DOES! One's appearance matters because of hardwired consumer biases we have, such as the Halo Effect. Effective brand management requires that marketers labor to continually press the congruence between their brand appearance and their brand image.

And so, today we're talking...!

What's Your Brand Appearance?

First, let's define our terms.
  • Brand Appearance is the physical look, and in the case of e-commerce, the experience of browsing, researching, comparing, purchasing, and re-experiencing a brand. The scope of brand appearance reaches as far as a business logo to a brick-and-mortar ambiance, to the physical look of the staff. It serves as the first impression gauge to which all other impressions are then measured.
  • Brand Image is the conceptual construct to which your consumer base imagines your brand to be. When someone asks you if you want a cup of coffee, you think... Starbucks. If someone wants a recommendation on workout gear, you may say... Under Armor. If you hear the word "Costco," you may think... cheap/buying-in-bulk. Rolex? Luxury. In all cases, whatever image flows into the mind's eye of the consumer, THAT is your brand image.

The connection is then clear. Your brand appearance is the first stop shop of developing your brand image, and ultimately, the creation and completion of your brand promise.

Therefore, it's crucial to consider these three brand experience tenets:
  1. Aesthetics. Be it a physical location, website, app, or portal, your appearance must match your brand image's brand promise. A minimalist, time saving service/product should have a similar look throughout the continuum of brick-and-mortar into the website structure. A service brand which trumps a 5-star experience should project an image of happiness and satisfaction beyond measure. Your look is part of the brand experience that you give your customers; therefore, it fully carries over to the conversion of consumer purchase. Perhaps more importantly, it translates to customer retention. Loyalty, is many times, far more important.
  2. Voice. In many similarities to a dating experience, looks are many times the first impression a brand will give to the prospective customer. Yet, once we get past this point and interest is gathered, it is the voice and tone throughout the first date that seals the deal for date number two. Companies express their voice via blogs, website content, social media posts, ads, labels, etc. Just about anything with printed image or published multimedia serves as a brand's vocal expression. Therefore, a brand's voice must also match the brand's appearance and identity to maximize the congruence of customer expectations of the brand promise. Welcome based brands should have a voice which is conversational, minimizes jargon, and encourages community. Solution based brands should offer small teases and pearls of wisdom as it pertains to actionables. Experience based brands should assume a tonal posture which gives customers a platform to share their own wonderful experiences as a strategy of perpetuating brand equity elevation.
  3. Flow. Keeping with the dating metaphor, the flow of the first date is crucial to landing the second date (customer loyalty). If the date goes bad with awkward silences and the like, it ultimately sullies the experience itself. The same goes for a company's brand experience as it relates to the initial appearance of the brand. If the first impression of the brand appearance is that of cost savings, what it is really communicating to the consumer is that this brand will save you time. Therefore, the experience must be polished, streamlined, and exceptionally efficient. Wait times will betray the brand promise. Similarly, if the first impression from a brand appearance is that of catered customization, a lack of fleshed out options and a poor browsing vehicle will also betray the promise and brand experience itself. 

So, I ask you: What's Your Brand Appearance?
  • Is it in line with your brand identity?
  • Does it create synergies with your brand promise?
  • And, is it congruent with your brand image?
If your answer to these three questions were, "YES!" Congratulations! You have created a wonderful threshold to nail the brand experience from the get go.

Announcements & Mentions!
  1. If you haven't heard already, it's official! I will be joining UpDoc Media with several heavy hitters including that of Dr. Gene Shirokobrod, Dr. Erson Religioso, and more... so stay tuned! As a teaser: my focus will be on a section called "Business Fung Shui: Doing Business The Fung Way." To hear more about it, go to the Therapy Insiders' Podcast HERE. Just remember, at UpDoc Media, you will find the "Content you NEED to know, delivered with clinical precision."
  2. I'm continuing my vlog episodes in spurts given kiddo management ;) And, as you've noticed, it's more about having fun. Still, if you have anything you want covered, just let me know via email or tweet me @DrBenFung.
  3. One final mention, I want to thank FreshBooks for the inspiration for this post on brand appearance. FreshBooks specializes in cloud accounting and is a great resource in keeping your brand experience fluid, seamless, and consistent. After all, who wants to have a great brand experience only to get tied up and fumble at the end when invoicing and accounting is concerned? Save time and check out FreshBooks. After all, time is money!

ALLLLLLRIGHT! That's all folks. As always, if there is anything you want covered or talked about, please reach out. I'm only an email or a tweet away!

Take Care!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Care In Communication

So 6-8 weeks ago, a gentleman in the East Coast of the USA emailed me after finding my old website, Kettlebell Therapy via Google. For those of you that didn't know me from way back when, I was known as the "Kettlebell Guy" primarily because of my DPT thesis on kettlebells. In any case, on the website, I described several ways I integrated kettlebells with my approach as a Physical Therapist in regards to back pain.

From there, it was just a random email from this poor guy who didn't expect me to respond... and, a response to which I didn't expect to have so much benefit in his life. After a nice exchange in emails, I got a touching update from him yesterday.

Here's how it went down...

The Care In Communication

Monday, June 15, 2015

Higher Education: Lowering Costs & Improving Compensation

It's an age old problem: You must spend money to make money. In this case, it is spending money on education to make money after graduation.

The above conversation on Twitter lead to some immediate thoughts and then some pensive action. Given, I'm not a formal educator. I'm not a professor. I'm not a credentialed teacher. However, I do teach... a lot. I do so through this blog (and others), my VLOG, as a consultant, as a clinician, as a mentor, and certainly, I have had formal training in the educational process.

All that said, the solutions I recommend come from a perspective of business. They do not fully nor remotely take into consideration the litany of regulations required for academic accreditation nor anything else in the spirit of the like.

Lowering Costs & Improving Compensation

First, I think we need to be honest with ourselves regarding what higher education is, has been, and should become. Education was the original one-up in the working world, an experience where students could gather true life and career skills to become more valuable in the workplace for hire. However, as schooling evolved, the experience became far more theoretical and academic rather than applicable and practical. Moreover, there became this lattice work of degrees to which students need to climb in order to get to the next higher rung for hopefully better compensation in the workplace.

Traditional frameworks of education have always been in the classroom setting. A teacher with the knowledge would dispense their life's work (not always in books), understanding, and wisdom in exchange for money. That cost would hopefully translate into a valuable combination of a degree (piece of paper) and real life skill sets to which an employer would be willing to hire for better rate of compensation -- or -- that the person could go out and earn money for themselves as their own business person (entrepreneur).

So where are we now? Well... if we're truly honest with ourselves. Higher education has certain ironies that are perpetuating unnecessary costs.
  • The Classroom: Why not switch to mobile teaching? Why not switch to virtual classrooms? The overall costs saved for all the parties involved here are tremendous when done correctly. Given, most online programs actually cost a pretty penny. However, it is done so in the face of the marketplace -- the value exchange is the convenience of doing things online.
  • The Redundancies: I find it quite ironic that each higher education program actually creates for itself redundancies in prerequisites through undergraduate studies. In many international systems of education, one doesn't have to take undergraduate courses then take the same courses in graduate school. It is all streamlined. If you got into medical school, you did so practically straight out of high school. I think it'd be a lot more affordable if schools started to allow for a la carte style prerequisites (inclusive of the undergraduate degree itself) that should a student realize they wish to pursue graduate studies, they could streamline in rather than double their efforts. An example for myself, I've taken statistics 4 times now!
  • The Theoreticals: Its also saddening to me that higher education is becoming increasingly theoretical. Of course, this is all done under the name of "foundations" and "general education." Yet, when I showed my chemistry course work to an internationally trained pharmacist years ago, her response was "that isn't chemistry, that's theory!" Expanding on her point, she challenged any student taking undergraduate or even graduate chemistry studies to create for themselves a common OTC drug. They couldn't.
So! Decrease cost by become more mobile, more virtual, accepting prerequisites and using the internal testing process as a measure of if a student is worth it or not. After all, if performance is ultimately the judge, why not let it reign supreme? If a student is doing well, OBVIOUSLY, their credits are good as were their course work. However, if they are doing poorly, I don't care if they got their degree from Harvard with a 4.0. They are STILL failing. Besides, the acceptance in larger volumes in early prerequisites (bar the hands on stuff) allows for a decrease in cost due to scale. It also allows for the expense to students to be lowered as well. It also allows for the right performers rather than the right prerequisites to dictate who wins and who loses.

I would offer this in all cases: Decreasing the cost of higher education is hard. It also, is perhaps, less important than improving compensation for our new graduates.

How To Improve Compensation?

Well, to answer that... it's VLOG time!