People who buy into the “butterfly effect” believe that minute actions can result in large effects. Just like the flap of a butterfly’s wings may cause a tsunami on the other side of the world, the messages brands share publicly can force sizeable change in the mindset and behaviors of their customers, shareholders, industry and even the world at large.
Amplifying a company’s vision should be a key goal when developing any corporate messaging strategy, yet many executives struggle to decide if and when their brands should speak up and why.
Controlling the conversation – why brands need to communicate early and proactively
Innovative brands should share their point of view early on in order to take control of the conversation – whether that conversation is positive or negative. Three important times to speak up include:
No. 1: When you expect changes in your industry
Successful executives carefully monitor where their industries are headed and proactively seek out opportunities for growth. Super innovative CEOs – like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos – can even drive change on a global scale, allowing their organizations to grow market share while competitors scramble to catch up.
When you see change coming, get ahead of the game with messages that address the change and explain how your organization is prepared to capitalize on it.
No. 2: In anticipation of a new product launch
It’s also important to be proactive in the way you’re telling your story, especially when anticipating a new product launch. Start promoting your vision – not your product – before the product is launched.
People buy visions, they buy purpose, and they buy solutions. They don’t buy products. So if you know your company will be launching a better mousetrap in two years, now is the time to communicate why you have a vision for a better mousetrap.
Several years back, Ford Motor Company’s leadership came to the realization that Ford was a technology company. That’s when they started talking about the value of integrating mobile technology into cars. By the time they started introducing new products with advanced technology, Ford’s vision that mobile technology would shape the future of the automotive industry was well entrenched in the minds of the public.
No. 3: When your company is having problems
Rather than reacting to ongoing customer complaints or a class action lawsuit, proactively seek out and listen to customer feedback to find out what your company can do better. As you resolve those internal problems, openly communicate to customers about what you’re fixing and why.
Nobody has taken advantage of this outside-in vision better than Dominos Pizza. When Dominos hired its CEO, J. Patrick Doyle, in 2007, Pizza Hut was No. 1, Papa Johns was No. 2 and Dominos was No. 3 in the pizza delivery world. Doyle asked customers to share what they didn’t like about Dominos and then set a plan in motion to fix those problems.
There were many things people didn’t like about Dominos:
- The quality of ingredients (fixed with the introduction of more fresh ingredients).
- The ordering process (fixed with apps, online ordering, a pizza emoji to order via Twitter and the ability to track deliveries live).
- Higher prices on weekends and during big events like the Super Bowl compared to weekdays (fixed by making prices the same every day of the week).
- Limited menu options – customers wanted more than pizza (fixed when Dominos added sandwiches, wings, salads and more).
As Dominos fixed problems, Doyle marketed those changes to consumers, ultimately telling them, “We hear you, here’s what we fixed and why.” Dominos is No. 1 in the pizza delivery space today.
But why spill the beans if you don’t have to?
Some senior executives fear transparency when troubles are brewing in their organizations. They believe there is no need to expose something that doesn’t need to be exposed and assume people won’t find out about it. Why not just try to fix things and tell everyone, “We’re great!”
However, marketing doesn’t work that way today. Truth sells. And with today’s 24-hour news cycle and all of the review sites that are out there, people are going to find out. The more honestly and authentically a brand operates, the more reliable that brand will be perceived. Period.
Transparency and authenticity beat positioning all day long.
Amplifying brand vision early on can also help companies weather a crisis
We’ve all seen companies react to a crisis and end up dealing with huge public relations issues. United Airlines has had a rough year with story after story surfacing about mistreatment of customers. Just about everyone has a smartphone and social media accounts today. As United learned, the public won’t allow companies to sweep their employees’ bad behavior under the rug anymore.
According to United’s Customer Commitment, “Our goal is to make every flight a positive experience for our customers.” What if United had done a better job at sharing that mantra along with ongoing examples of positive customer experiences with the public, before a few employees made some poor decisions?
The airline would have been better prepared to weather the public relations nightmare that has been haunting it for months. In addition, had United firmly reinforced this mantra with its staff, the employees involved in those highly publicized customer incidents probably would have thought twice before acting inappropriately toward customers.