Effective corporate brands sell benefits, not values
Only 29% of corporate brands are distinctive compared to their competitive set, according to a global survey by CEB of 1,250 stakeholders from different fields (employees, managers, influencers etc.) (1).
The CEB research gives some clues as to how you can increase your chances of creating a corporate brand positioning, not a bland positioning, as we explore below.
1. What drives corporate brand PREFERENCE?
The first key finding in the research reveals the drivers of corporate brand preference.
Positive experience with the brand matters more than simple familiarity, as you would expect: a company has to ‘brand AND deliver’ to win preference.
However, ‘connection’ is even more important (see below), driven by attributes such as:
- I feel a personal connection to the brand.
- I can identify with the brand.
- The brand’s successes are my successes.
2. BENEFITS of brand connection
The survey shows that there are several key benefits from boosting your corporate brand connection. Two in particular jumped out at me.
- Recruitment: three times more people (55%) would be willing to switch for a flat salary to a company they feel high connection with versus one with low connection (16%)
- Premium pricing: more than four times as many people would pay a premium (64%) for a high connection corporate brand versus a low connection brand (14%)
3. What drives corporate brand CONNECTION?
So, how can you drive corporate brand connection?
A common route is focusing on communicating corporate brand VALUES. The idea here is that if target customers/stakeholders share the same values as the brand, they will feel connected to it.
However, a focus on values has several issues. First, it tends to lead to low distinctiveness, as many companies select values from the list of ‘usual suspects’ that crop up again and again: integrity, innovation, teamwork, integrity etc. In addition, values by themselves work at a high, emotional level and don’t always get translated into tangible action.
The research confirms that a values-focused approach is not the most effective way to create connection: focusing on corporate brand BENEFITS is three times more effective. This means ensuring that your corporate brand values drive behaviours that in turn deliver tangible product benefits. Statements about corporate brands delivering benefits include:
- Helps me achieve my goals.
- Helps me present myself to others as the person I want to be.
- Provides an emotional benefit (e.g. adds excitement to my life, makes me feel more relaxed)
4. The benefit-based approach in action
CEB quote the bank ING as an example of using this benefit-based approach on their corporate brand. ING defined its purpose as, ‘Empowering customers to stay a step ahead in life and in business.’
Having done some digging, I found some examples of this purpose coming to life:
- ING Australia’s ‘Everyday Round Up’ digital money jar allows customers to round up every eligible card purchase to the nearest one or five dollars, putting the difference straight into their savings account. The feature hit 40,000 activations within the first two weeks
- A ‘digital shoebox’ on the small business mobile banking app lets customers scan receipts with their phone’s camera and link them directly to transactions, allowing real-time tracking of income, expenses and tax payable
- In Wholesale Banking an AI-powered tool called Katana uses data visualisation and predictive analytics to help bond traders decide what price to quote
The research paper shows that ING has increased brand value ahead of its peer group with this approach, and the company’s results also seem to be heading in the right direction based on the Q417 data I found:
i. retail customer base +500,000 to 37.4 million
ii. net core lending +EUR 6.8 billion
iii. FY2017 underlying pre-tax result +2.4% vs. 2016
iv. Net promoter score number one in 9 of 13 retail markets.
In conclusion, with big corporate brands it seems that, just like on any brand, you are better off focusing on the ‘sausage’ of product benefits, not just the emotional ‘sizzle’ of brand values.