BrandingWire: Coffee and a Story on the Boil

Bw_logo_no_tagmedIn this first BrandingWire post we are each looking at a fictitious marketing challenge — a family owned coffee company that is looking to grow. They have a good product but a poor brand — our challenge is to help the stakeholders ask the right questions about growing the business.

My view is that we need to start with the story (of course). What I will propose is not the development of a full marketing plan or a brand strategy, but an engagement strategy based on understanding those customers who have thus far fuelled the company’s growth. I want to understand the business (and brand’s) stakeholders — and to map the who, what, why and how of the business’ story.

Any family business that has been running for more than a couple of years is going to have a wealth of brand and personal stories available. What needs to happen is to begin delving into some of these stories in order to find their essence — the thing that rings true to the business, the family, the customers and the employees.

People and the brand (the WHO of your story): The important thing to do here is to talk and to listen. Talk to the people in the business, ask them what they think, what works and what doesn’t. Get them to speak from their heart. Talk to the oldest employees and the newest. Include the family. But also include a broader mix across the business — including suppliers and delivery drivers. Find out what is common and where the gaps are. Listen to the WAY that phase their words. Listen for the poetry. Be alert to the emotional resonances. Do the same for the customers — not in focus groups, but in the stores. Hang out. Eavesdrop. Ask.

Key themes and messages (the WHAT of your story): Now what have you learned? Can you distill all this down? Can you plot it on a graph? What is repeated and what is left out? Once you have some of these key themes and messages, you need to start to map these against the business strategy … make sure that you are spending your marketing dollars communicating with those who are most likely to buy from you. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? To be successful here you need to baseline, measure and test. You do so by assessing commitment.

Stakeholder commitment (the WHY of your story): We all work through various stages of commitment to things — brands, people, places and so on. At the heart of this is a decision — at some point we make a decision to commit. Now, this decision can be implicit or explicit, it can be conscious or unconscious … but it remains a decision nonetheless. By working through a series of commitment points for a given persona set, we can determine what kind of communications should be initiated and when.

Channels (the HOW of your story): Now of course you need to consider how best to reach all these idealised personas and the people behind them. This means that there are questions around media choice — and that means MONEY. Of course, one of the most cost effective channels is online and/or social media. But as I explained here, not all brands will benefit from a social media strategy. However, in this instance, there are obvious benefits — especially because there is a depth of lifestyle-oriented content that can quickly be developed and put into the marketplace.

Finally, the important thing is to START. Start small and do it fast — before you can frighten yourself. Measure the impact of each effort against your initial expectations. If you don’t succeed, change the plan. Tweak. Modify. Learn from the mistakes. Marketing is not an endgame — it is a way of initiating, enabling, extending and maintaining the relationships that allow a brand to thrive.

3 thoughts on “BrandingWire: Coffee and a Story on the Boil

  1. Brilliant, Gavin. I love the simple break down into main questions as a progression and couldn’t agree more on starting right away. I guess my story started in medias res. Truly good to read your take.

  2. Gavin, I applaud the idea of engagement. Without it, there is no attachment. Understanding the current environment, both from employees and customers, in their own words, is a critical step. Well done!

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