Sometimes the challenges we help businesses overcome are relatively simple, at other times they’re much tougher.
In a nutshell
- We were tasked with reinvigorating and growing an often-overlooked region of New Zealand. Where the challenge lay was in convincing the various stakeholders to fundamentally change the way they think about the place they call home.
- We had to help our clients view their home turf as a brand, whether they liked it or not. By treating the region as a brand, we were able to unlock the potential.
- The key criteria on which to assess brands are fit, energy and clarity. The region delivered an experience that people desired, but it was held back by a lack of awareness, no sense of fit, a poor emotive connection through lack of energy, and no clarity as to what the place stood for.
- The outcome was a new strategic positioning for the region. While it's too early to assess the numbers, all anecdotal evidence is positive.
In the same way that the complexity of the challenge can vary, so too can the height of the bar we will need to vault if we have to introduce a different set of perceptions – for example, those of everyday Kiwis, which differ wildly from those held by the brand owners. Marketing people think about their brand and its eco-structure 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, so they are incredibly immersed. All of us naturally see things through a particular lens, which is especially true when that lens is your hometown.
At face value most people would agree that bringing an understanding of real people and the world they live in into a business is a good thing. It promotes new thinking and ensures relevant strategic decisions – relevant to the wider public that is. So far so good.
TRA believes in using our understanding of human behaviour to identify opportunities for companies to grow – we use the term 'we know people' and our clients choose us to help them with their problems for precisely that reason. Where it gets tricky is that at times, clients may be taken by surprise by what we have to tell them.
We recently undertook a project where this obstacle was tougher to overcome than what we typically see.
A New Zealand region that wasn’t just a brand, it was the stakeholder’s home
The challenge we were tasked with was to help reinvigorate and grow an often-overlooked region of New Zealand through a new brand positioning and proposition which would capitalise on a recent increase in inbound flights and a steady rise in domestic tourism.
This business issue seemed relatively straightforward.
Where the challenge lay was in convincing the various stakeholders and interested parties (of which there were many) to fundamentally change the way they think about the place they call home. To do this we challenged them to let the voice of potential visitors inform their view of the region – to not just to think of it as the place they live, but rather to think of it as a brand. Furthermore, as a brand that is being viewed through the eyes of people that may know factually very little about it.
Not surprisingly, the public’s perceptions were often misguided or misinformed but they were nevertheless what came to mind for people when, or if, they gave the region a moment of thought.
To vault the bar, we had to work closely with our clients and the various stakeholders to help them understand how brands work – that brands are a mental construct and that factual errors are all part of that construct. We also had to explain how brands impact people’s behaviour. And finally that their turf was indeed a brand whether they liked it or not – and that they should like it. Why? Because brands are powerful.
Successful brands represent a proven and powerful way of engaging the emotions and ultimately the behaviour of those with whom we wish to build connections.
Brands may be fictional entities represented only by mental pictures in our minds, but they are mental pictures that we share with other people just like us. If a brand were to close its doors tomorrow, it would not cease to exist in people’s minds. It is this collective belief that is the ultimate source of a brand’s power.
This is what we needed to understand and then build for our client through accessing what people currently believed. At TRA we have learned that the key criteria on which to assess brands are fit (with consumer’s values and identity), energy (the sense of the brand’s positive momentum) and clarity (the extent to which people understand what it stands for).
While the region in this case delivered an experience that people desired, it was held back by a lack of awareness, no sense of fit, a poor emotive connection through lack of energy, and no clarity as to what the place stood for. It had no real top of mindedness or attribute that could act as an emotional anchor for the region.