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Brand Success: Tylenol

Have you ever asked for acetaminophen?

More than likely, you’ve asked if anyone has some Tylenol.  That’s a classic example of brand success.  If you visit the Tylenol website, you’ll find 20 different varieties of the product, and learn that the parent company is the McNeil Laboratories subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

logo-tylenolIn the mid ’70s, Tylenol moved from the 5th most popular analgesic to become the number one branded over the counter (OTC) analgesic product on the market.  It had become a more familiar pain relieving product than aspirin.  As often happens when a product is the top-selling or more recognized brand, someone or something tries to take it down.

In 1982, someone tampered with bottles of Tylenol Extra Strength by adding cyanide which killed several people in the Chicago area.  No one was ever caught, but Johnson & Johnson made a smart move.  The company distributed warnings to hospitals and distributors and halted Tylenol production and advertising. On October 5, 1982, it issued a nationwide recall of an estimated 31 million bottles of Tylenol products with a retail value of more than $100 million.

Some considered the move a death knell for the product, while the consuming public praised it for the emphasis placed on the greater well-being of the general public.

The company advertised in the national media for individuals not to consume any products that contained acetaminophen.  When it was discovered that only capsules were tampered with, Johnson & Johnson offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules already purchased by the public with solid tablets.  The company also took the innovative step of creating tamper proof seals for bottles, creating a renewed sense of security with the consuming public when Tylenol was re-released.

Now, more than 30 years later, the tampering incident is little more than a footnote in the product’s history.  The Tylenol brand owns the market for acetaminophen pain relieving products.  Bayer still owns the brand recognition for aspirin, while one of the other pain relieving medications, Ibuprofen, has become recognized for the product rather than the manufacturer.  In essence, it is it’s own brand.

The lesson in this case study of a successful brand is that Tylenol has dominated when it comes to the 1st Law of Marketing:  The Law of Leadership.

It is the leading brand because it is the first brand in the prospective customer’s mind.  People don’t ask for acetaminophen, they ask for Tylenol.  Once you have a customer, they are likely to stick with your brand – as evidenced by Johnson & Johnson’s success with recalling Tylenol products because of the tampering incident.  Tylenol has become the generic term for acetaminophen, another example of that 1st Law of Marketing.

Remember that marketing is perception, not the product, so people perceive the first product in their mind to be the superior product.  The first brand tends to maintain its leadership because the name often becomes generic, as is the case with Tylenol.

Professional consultants are available to help your product become the #1 brand at whatever scale is possible.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Viable Options

Which direction to go may not be obvious.

Which direction to go may not be obvious.

In our last blog, we wrote about the importance of feasibility studies.  They can be critical in deciding whether your business idea is viable or not.

One aspect of a feasibility study that comes up is the various options it often exposes if the original subject loses luster.  When a study is commissioned and a consulting firm such as Brand Irons is engaged, the business owner or entrepreneur has a fairly clear concept of what they want to accomplish.  They may have a business location and other variables in mind for establishing their operations.  While those may represent the ideal, the business owner needs to be receptive to what the study’s findings reveal, however.

The study may, and often does, uncover that while the concept may be a good one, the short- and long-term economic viability is less than desirable.

In the course of a study, however, new and often better options arise from the research.  More economical and durable equipment options may be discovered, for example.  A more reasonably priced piece of property a block away on the other side of the street may actually be more advantageous for consumer accessibility, and be more affordable.  An entirely different, yet potentially more profitable, market segment may be identified.  The study may also reveal that an entirely different product line may be the better way to proceed.  These are completely unforeseen developments that are revealed in the course of a feasibility study.

That’s why we encourage business owners to keep an open mind and embrace the potential that another option may crop up and be better in the long run.  They should avoid locking in on one, and only one, option.  Different vendors and investors or financial partners may also be discovered when the entrepreneur is amenable to suggestions.

The purpose of the feasibility study is not to tell the person with the idea whether to go forward with their business concept or not.  It is intended to provide the decision maker with reliable information on which to base their choice.  That information, when thoroughly digested and evaluated, forms the knowledge base that gives justification for whatever decision is made.

The beauty of this process is that it reduces the risk of throwing boatloads of money at a project that fizzles before it turns a profit.  Yes, there is a cost to conducting the study, but if you can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by sending a few thousand instead, it is worth the effort.  And, if the decision is made to move forward, it’s money well spent.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Business Viability

Is your business concept feasible?

Will it make money at some point?

Viability Image

More often than not, we find business owners starting their endeavor without a clue as to its success potential.  Success potential is a realistic consideration of whether the idea has a chance of earning a profit, and at what point in its existence.

Far too often, the person with an idea for a product or service has little experience operating a business.  They’ve got what they believe is a great concept, and they become emotionally invested in moving forward.  They probably invest some financial capital as well, but are unsure of how much more they may have to invest to make the project viable.  They need to take the time to think things through.

Conducting a feasibility study involves taking a step back to evaluate the idea from several points of view, removing the emotional element (there’s a place to bring that back in), and assessing the business from a rational perspective.  Among the considerations are financial projections – obviously – along with management, market demand, production, distribution, licensing and legal concerns, product definition, and a host of other business elements.

Financial projections need to be as realistic as possible.  It’s easy to project an optimistic forecast for sales, but the pie-in-the-sky numbers can convey a false sense of short- and long-term profitability.  The cost of goods sold (COGS), expenses, labor costs, and cash flow are among the down-to-earth considerations that can provide realistic numbers.

Realistic projections are also critical if the business owner needs financing.  We’ve seen potential loans turned down because the borrower, when asked, told the banker the numbers were just “plug ins” and was unable to explain why they were in the projections.

An independent third party like Brand Irons can review the financial projections in a business plan and do the research to verify their accuracy.  They can also look at the other elements, such as the strength of the management team, to provide a prospective lender with the information it needs to make a decision.  Lenders often want to know if the management team is capable of making tough decisions when necessary, and the business owner completing a plan for financing is rarely objective on that issue.

One of the most difficult parts of conducting a feasibility study is removing the owner’s emotional attachment to the concept.  Although it may be the best idea since the invention of the bread slicing machine, we advise business owners that they must be able to walk away from a project if all indications are that profitability is fleeting.  Where emotion comes back into play is once the idea looks viable and the owner elects to move forward, their emotion becomes the foundation of the marketing strategy that convinces prospective customers to purchase.

Keep in mind that some people may have great ideas but lack the skills necessary to carry them through.  Yes, a feasibility study can cost thousands of dollars and months to complete, depending on the concept and its variables.

It is well worth the investment if, in the long run, it saves the heartache of risking one’s personal wealth to realize they’ve lost it all.  And, if it proves feasible, the study becomes the foundation of the business plan and marketing strategy.  More next time.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


If Management Is The Problem

Your business seems to be doing well, but customer service continues to fall short of expectations.  You’ve brought in specialists to provide consumer-oriented training for your front-line employees.  That shows slight improvement before slipping back to before training levels.  You’ve analyzed products and systems and virtually everything else you can think of to evaluate, but nothing changes.

What if management is the problem?

Good-Bad Manager

The answer lies in being able to step back and view your operation from an outside, third party perspective.  The hard part of doing this is removing any emotional attachment you may have to the members of your team.  You need to analyze your management staff from the viewpoint of a potential buyer for your business, and be critical.

Whom would you keep?  Which management staff would you let go if you knew everything a prospective buyer sees?

Management can get complacent.  Team members may believe they have so much tenure that they’re beyond getting fired.  They may be family or think of themselves as your friend, and bosses don’t fire friends, do they?

Management, like most employees, tend to resist change.  Remember the adage:  The only thing that’s permanent is change.  The economy, consumer buying trends, market conditions, product features, disposable income levels, and virtually everything else in life changes.  Evaluate how your management team has changed with the times.  Has it?

Let’s look at an example pertaining to customer service.  Assume your heating and cooling company employees are required to wear uniforms with the company logo, shirts tucked in, and a name badge to identify themselves to a customer.  They are also supposed to put on shoe covers before they enter a consumer’s home.  That’s the protocol.

Now assume a supervisor tags along on a home repair visit and tells the technician to skip the shoe covers because “we need to get in, get the job done, and get out quickly.”  On subsequent calls, the technician foregoes the shoe covers on the assumption management thinks it’s okay.  It’s acceptable behavior now.  Then a customer complains about their soiled carpet.

Is it the technician’s fault?  Or the supervisor’s?  Or is it the company’s?

If you have all the facts, you begin to look at other short cuts the supervisor is taking.  You wonder if his reports are accurate.  Is he padding his expense report?

The protocol in this example was in place for a reason:  Keeping customers happy.  Deviating from it is unacceptable from a manager if the company expects front line employees to adhere to it.

The level of responsibility starts at the top.  You, if you are the business owner, have the ultimate responsibility for every decision that’s made in your company.  Yes, you need to delegate as much as you can to people you can trust, but the weight always comes down on your shoulders.

Always be willing, and able, to step back and take a hard look at your business.  Do you have the right people in place?  Can they be trusted to follow through and make the right decisions?

If you have a hard time separating yourself from your operations, that’s an excellent reason to bring in a professional business consulting firm such as Brand Irons.  Consultants can often address issues by talking things over in a phone conversation.  The key is to be open and honest with your consultant, lest they give you bad advice.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 


F-2-F Marketing

What seems to be a dying art – being face-to-face with someone – is still relevant for marketing your business.  For those of us who enjoy interaction with other people, the trend toward faces down with eyes glued to the small screen is annoying.

Business people texting

Sure, texting and the other tasks you can accomplish on your smart phone seem to increase efficiency and enable us to do more, but does the fascination with being connected all the time detract from reality?  How often do you see people in restaurants on their mobile devices when there’s a live, breathing person seated across from them?

Who is more important than the person you’re with at the moment?

There, we’ve exposed the secret to face-to-face (F-2-F) marketing:  Be in the moment with the person you’re with!

F2F image

If that person is someone you’ve never met before, you should get to know them for a number of reasons:

  • Are they a potential customer?
  • Do they have valuable connections?
  • Are they someone you can trust with your business?
  • Could they refer people to you?
  • Are they a reliable resource?

If the person you’re face-to-face with is someone you already know, how well do you know them?  Do you know what they like to read?  Where they live?  How they earn a living?  What they enjoy doing in their leisure time?  Why they do what they do?

We can learn so much by being open to F-2-F discussions with other people.  It may be awkward at first, but you begin by approaching someone and introducing yourself.  Remember: They may be as bashful as you are when they’re approached.

Ask them their name, and try to remember it.  A technique that we’ve found to work well is to repeat their name several times in the first few minutes of your conversation.

Ask where they work and what they do.  Be genuinely interested in their answers.  Pay attention and avoid distractions, such as looking for someone you’ve been dying to meet.  That’s rude.

Ask why they do what they do, how long they’ve been doing it, and maybe even how they got into doing what they do.  You may discover a rather fascinating story that leads you into a deeper relationship and potential friendship.  You may share a favorite cuisine or vacation destination.

We struck up a conversation with a couple on a flight and showed interest in them going to help their son open a new restaurant on the east coast.  Before the flight was over, they had pulled out the business plan and financial statements for us to look at!

The point of a F-2-F meeting may be to get acquainted, conduct business, close a sale, or to share camaraderie.  Avoid being in a rush as much as you can.  Take the time to enjoy the conversation.  Assume you will learn something new.  Crave knowledge.

If you’re face-to-face with a customer or prospect, concentrate on the individual and what his/her needs seem to be.  If you’re unclear, ask clarifying questions.  Get down to what they want and you’ll enjoy far greater success with higher closing ratios.

In our next blog we’ll cover the topic of Handling Customer Complaints.  Stay tuned.

Practice the 3-foot rule:  If someone is within three feet of you, they should know what you do.  If they’re beyond three feet, get closer.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand



The Trust Factor

Credit must be given when credit is due.  The trust factor is a concept we learned about word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing from the networking guru, Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI (Business Network International).  The concept is worth elaboration since it applies to more than WOM marketing for your business.

Graphic designed by Brand Irons.

Graphic designed by Brand Irons.

The process of building trust begins with Visibility.  From the networking perspective, you must make yourself visible in order for people to begin building some trust.  That often means attending networking events on a consistent basis, whether it’s a BNI meeting or a Chamber After Hours event.

From the business and marketing perspective, visibility is important because your consumers and potential customers need to know you exist.  In this case, visibility is how your place of business is perceived, how your products and/or services are viewed, how visible you and your employees are, and how well you advertise and promote your business.  Perception needs to reflect reality.  You need to be seen and recognized!

In networking, you also establish trust by building Credibility.  You have to say what you mean and mean what you say.

The same principle holds when it comes to marketing your business.  If you promise to deliver within 24 hours and it takes 36, your credibility is damaged.  If your advertising offers a “wide selection” and the consumer discovers they have two choices, your credibility is suspect.  If you post certain hours and are closed during those times, it has an impact on your credibility.

Credibility, like visibility, must be maintained on a consistent basis to build the trust you want your customers to have in you and your business.  Our last two blogs have harped on consistency because it is so vital to continuously growing your business.

When it comes to networking, and we have found this to be true in more than a dozen years of being involved in BNI, your Profitability comes from the trust that’s established when you are visible and credible in your business dealings.

From the business and marketing side, establishing the profitability of your company is also built on the other two sides of the trust triangle.  When your products hit the market and gain visibility, they hopefully become credible and desirable in the eyes of your consumers.  This establishes the trust in you, your company, and your products and/or services that leads to the profitability you desire.

Trust is at the center of building customer loyalty to your brand.  Trust must be established and maintained with your clients.  Remember, too, that trust is easily destroyed.  It requires honesty and hard work, as well as consistency throughout your organization.  It is also worth protecting when you achieve it.

One service that a consulting firm, like Brand Irons, can offer is an evaluation of the trust factor for your business, your products and/or services.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


How Critical Is Consistency?

We all like to try different things.  In business, however, being consistent is important … unless you don’t care if customers come back.

Pizza DeliveryThink about a pizza joint as an example.  Assume you order your favorite toppings and crust for delivery.  When it shows up, within the promised time frame, it is hot and prepared to perfection.  Your expectation has been established for the next time.  The bar is set.

Two weeks later, you order the same pizza from the same establishment.  It shows up hot and on time, but the crust is a bit overdone and the taste is different somehow.  Maybe they forgot to spice it the same way.  Okay, you can tolerate that, but now your expectations have been altered, maybe even reduced.  You may even call the pizza parlor to ask the manager why there’s a difference.

The next few pizzas you order are tolerable but still not as good as the first.  The joint seems to be having a hard time with consistency but still within a tolerable range fro delivered food.  Then the bomb drops.

You order again and the person answering the phone is rude, asks you to hold, and rather than wait, you hang up and have someone else call it in.  Same thing happens to them, and it takes five minutes to get back to you. If you are emotionally tied to ordering from that pizza place, you wait and place your order.

Thirty minutes after your pizza should have arrived, you call to find out if the driver got lost or what’s going on with it.  No apology, just some line about being backed up and your pie is just coming out of the oven, so it should be there within a few minutes.

You expect a fresh, hot pizza that meets your standard for this pizza parlor.  You’re hungrier than ever since you were ready to eat when it was due to be delivered.  Instead, it arrives cold, the whole pie looks burnt – especially the crispy crust, and it tastes horrible.  This is unequivocally not acceptable.  Yet you’ve still paid good money for your dinner.

As the owner of this business, what would you anticipate the customer would do if you were them?  Shut up and eat the pizza without complaining?  Eat it but call to complain?  Bring it back and demand a refund?  Or the more likely scenario:  Never order pizza from you again and tell everyone they know how horrible your pizza was?

The lesson for any business owner:  What does it take to deliver a consistent product or service to your customers?  In this case, making a pizza should be relatively simple:  make a crust using your signature ingredients, put it in a cooking pan, add your signature sauce, top it with consistent ingredients and spices, and cook it in an oven set to the right temperature for the specified amount of time.  Then box it up and get it delivered within the promised time frame.

Walk through that exercise with whatever product or service you offer to consumers.  Assess what it takes to be consistent.  The steps should be relatively simple and easy to identify.  Those steps should be your normal and your staff should clearly understand that “normal” is the minimal standard to achieve.  Nothing less than that should be tolerated.

What goes along with delivering a consistent product or service is the customer service side of the process.  Back to the pizza example:  How difficult would it be for someone in the business, preferably a manager, to call a customer back, apologize, and let them know the pizza is going to be delivered later than previously stated?  Find the order slip, pick up the phone, and call the client.  The point is to retain customer loyalty if possible.  Unless you have enough business that you can afford to have only one-time customers.

For some business owners, it may be essential to have a business consultant come in and analyze what’s going on when it comes to processes and consistency.  The solutions are often simple but may involve changing a company’s existing culture.  There are firms, Brand Irons comes to mind, that can help assess those challenges and create options.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Consumer Oriented Marketing

Rule #1 – The customer is always right.

Rule #2 – When in doubt, see rule #1.

Sound familiar?  As a business owner, you know rule #1 may be false but that the customer’s perception is that they are always right.

Customer Focus

In either case, the consumer is the lifeblood of your business.  The more focused you can be on exceeding the needs of your customers, the more profitability you enjoy.  You will build brand loyalty and have repeat customers as well as solid referrals for years to come.  Think about what you would have without any customers.

Here are some steps to consider in becoming more consumer oriented in marketing your business and your products and/or services:

  1. Know what you’re selling.  You may believe you sell insurance, but your customers are buying peace of mind and the ability to sleep well at night.  Think about what your customers are purchasing.
  2. Know your customers’ buying motivation.  This relates to #1, but goes further by analyzing whether they’re purchasing on price, convenience, satisfaction, previous experience or some other factor.  Think about why they buy from  you.
  3. Know your customers.  How often do they come to you?  What other demographic information do you have about your market segments?  Do you know where they live, or what they do for a living?  Can you address them on a first name basis?
  4. Know how to reach your customers.  Traditional advertising methods such as radio, TV, or newspaper ads may fail to get their attention.  You need to know what appeals to them and how you can best get your message through to them.
  5. Know what you want.  If you want loyal customers, treat them like they want to be treated.  That’s the platinum rule.  If you want referrals, ask for them.  If you want volume and traffic, that’s a different call to action.  Ask them to do what you want.

In many cases, your consumers want you to listen to them.  That is the foundation of the rule about the customer being right.  They may expect that you will refund their money or take back the merchandise or hear their complaint, and those all relate back to them knowing you will listen to them.

Some of the most innovative new products and services have originated from listening to consumers and their suggestions.  Keep an open mind and listen!

At Brand Irons, we walk business owners through a proprietary process that helps them identify their products, markets, value propositions, and viable distribution channels.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

The Business Mindset

In a previous blog, we wrote about The Consumer Mindset.  Now it’s time to turn around and focus on the mindset of a business owner.

Two of the more important elements in operating your own business are:  1) Remembering why you’re in business in the first place; and, 2) Remaining focused on your customers at all times.  Having a valuable product or service, strong management, and exceptional customer service are significant as well, but everything else usually falls under one of the two more important elements.

Let’s elaborate.

You probably got into business for several reasons.  Filling an under-served niche market to meet a consumer demand or need may have been one of them.  Having an impact in the world and making some money might have been the reasons.  Some people start a business to fund their retirement or to create an enterprise for their children to take over.  There are those who merely want to say they did it and they had the world in the palm of their hands!

World in Hands

Whatever the reason you started a business, or are thinking about starting one, take the time to stop and think about that mindset once in a while.  Every six months is a good benchmark for taking the time to reflect on your purpose for doing what you’re doing.  If you need to make changes, weigh your options.  Think deep about whether it is a change that really needs to be made.

A quick transition to another owner, a fire sale, or a bankruptcy can be traumatic and devastating to your employees, your customers, and to you and your reputation.  It is best if you can take the time to think through and plan a transition that benefits everyone involved in the change.  Consultants such as Brand Irons can assist with these transitional periods and smooth the waters.

What is also important in the business owner’s mindset is having a mission that is clear and conveys the vision of the company.  Owners have an obligation to portray their vision to their employees, their customers, and the public on a consistent basis.  That takes constant, open and two-way communication with team members, along with the insistence that the same level of communication is shared with customers and potential customers.

It’s also about setting objectives and striving to accomplish them.  It involves being able to make tough decisions without emotional attachment.  It means being confident and assertive without being offensive or demeaning.  Praise in public and criticize (we prefer instruct) in private is a valuable approach.  A pat on the back goes further than a kick in the pants.

Be open to suggestions.  An employee on the front line may have an idea that could make you millions.  Be generous and share the credit.  Herb Kohl, former U.S. Senator and owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, reportedly paid each of the employees of the facility where his team played $500 for their dedication to the team.

When your purpose is clear, your service to your customers also has clarity.

 Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

What’s Your Value Proposition?

What good are you?

That’s a fair question for any business if it’s coming from a consumer.  Tied to that question is:  What makes you different or better than any other company that does what you do or offers the products and/or services that you do?  That is a rather common query from today’s consumer.

What makes you different?

What makes you different?

Consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to virtually any product or service on the market.  They can shop online, weigh the variables, and make their decisions based on whatever information they can find, good or bad.

This is why your value proposition is essential.

Some marketing gurus call it your unique selling proposition (USP), and that’s close, but it really boils down to knowing your specific target audience (market segment) and the value your product and/or service provides to that specific target market.  That’s a value proposition.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of a company that manufactures ceramic coffee cups.  The range of consumers for their product could include companies that retail sets of dishes to consumers, companies that produce promotional gift items for businesses, tourism and hospitality-related businesses, and the general consumer.

Is the same value proposition valid for each of these market segments?  Hardly.

When we dig deeper, we discover that the value provided by our ceramic coffee cup manufacturer to the promotional market may be an average quality cup at an economical price point.  Add a short turn-around on delivery to the promotional company or the ability to print or etch the consumer’s message on the cups and turn them around quickly, and the value to the promotional company rises considerably.  Add a variety of colors or different sizes and shapes and the value goes up even more.

The concept of a value proposition goes to the heart of your business.  What consumer markets do you, or do you want to, serve?  It is vital to know your consumer segments because the value they expect is what your company must deliver in order to meet or exceed their demands.

Weigh what you offer in terms of value, not benefits.  That means you have to look at what you offer from the consumer’s point of view.  You think of what you offer as a benefit to the consumer, where they need to see it as having value for them.  Define the value clearly; again, from the consumer’s viewpoint.  Determine how best to deliver that value message to the marketplace to earn your share of the business that’s out there.

If you need help figuring this all out, Brand Irons is here to do that, and the initial consultation is offered free of charge.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand