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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Value Proposition Statements - A.K.A "Hey You There, Pay Attention To Me!"

What is a value proposition? It’s not a company overview or a mission statement and it’s not your brand slogan or motto. A value proposition is ideally created internally by your company and simply put - it is what value your product or service has to offer to your consumers.

Be wary, however, as consumers can shape their own value propositions for your offering. This is where marketing comes in; it can be used to bridge the gap between differences in perceptions. If your internal value proposition is not aligning with your consumers value proposition you may potentially have consumer expectations not being met.

The benefits of having a clear value proposition will show potential consumers how your product or service will be of benefit to them, how it will add value and it will also showcase what sets your offering apart from your competitors.

Some companies that have clear value propositions are:

Pandora - free, personalized radio that plays music you'll love

Skype - make internet calls for free and cheap online calls to phones and mobiles
Square - accept credit cards on your iPhone, Android or iPad

They are outstanding examples because they communicate their offering clearly and present it in a visually pleasing manner. You don’t get to make second impressions in today’s fast-paced market; we are increasingly competing to be noticed by consumers.

Some tips we can all use to create better value propositions for our companies are:
  • Avoid complicated business jargon – it needs to be understood clearly in simple terms
  • Avoid more than 2-3 sentences for a value proposition – less is more
  • Value propositions are not slogans or mottos – slogans or mottos help with brand recall; you want your value proposition to sell your product or offering
  • Make sure it stands out – why should a consumer choose you over the others; present it aesthetically
  • Avoid clich├ęs – stay away from overused phrasing such as ‘never before seen’, ‘one of a kind’, ‘best of the best’
Luckily, the Marketing Matters blog has a current value proposition that I can do a personal evaluation on regarding its overall effectiveness:

“Marketing Matters is a blog that tells marketing stories from an industry, academic and student's perspective. We confront and debate today’s business trends!”

I would say this is a good value proposal for these reasons:
  • It lets us know what the blog is about and what the end benefits of reading it are
  • It knows who its target audience is and has worded it appropriately and clearly
  • It has identified its unique differentiation point that helps set it apart from other marketing blogs out there
The foundation is there to continually perfect the visuals. If this small exercise has taught me anything, it’s that there is always room to evaluate and improve your value proposition to ensure that consumers notice your offering and your brand/company over all the others out there.

Kori Bassi
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Extending your reach through employees

I’m fascinated by the idea of ‘Employee Activism,’ and it has been a talking point in the business media in recent times. 

I read about an interesting study by the PR and Marketing Communications agency Weber Shandwick. They surveyed 2,300 employees over 15 global markets, finding that 1 in 5 workers are ‘employee activists’; people who will publicly defend and advocate for their employer. They also found a further 33% were on their way to adapting to these pro-employer traits.

Weber Shandwick Workforce Activism Spectrum™

The other day, another graduate student joked with me proudly that they had been ‘institutionalised’ by their company. I could strongly relate to this notion, as I also share a positive sentiment and a long tenure within my own ‘institution’!

In the last couple of years I’ve witnessed my own organisation prioritise and subsequently embed some new values and culture throughout the business. This is a successful paradigm shift from 5 years or so ago when organisational culture was defined by a dusty ‘commitments’ poster pinned to the office wall. The workforce has actually been mobilised to live out the values. It’s been successful because the culture was put at the top of the company agenda; made real by an innovative and engaging ‘internal brand’ platform.

So what do a highly engaged staff of activists look like? Well, it’s mainly expressed through social media. They may, of their own freewill, post pictures and videos about their company on Facebook. Or perhaps they generate favourable online discussion about their employer. Of the companies surveyed, one third encourages their employees to do this – especially in relation to sharing company news, campaigns and information.

This of course poses a great threat to organisations dabbling in employee generated social media. By placing part of your brand communications messaging in the hands of employees, there is a gamble with co-destruction. 16% of the survey sample indicated they had shared negative and critical comments about their employer, and 14% posted comment about their employer that they regret.

Sometimes the risk isn’t just an employee who has had a bad day at the office. The activists themselves can do harm to your brand. For instance, employees leaving favourable reviews on user-generated content websites can also be damaging by harming brand credibility.

Travel site, TripAdvisor has been put under scrutiny in relation to the authenticity of reviews on the site. They have previously been criticised for posting unconfirmed and anonymous reviews about restaurants, hotels and attractions that could have potentially been posted by ‘employee activists’. But is it unethical for an employee of a restaurant to favourably review a meal they enjoyed when dining at work? This is a grey area, but there is certainly some degree of fake reviews on these types of websites that originate from employees.

Organisations need to get on the front foot and educate their people on how to use social media whilst protecting the brand. Tools like PeopleLinx are popping up to help employees become skilled social marketers. Training and granting your employees access to social media tools will attract an army of brand advocates. "People don't buy from brands; they buy from people they know and trust," comments PeopleLinx CMO Michael Idinopulos.

The scary part is that the study also revealed less than half of those surveyed could adequately describe the company’s business activities, and even fewer could articulate the company’s goals.

So, if you are going to encourage the team to engage in company-related social chit-chat, you would want to make sure they are on message and you would also want to ensure there is no unrest within the ranks.

This is an interesting strategic marketing issue of the moment. It represents tremendous opportunities on one hand; and catastrophic threats on the other. If you’d like to get a snapshot of the study without reading the report, check out the infographic. 

Aaron Rowden
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School