April 24th, 2012

Brand hygiene factors are the basic set of values that the consumer expects to be in place for any business/service that they are considering purchasing. However, if a brand wishes to rise above competitors and stand for something that sets it apart – it needs to demonstrate that the hygiene factors are in place, but communicate a positioning that exceeds these and provides a clear point of differentiation.

The banking industry is a classic case where time and time again marketing communications fall short of exceeding the hygiene factors. As a result, we see an industry that is primarily driven by product, not brand. Think about it, if all the banks on the high street are all shouting about the same thing (‘great service’, ‘great rates’, ‘efficiency’, ‘speed’ etc.), nothing differentiates them. Consumers just hop around cherry-picking products that suit their financial objectives. Their attitude is, ‘everyone is pretty much the same, they all say the same thing, so as long as they’re a fairly reputable organisation (i.e. the hygiene-factors are in place), whatever product out there is the best for me – I’ll have it’. Consequently, we see very low levels of brand loyalty.

I met with a business recently who had asked us to help them with increasing sales and building their brand. This particular business had a track record of doing some great work, they had some great products and some great people working for them and a reputable background. Yet, sales were not at a level that they were happy with and they weren’t standing out from the competition. The first thing we spoke about was the reason to buy. We spoke about their dedication to fantastic customer service, how they are ‘quality’ and ‘can be trusted’. (All things that on the face of it, prospective customers are going to want to hear about.) We then began talking about competitors and looking at their websites and the sort of things they are saying about themselves. Surprise surprise, they also spoke about their dedication to great customer service, how they were ‘quality and can be trusted’ (hygiene factors). The fact of the matter is, if this company wanted to stand out, grow the brand, and increase sales, trading on customer service, quality and trust weren’t going to cut it.

The key to moving forward was building these things into a strategically creative proposition that when combined with other brand values – the sum of all the parts exceeds the hygiene factors and in turn carves out a unique positioning that enables the business to stand out from competitors.