It’s been more than a week of gloom and stand still. So, I thought why not break this ever-growing chatter on Covid-19 momentarily with something different and positive!
I complete 10 years of Motorbiking this month. Motorbiking has supported and motivated me during the last ten years of my pretty long professional career in the field of Brand Communications, Analytics & Advisory. Like many, I too have benefitted from Road trips in many ways – relaxation, checks & balances on physical health, ability to adapt, sense of forecasting, see the real India, et al.
However, an unexpected takeaway from these trips have been some learnings from the domain of Brand Communication Management – listening, target setting, account planning, agency relationship, etc.
Little did I know that Road Trips would end up teaching me or re-emphasising Brand Management basics which a Business School may not teach very naturally.
|Biking Dynamic||Brand Learnings|
|1. “WHY am I riding?” The level of road trip satisfaction depends on this very important question. Why do you want to embark on a road trip may have different answers at different points in time. Sometimes, it could be exploring nature or local cultures or food or sometimes it could simply be reaching a destination. Sometimes, it could be as trivial as wanting to unwind or covering more and more of kilometres. ROO/ROI emanates from here. It helps you prepare, work backwards, set KRAs for yourself.||Learning 1: Be absolutely clear about why the Brand wants to communicate and which specific objective (ROO/ROI) are we trying to manage across Corporate, Finance, Human Resource, Marketing, Products & Services, CSR/Sustainability, Technology Innovation, etc. This creates a wonderful footprint to prepare backwards…also helps organize the Team Machinery.|
|2. Research well about the Route you plan to take: It does not matter how much of information you get, but never embark on a road trip without Research. Be aware of the weather, terrain, road conditions, miscreants, food and shelter availability etc. Try and LISTEN as much as possible. Always be ready with as many “What If” situations as possible. You can do this only when you Research/Listen well.||Learning 2: Continuous researching & listening right is the bedrock of Brand Reputation and mitigating crisis/risks. My respect for Brand Communication Heads/CXOs spikes when I see them start their Account (Communication) Planning with Listening or Researching the Terrain across stakeholders. Before you push out your Brand Message into a market or Target Groups, LISTEN and be ready with “What If” situations. This will create the first framework for the Corporate & Marketing Communication campaigns.|
|3. Select & Rely on a Good Mechanic: Selection process of a mechanic and depending on him can save deadly crises. It does not matter if he charges more, but if he knows the subject and diagnoses you well, onboard him as your partner for long. He will advise you well on the condition of your machine, change of spares, sturdiness of the machine, engine oil quality, tightening required, etc. Again, listen to him and reconcile it with your Research on the Road Terrain.||Learning 3: Having a good mechanic is like having a good Communications Agency. Selection process should be scientific and not relationship/personal comfort based. If they are really good, they will know your brand and its health. They will help you channelize your Brand’s communications strategy based on the MOOD listened/researched from each market and on each stakeholder corridor.|
|4. Protective Gears, Necessary Accessories and Spares, etc: A successful road journey is a mix of Gut, Luck, Mental and Physical preparation, will power etc. Sometimes, CRISIS hits you from an unexpected corner. Using the right protective gears, spares, driving skills, driving rules, etc. can give you long term pleasure on the road.||Learning 4: Keep a Brand Crisis manual ready. A “What If” manual that envisages and lists down every possible crisis that can come up across stakeholders – consumers, customers, employees, vendors, investors, government, society, trade, etc. The Manual should list down the names/departments responsible for handling each type of crisis and how. Risk Identification, its Mitigation and its Communications needs preparation and cohesion.|
|5. Before you start, set a Target/Benchmark: Driving or any journey is not fun in the absence of targets or benchmarks. Even if it is a leisure or pleasure ride, set a benchmark or a target in terms of distance you want to cover within a stipulated time, things you want to do at destination one, two, three, etc., the kind of mileage you want to achieve, speed momentum you want to maintain, so on and so forth…Even, the kind of feeling you want experience …actually, it is all about the Input, Output and the Outcome!||Learning 5: Post listening, before you blindly commence on Planning, Execution and start chasing your agency, Client and Agency can jointly list down the Ingredients of Communications Tool (Input) that will be used, the media exposure (Output) that they seek and finally the kind of Outcome one wants for the Brand – recall, engagement, conversion etc. Each phase of Input & Output can and should be targeted, benchmarked and monitored towards a desired Outcome.|
|6. Measure your vehicle’s ongoing performance: What mileage is my machine achieving? Has the engine heated up…time to let it cool down? How are the tyres? Any symptom of oil leakage? Are side indicators, headlight dippers, etc working properly? Is the wind speed, rains or dry mud causing engine inefficiencies? Well, regular (period can be defined) reviews/measurement is a lifesaver. It is a diktat for early cure.||Learning 6: Benchmarking and frequent measures should go hand-in-hand. It is like the temperature gauge of your Brand’s engine. Whether my inputs are creating the desired brand exposure, whether I need to adjust the frequency or messaging, whether all the effort is creating the needed Business Outcome of recall…all these are good to be tracked regularly. Health checks or Measurement & Audit reports play an important role in this area. Brand custodians and agencies can make fabulous use of this service and adjust/adapt for the road ahead.|
|7. Importance of Road Signs, Driving Skills and Traffic Rules: Being aware of Road Signs, Indications, Traffic rules and more importantly, to follow them, is a matter of scientific habit and discipline. Giving your stakeholders – other commuters on the road, your family dependants waiting for you at home, traffic police, etc. – a noticeable and constant update on your intentions and plans at crossroads, split roads, U turns, heavy traffic signals etc. minimizes or averts crisis.
|Learning 7: A brand journey goes through various twists, turns, cross roads, halts, damages and bruises. Keeping your stakeholders- customers, employees, owners, vendors etc. – posted with your intentions of the Brand and its journey milestones so far is a safe and required practice.|
|8. Making full use of Clutch: Misuse or improper use of Clutch is one of the biggest common reasons for engine inefficiency. Carried away with our excitement to speed up, catch up on lapsed time or simply tackling traffic frustrations, whatever the reason might be, we end up misusing the clutch lever. Clutch prepares the engine to adjust (reduce/increase) speed and take (more/less) load. If clutch is not used properly, it will create wear and tear to your engine health.
|Learning 8: Clutch usage for Brand Machinery could mean:
i. Balancing between Sales targets and Brand health
ii. Client Briefs or requirements translating into Account Planning
iii. Regular Measurement and Audit reports to assess if Brand Communications (ATL & BTL) speed is matching up to the Business requirements
iv. Aligning/Adjusting the Communications Brief with the Business Brief
v. Corporate and Marketing Communication functions working together
vi. The CEO giving a standard and clear brief to all CXOs further simplified to KRAs for each CXO
Well, learnings can go on! It is such a pleasure to imagine the bike journey as a brand travelling through different terrains, adjusting and responding to different clutch, gear, brake and throttle combinations. How proper benchmarking, constant measurement/reviews, following communication signals etc. can make the journey so pleasurable.
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