Google's Zero Moment of Truth provides a startling view of your brand gap

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Hello Brand 3.0
If you haven’t noticed, it’s not about marketing to consumers any more in the way we always have, that paradigm is finished. The future is all about establishing authentic brand meaning that stirs the emotion and resonates with reason, then creating evocative ways to communicate with your consumers, who-ever and where-ever they are. If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you will no longer get what you’ve always got. The law of diminishing return is playing-out in every sphere of commerce. The catch-cry is “Forget business as usual  – embrace Business as Unusual.”

For every business there are what we call ‘moments of truth’, points along your customer’s pathway to purchasing that are disproportionately critical to their decision to buy, hire or engage. These points are called ‘moments of truth’ and arguably the most important of all these moments has become the first one. Google call it the ‘Zero Moment of Truth’.

Regardless of which category you do business in – B2B, B2C, government or not-for-profit – your online brand equity is fast becoming the most important tool you have in positioning yourself in the mind of your clients and customers. The way we buy has changed as illustrated by Google in their perspective of the old and new purchasing models:

The Old Purchasing Model
01. Stimulus. Dad is on the couch watching a game of footy when he sees an ad for a digital camera – thinks; I could use one of those
02. Store. Goes to his local electronics store, sees a display and (hopefully) recognises the brand from the ad.
03. Shelf. The packaging is well designed with the product benefits and brand’s proposition clearly communicated.
04. Retail Experience. He talks to the shop assistant who (hopefully) is knowledgeable about the product and its features.
05. Purchase. He buys the camera

The New Purchasing Model
The new model has a critical new moment of truth between Stimulus and Store that works across every category, every industry, B2B and B2C.
Dad is still on the couch watching the game, but now when he sees the digital camera ad he reaches for his laptop, iPad or phone on the coffee table nearby. He searches for ‘digital camera reviews.’ He looks at comments on a few review sites. He goes to Twitter and posts: ‘Anybody have a great camera under $100?’. He hits You-Tube and searches ‘digital camera demos.’ Before the the match is over (and before he gets to the store) he’s compared prices and made a decision to purchase.

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This new reality removes several of the traditional layers of influence of brand owners and places them in the hands of your consumers. Impact online has jumped ahead of impact in-store/in-office on the customer journey. The perception of your brand in the minds of the consumers is even more important than ever before.

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Perhaps the most significant business trend of the last two decades has been the homogenization of categories. Today it is truly rare to find a business with a significant advantage in product design or customer offer over their competitors. The only real area of differentiation lies in the perception of consumers. Which beggars the question; ‘Why is one business perceived more positively and positioned top-of-mind over its competitors?’ The answer is brand.

Whilst every factor from off-shore product manufacturing, the internet, and fragmented media and advertising channels are leveling the playing field in almost every category, the one defining factor remains the associations your brand evokes in the hearts and minds of consumers.

A Zero Moment of Truth Brand Audit provides a startlingly clear view of how your business and its brands are widely perceived by the market. And for today’s brand savvy consumer, all the marketing and PR in the world will barely dent the impressions they hold.
The Moment of Truth = Perception = Reality

Your Zero Moment of Truth
Assessing your own ‘zero moment of truth’ is as simple as:
• Google your company’s flagship product/service
• Note the search results, how do you fare?
• Now enter the name of your product/service and add the word ‘reviews’
• Do another search combining the word ‘best’ with your product category; ie. best business school, best hotel in Sydney, best home builder.

What you’re seeing on your screen is the information your customers and clients are using to make their decisions. The big question is HOW HAPPY ARE YOU WITH WHAT YOU SEE? Based on what you see will someone be compelled to buy your product or engage your services? Can they even find your product or service?

There’s nothing quite so startling as seeing your brand as others see it. For a lucky few the way you perceive your brand will be aligned with what Google displays by-way of your target market’s perception. But for most of us this is the first sense we have of the gap between how we’d like our brand to be perceived, and how it is actually seen. There is now quick fix, no silver marketing bullet that will change consumer perception overnight. Run the same audit tomorrow and you’ll find different people sharing the same view of your brand. That’s the bad news.

The good news is the answer lies in building a ‘Genuine Brand’. A brand with a clear purpose that adds value to the lives of its customers and the world, which understands what it is and what it is not, one that acts in the way it should and is boldly proud of what it stands for. A Genuine Brand draws people to it by earning their trust, respect and even love through its deeds. Building such a brand is no easy task, it is neither quick, nor painless – if it were we would not hold Nike, Apple, Harley Davidson and their iconic brand peers in such high regard. Like any business practice, brand building requires discipline, investment of time and money, and above all it takes belief and commitment to the higher purpose of a brand that is truly cared for and about.

If you’re concerned by the gap in your brand’s desired and consumer perception, we can help you identify the solution, set a strategy and re-engineer your brand messaging to right the ship. Give us a call or drop us a line, we’d be only too happy to share our experience and give you our educated perspective.

Dave Ansett
Chief Cre­ator of Brands
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  1. richard hill

    Thanks for article, TMD.
    Really like your work, have followed what you do for a few years now. Sorry to say, though, I found this article an example of ‘new economy’ thinking that appears anything other than new – rather a digital veneer applied to traditional thinking, couched within guru-language quotations that seems to add smoke and mirrors and not much else. And then to add insult to injury by proposing a c.20th snake-oil to solve the dilemma.

    Rather than simply delete the mail, this time I thought I’d reply (or at least {probably badly} try and articulate why I felt what I did). It’s certainly not an answer, but perhaps fuel for a debate about the heart of your article – the problem of what to do with so much stuff being exactly like all the other stuff.

    The idea of ‘moments of truth’ (useful idea, not Google’s but I appreciate them ‘zero-ing’ the notion by compressing time, which in fairness is exactly what the internet does in this context. So that’s cute enough) I gather was coined in the mid-80’s (and captured by its originator, Jan Carlzon’s, in his 1987 book of the same name). So, some ‘new’ ideas about brands are not so new…
    Your ‘Old Purchasing Model’ isn’t challenged here, niether is it ‘old’. If I can ‘reframe’:
    01. Stimulus. Dad is on the couch watching a game of footy – and now scrolling through a tablet pc while checking his mobile – when he sees an ad for a digital camera – thinks; I could use one of those. Does the ‘zero-ing in’. Considers reviews from a host of sources, which he would have done anyway (from magazines, friends, colleagues, in several stores) only this consideration time is now super-compressed. This, it appears to me, is the only significant part of the process that is different – not ‘new’.
    02. Store. Goes to his local electronics store – which now happens to be in his lap as well as in the mall – , sees a display – results / search engine page – and (hopefully) recognises the brand from the ad (banner, pop-up, link, like, whatever).
    03. Shelf. The packaging (or review, or rating or peer choice – it’s all still ‘packaging’) is well designed (curated, collated, indexed, SEO’d) with the product benefits and brand’s proposition clearly communicated.
    04. Retail Experience. He talks to the shop assistant (who could be there, live, or reads reviews) who is (most likely is no more) knowledgeable about the product and its features.
    05. Purchase. He buys the camera. Hmm.
    Now it get’s interesting, as the next steps are at least as crucial:
    06. It gets delivered. Now there’s a moment the brand owner’s not in charge of (most of the time). So more intermediation, less control possible. How does that work?
    07. It gets unpacked. Now there’s a moment for packaging and information design (your brand’s moment) to really shine.
    08. it get’s used and then ‘reviewed’. Why doesn’t the brand take charge of that, rather than simply hope I fill in (and post!) the warranty? And use the warranty process to capture my heart?

    Ok, so I appreciate everything our media and devices now do to affect and effect access to what we want to buy/know, but that’s not really changing the purchasing model. And it’s not the purchase model that’s the problem.
    I don’t see how the ‘Old’ purchasing model isn’t relevant or how a ‘New’ model is significantly different (unless we’re talking about aspects of the ‘Sharing Economy’, which isn’t all that new either, frankly). Google still want to sell us stuff, albeit through the need for justification of the value of their intermediation.

    The problem for ‘brands’ (from the ‘old’ world) seems to be less to do with pundits telling them their business models are redundant, than with the issue that you rightly identify; “Today it is truly rare to find a business with a significant advantage in product design or customer offer over their competitors” – that unless businesses think hard about what they make and how they capture and communicate that, no amount of fancy language will help bridge the gap.

    Closing the gap – between reputation and behaviour – through the idea of designing and managing a better experience is a challenge that can only do so much. If your product’s not better – or at least more useful, useable or beautiful – you’re still just another option rather than the choice.

    Google are a success because they get up close to their ‘customers’ and stay close, really get to understand what we want (or even might want). Nothing new about that idea, few pursuing it quite so relentlessly, mind you! They’ve focussed on their ‘product’ being better than anyone else’s. That’s how businesses become nouns and verbs. Xerox? Hoover? iPad? Google? What are you the ’the’ of?

    In other words, I guess no amount of effort – whether zero’s or one’s – will build brand equity if you’ve got nothing original to start with. The fight isn’t with consumers and telling them what to think, it’s right at the heart of the business and arguing for ‘more of better’.

    Hope you don’t mid the candid feedback, keep up the good work

    Best wishes

    • Don’t mind the feedback – We love it Richard. There’s so much in your thinking that I like – maybe you should be writing some posts for us too. I think the only real point we differ is that in today’s market it is getting harder and harder to truly differentiate with product and service, which is at the heart of great branding. When that happens we need to look to other ‘touch-points’ along the customer journey in which to leverage a positive position in the minds of those looking to purchase or connect with us. In the end I mainly agree with Google that the way we make our purchase decisions has changed, and the greatest change is in the way we use online resources to help us make choices at the outset. Either way – really enjoy the discourse with brand professionals like yourself. Thanks again, Dave.

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