Evaluation: What Have You Earned the Right to Claim?

What did we do well?

What do we need to do better?

How can we make those improvements so they become part of our business model?

What has the competitive response been?

Based on our performance and customer’s experience, what new expectations can we create?

What new expectations do we have the right to create now?

Here’s where we close the loop on the brand creation cycle. From this stage, Evaluation, we can appraise how well the cycle worked, what we need to do differently, what we need to do better, what we need to stop doing. We can also look at how to make those changes permanent by making them part of our business model and our operations. By incorporating sound brand building practices into the way we do business, we assure that whatever we put into place contributes to the building of brand value.

This stage can be implemented formally, as part of the performance review of a new program or initiative, by looking at activities tied to objectives in employee performance reviews, or informally, on a on-going basis as issues and opportunities to build brand values come up. The point is, it’s an important part of the process because it works to inform and strength the other parts. Most importantly, it leads to the sustaining question of brand building, What new expectations have we earned the right to create now?

The Story of “New” Coke.

After decades of losing market share to Pepsi, and emboldened by the launch of Diet Coke a few years before, and taking it on the chin in taste tests against Pepsi, Coca-Cola management decided it was time for a change. Their own taste tests confirmed their greatest fears: a new formula, sweeter than Coke, actually tested better than either Coke or Pepsi. There were a few red flags, however, in the research, which the company chose to ignore, however: 10% to 15% of respondents said they’d be angry if original Coke were replaced with something else and wouldn’t buy the new product. But the results of the taste tests continued to be consistent and over-rode any other consideration. The way was clear. After having kept the original formula for one hundred years, Coca-Cola was going to change. What followed was one of the biggest marketing flops ever.

Reaction to New Coke was swift and adamant. A very vocal minority started calling the company (60,000 phone calls in one day at one point), staging demonstrations, hoarding “old” Coke, and garnering tons of media attention. After three months, the company relented, and reintroduced Coke Classic. The old formula was back and all was right with the world.

What happened?

Essentially, company executives made two mistakes. First, they assumed that a taste test, in which a small amount of a product is consumed, replicates a the real life experience of drinking a can or two a day, every day. In small amounts, a sweet product will taste good, but will become cloying after a can or two. But second, and most importantly, they grossly underestimated their own customer’s loyalty to their product. Coke drinkers don’t know what Pepsi tastes like and what’s more, they don’t care! They don’t buy Pepsi. They buy Coke. Period. As Donald Keough, president and chief operating officer, admitted at a press conference, “The simple fact is that all the time and money and skill poured into consumer research on the new Coca-Cola could not measure or reveal the deep and abiding emotional attachment to original Coca-Cola felt by so many people.

The story does have a happy ending, however. Coke’s marketing share climbed as customers were reminded how much they liked the product. And the mystery of Pepsi gaining so much market share was eventually  traced back to the the company’s merger with Frito-Lay, which gave it increased distribution leverage, and the ability to drive special sales. Not to the product’s “superior taste,” as Pepsi was leading everyone including Coke, to believe.

So the moral of this part of the story is, if you want to really find out how you’re doing, listen to your customers. Not your competition.

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