Case study: connecting a national brand to its customers

19 Feb

I was approached late last year by the national debt consultancy, 4 Pillars, and asked to help them take their brand to a higher level.

I understand debt and the incredible stress that it brings to bear on you, so I felt I was the right person to do this job for them.

Additionally, 4 Pillars was the company that helped me re-structure my own debt, and they had done everything they said they would do. So I had a high degree of confidence in them as a business.

The Brand Intervention process kicks in.

First I conducted a Brand Evaluation, involving the owners, members of a franchise action committee, and other key stakeholders, to determine what brand positioning and messaging 4 Pillars could authentically own.

Then I weighed these findings against the competition, the brand’s current articulation and the customer’s experience and expectations.

My observation back to 4 Pillars was that their current brand promise wasn’t connecting strongly enough with their potential customers on an emotional level.

Debt takes over your life. It finds you wherever you are. There is no place to hide and you see debt everywhere you look.

Since 4 Pillars had already demonstrated to me, through my experience as a customer, that they understood where I was on an emotional level, and were able to help with that in addition to providing me with solutions, it was clear that the brand promise could authentically occupy a far more empathetic territory.

The Brand Interventionist Recommended

First, designer Alison Garrad and I looked at the logo. We wanted to make it more approachable, so we made a number of adjustments: switching to a different blue, differentiating the 4 from the Pillars to create a beat, moving from serif to sans serif and from upper case to upper/lower case.

4 Pillars logos

Advertising was just one of the tactics for lead generation recommended to 4 Pillars. But here the change was most dramatic.

We asked the business to move away from their existing advertising, exemplified below, which stressed tactics and outcomes upfront in the language of the business, and lacked polish.

4 Pillars old ad

Instead, we wanted to connect better with the potential customer on an emotional level.

What the advertising should do is speak to them in a language they understand. What they understand right now is that their debt has gradually, like a camel in a tent, taken over their lives, their thoughts, even their sleep.

Here are a few ads in the campaign.

seeing debt everywhere

debt follows you to bed

The owners have embraced this new positioning and are beginning to extend it across all their customer touchpoints.

They are now speaking in the language of their customers, always the right direction to head in!



12 Responses to “Case study: connecting a national brand to its customers”

  1. Terrance Lam February 19, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Not completely related but your article reminded me of something I read a while back.

    Did you know the origin of the dollar sign actually came from Spanish/American silver? The Spanish coat of arms on the silver coins has the the pillars of Hercules with an S-shaped ribbon intertwining it with the Latin phrase, “Plus Ultra” or Further Beyond. A modified phrase upon the discovery of the Americas.

    Sadly the historical origin of the $ has been lost in time but its interesting to see the use of the pillars again to represent financial strength.

    Whether this was intentional use of the icon, it does have its roots in an established and very old origin that dates back to Columbus’ discovery of the New World.

    • Doug Brown February 19, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      I had no idea Terrance. I suppose I could’ve wiki’d it but better to hear it from someone you know! Where do you think the cent sign came from?

      • Terrance Lam February 19, 2013 at 10:34 am #

        Unfortunately not nearly as cool but the Cent is short for the Latin word Centum meaning hundred. The vertical line through the C is only indicates fraction which mean a cent equals one hundredths.

      • Doug Brown February 19, 2013 at 10:42 am #

        I know now where to come with all my money related questions Terry! I’ve gone through my whole life not knowing this and using them without thinking. That is cool.

  2. hitgirl February 19, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    I really love what you’ve done with the brand Doug. I hope I never need to call them, but I’ll keep their number in my Rolodex just in case.

    • Doug Brown February 19, 2013 at 9:32 am #

      Bit like advertising – one of those professions you wish you didn’t need. 😉

      Thanks Sandy – I hope you don’t ever need them either. But if you do, you can’t go wrong with this gang.

  3. Jason Finnerty (@brandscaping) February 19, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    The new direction looks clever – well done, Doug. And since they’re getting new leads, I imagine they’re pretty ecstatic about the whole process too.

    • Doug Brown February 19, 2013 at 10:45 am #

      Hey thank you Jason. Time will tell whether the new lead generation strategy will work – and there’s lots more going on than the ads – but at least this new articulation better captures who they are and how they work.

  4. hill copywriting February 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm # Hey Doug, not the best way to send you this but the only easy way I know — thought you might like it, would be interested to hear your thoughts…

    • Doug Brown February 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

      I read all Graham’s posts Baz, in fact we were in touch last week. He’s a smart guy who sure knows what he’s talking about! Thanks for sharing his post.

  5. beloved brands February 23, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    Doug, love the work and these brands are HARD. Easier to sell chewing gum. The Bed ad strikes me as very insightful, even the way he’s laying in bed. And the new logo looks a lot warmer. I know it’s money, but in the case of debt we know we eff’ed up…so the warmth you’ve added can re-assure people that there’s someone on our side.

    • Doug Brown February 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

      Good observations Graham. The goal was for the ads to say “We get what you’re going through” without spelling it out. Similarly, we added the word “support” into the tagline, rather than just focusing on debt reduction. Debt is a very lonely place.
      Thanks for popping in and leaving that nice comment.

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