Brand trust is harder to earn in today’s economy? The pressure to cut costs makes delivering day after day on promised benefits more challenging. Social media creates messages that listeners deem more reliable than your own. And retaining meaningful and hard-to-copy differentiation has become more challenging in our copycat global economy.
Silicon leader Dow Corning is one company that has managed to build authentic brand trust by clearly communicating its value promise, aligning people, adapting its business models, and letting its culture evolve to support its two brands, Dow Corning® and XIAMETER®.
Dow Corning created the XIAMETER brand in 2002 to preserve market share as specialty silicon products commoditized, a savvy example of business model innovation that I wrote about in late 2011. The fully automated (from ordering to fulfillment) business model enables the brand to maintain profitability at the lower price points that commodity products face. That has allowed it to preserve the overall order volume the company needs to remain cost competitive in the specialty silicon business as well. I wrote about the brand a year ago as a terrific example of business model strategy.
To follow the brand’s evolution, I spoke again with Stacy Coughlin, Global Communication Manager for the XIAMETER brand. She’s a critical leader in keeping it distinct from the Dow Corning® brand while still allowing XIAMETER to share Dow Corning’s quality and reliability halo. The halo builds trust in XIAMETER’s compelling value promise: market-based pricing and an easy buying process, without the risk of production interruptions due to supplier quality issues.
A new website — which is where and how customers primarily experience the brand — makes the customer journey even simpler and far more fun, a key element of the brand’s personality. (Watch this tour of how the XIAMETER website operates for a stellar example of communicating a value promise digitally.)
Another example of the XIAMETER team’s innovation around simplicity is a soon-to-be-released tool that will enable customers to pick their order date, like consumers select airline seats. This will eliminate the frustration of entering dates for desired volumes and dealing with “not available” messaging.
But simplicity must reside in more than ordering. Identifying what to order must also be simplified, as there can be 100 some options for any one silicon product line, depending on formulation needs. So Coughlin’s team is changing collateral and where it is positioned on the website. “Our vision is to have Amazon’s ease of finding what you want effortlessly. Customers must find information at exactly the same time they are looking for it or it’s a lost opportunity for us,” Coughlin notes.
Distributors are vital to XIAMETER’s success and the brand is designed to improve their operational efficiency and selling effectiveness. The brand’s truckload shipping option, for example, has led distributors to reconfigure their supply chain to a lower-cost hub-and-spoke system. The website enables a distributor’s sales force to present the XIAMETER brand effectively to end-user customers. And Dow Corning as a whole is looking at social media platforms to unite European distributors to offer even simpler and faster routes to needed answers for both brands.
I knew XIAMETER was building an authentic brand when Coughlin commented on how its culture is distinct from that of Dow Corning brand teams. XIAMETER’s culture is faster paced and more transparent. “Whereas Dow Corning’s peering into the more distant future to decide on fresh areas for its innovations, XIAMETER is focused on what’s happening today and how do we maximize opportunities today,” Coughlin said.
But the divergence in culture doesn’t mitigate the fact that XIAMETER remains essential to the Dow Corning branded products. “Customers of our specialty products want increased and faster innovation. So as more products mature in the industry and move to the XIAMETER brand , we can free the Dow Corning staff for innovation, as we take on the supply chain and quality management work for the product category,” Coughlin shared. XIAMETER’s lower-cost structure also helped Dow Corning better meet the challenges of the 2012 market, including the Euro crisis and a slowing of the Chinese economy as Dow Corning opened their Chinese basic plant in 2011.
On the list of planned innovations is reducing the time to open an account, mobile access to information, more real-time messaging to customers and continuing to improve ease-of-use. “We want to balance how much information we ‘push’ vs. fast response when customers ‘pull,’ as having both communication methods available exactly when customers need them is critical to optimizing marketing programs,” Coughlin adds.
Coughlin and her team will undoubtedly close other gaps because she wisely understands that a value promise is an aim that drives your brand forward, not merely a communications concept. If only HP and Dell had her wisdom!
What are you doing to advance and differentiate your brand’s value promise?