"Building 'brand trust' to rejuvenate growth"

Nothing is more important than creating and sustaining a trustful relationship with customers.

How We Work

Our Mission is to Reveal and Solve the Dormant, Yet Real Brand Challenges Facing Our Clients

Unfortunately many executives just assume that the customers’ trust in their brands is solid and does not need further attention.  This attitude is risky and even naive, often resulting in a missed opportunity.  The solution lies with the creation of new, relevant ideas for a fresh brand message to be communicated to and shared among customers (i.e. the content).  With the new digital world dramatically changing the customer and competitive landscape these days, the brand positioning for every company or product should be re-visited frequently for improvement, especially to re-build this trust factor with targeted customers.


Typical Situations that Warrant Consideration of Our “Brand Trust” Program

Here are the types of quotes we hear from managers which reflect situations that beg for a better understanding of their customer and a creative effort to enhance the trust level of a company’s brands:

  • “Our message is reaching mainly online visitors, but no one is sharing it with others”
  • “I really know our customer, so am sure they will like our new product offerings”
  • “We have been successful in the U.S., but can’t understand why  similar customers in these new markets abroad are not interested”
  • “Our product sales have stalled – we should re-brand with a new name, logo and look”
  • “Outsiders don’t know our industry and customers like we do; what added value can they offer?”
  • “Our product is so unique, even revolutionary, that we don’t have to emphasize the benefits to our customers – they should be self evident”
  • “Our customers have been buying our product for years, so there is no reason for them to consider competitive options”
  • “I know our product will excite and attract new customers – no reason to include any emotional dimensions to our brand story”
  • “Branding is such a soft discipline – how do we know if we’re making progress without any metrics to measure?”

The attitude behind these quotes can be dangerous.  It shows a comfort level with the “status quo” that does not acknowledge the dramatic changes in today’s customer mindsets and expectations, the aggressiveness of competition, and also the unique opportunities that the internet offers for connecting more credibly with customers and hence strengthening their trust in brands.   Here are 10 typical situations that can benefit from a fresh perspective and a new brand trust audit:

  1. Revenues have plateaued, competition has intensified, and our customers no longer view us as innovative or relevant.
  2. We have been successful attracting many customers to date, but they don’t think we listen to them any more
  3. Our base business is solid, but now we have to find other sources of growth from new segments and/or distribution channels.
  4. We started to expand abroad, but the local consumers perceive our brands as opportunistic “outsiders” and feel we don’t understand their culture or needs.
  5. The price competition in our category is fierce, and none of our customers understand or believe the benefits we offer.
  6. Our products and services are increasingly viewed as commodities, so how can we re-engage our customers and convince them we really care?
  7. We have extensive data on our customers from prior research, but very little on how they truly feel or their real expectations
  8. Just hired a new manager from the outside, but he/she can’t change traditional thinking internally without new ideas or special insights.
  9. There is so much pressure to deliver that managers don’t corroborate any more (e.g. Sales and Marketing in B2B), so attention to customers is declining.
  10. Everything is becoming automated, and our customers are now more confused, jaded and long for a more personal touch.

How We Help Our Clients Turn Challenges into Opportunities

Although the concept of “brand trust” may be new to many executives, the realities of corruption, growing consumer discontent with leadership, and the declining credibility and integrity for companies and brands should not be news to them.  We believe a fresh, experience-based perspective is essential for objectively evaluating customer perceptions and identifying new opportunities to re-connect with them.  An initial “brand trust” assessment provides a critical foundation for new thinking and innovative ideas, with special focus on:

  • The important dynamics of brand trust for their industry, plus implications for each client’s specific business.
  • Overview of trends that will impact the client’s future business and what should be done today
  • Discussion of key issues for the client that warrant outside expertise offering a fresh perspective and new ideas
  • Development of a detailed road map on how to re-engage customers and build brand trust in a way that addresses the key challenges for each client.

We have a tool kit of diverse, actionable initiatives that would be adapted for each client situation.  Most involve some form of customer research, brainstorming, and creating new brand marketing content.  We are open to any type of client relationship, from pilot testing to full projects to retainer.

Contact us today to learn more

Success Stories

For every project or retainer relationship situation, our client has benefited from using Pathfinder as an outside marketing expert who could provide a fresh perspective, an objective assessment, and creative solutions with hands-on implementation.  Every initiative started with an independent re-examination of the challenges on hand, including core brand issues (product, service or corporate), which became the cornerstone for new planning and marketing solutions.  The Pathfinder Group’s experience extends from within the U.S. to every major country in the world, covering a variety of different industries and challenges, involving both consulting and training. Here is a summary of some previous assignments:


Thailand – Workshops on Ideation and Social Media

Business leaders in Thailand are sophisticated and worldly, but also recognize that many new marketing techniques and media platforms are pioneered in the U.S. and want to learn how these innovative practices can be applied locally.  Conducted two all day workshops:  “New Innovations in Marketing” (mainly on the importance of creativity, with mock ideation sessions held) and “How to Position Brands for Social Media”.  Both were very well received, leading to new relationships and future projects.


U.S. – Ideation Session

As part of an overall ideation process, worked closely with the senior management of a diverse media company that had most of its sales coming from specialty magazines.  Reflecting the downward trend of print, revenues were declining so they needed new ideas that would transform their business model, or at least provide new growth oppportunities.  A major challenge was how to re-define, communicate and leverage one of their key strengths – the brand trust and passion of their loyal subscribers, to reverse this revenue decline.   Gronlund organized a detailed preparatory initiative with questionnaires, interviews, homework assignments and creativity-building exercises, then conducted a successful ideation session over 2 days with a follow-up on the prioritization of ideas and appropriate implementation.  The solutions involved re-positioning their corporate brand to better reflect these perceived assets, and cultivating new, ground-breaking ideas that would further strengthen their content, enhance a new brand image and add credibility to the re-launch of the corporate brand.


U.S. and Mexico – Market Research

Mexican based Market Research firm needed local, ongoing management supervision for all research projects (mainly quantitative – internet and central location testing) for the rapidly growing U.S. Hispanic consumer segment. Continue to work closely with owner/President to develop new selling approaches, proposals, website copy, new blogs and articles for email campaigns, special podcasts on research and branding, and giving speeches in Mexico City and the U.S. on pertinent topics – e.g. “Emotional Branding for U.S. Hispanic Consumers”, “Expansion Opportunities in U.S. for Mexican Businesses”, etc.  Do all analyses and write reports for each research project, including personal presentations of data..


Holland, U.K., Germany and Belgium — Market Entry

A specialty gourmet food/beverage company from California has had a successful business in the U.S., and was ready to explore new opportunities abroad. We reviewed several regional options and concluded that we should start with Europe. After an examination of the above four markets, we focused initially on Holland as a “test market” before rolling out. We prepared a detailed action plan, and then selected a reliable local consultant, distributor, market research firm, PR agency, and other key suppliers to help with consumer testing and an in-market pilot test. Similarly, an assessment of the market potential and a subsequent “road map” action plan helped us find local partners in other key markets – U.K., Germany and Belgium.


China and other Asian Markets — Customized Workshops

A major international food company had high potential subsidiaries throughout the Far East, but the marketing staff was generally young and inexperienced in marketing, branding and strategic planning. In particular, these foreign managers needed to improve their basic analytical skills, creative thinking, positioning/branding approaches, and ability to develop innovative, yet realistic marketing plans that reflected their diverse cultures.  A series of interactive workshops was held with managers from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, each one customized with a special case study reflecting its particular business situation and challenges. The group was split into four teams to prepare and present new marketing plans, which was actually a dry run for their upcoming business planning cycle at work. In addition to practical learning, employee morale noticeably increased from these workshops, resulting in improved teamwork.


Mexico and Central America — Re-positioning and Re-launch

A leading household product had experienced a disconcerting decline in market share over the previous 5 years due mainly to strong competitive inroads. The brand needed a fresh look, especially a new brand positioning. Working closely with the local marketing and advertising teams, we examined the overall competitive and consumer situation in these markets. Based on this opportunity assessment, concepts were developed and tested in several focus groups in Mexico and San Salvador. Three positioning concepts were chosen for further quantitative testing and then advertising development. New ideas were also developed for line extension products, packaging modifications, and marketing programs. This strategic work had broad implications since the multinational parent was seeking a new brand positioning for other markets throughout the world.


Russia — Re-Launch Project

The introduction of new household product line in Russia by the local joint venture partner of a major U.S. multinational had discouraging results, mainly because this Russian partner lacked good planning and marketing capabilities. The U.S. client had never really assessed the market potential for these household products in Russia, nor was it familiar with the marketing practices there, so it wasn’t sure if it wanted to continue with this J-V partner. Pathfinder was brought in to research the market potential for these household goods in Russia and develop a detailed re-launch plan. This project included consumer focus groups in Moscow and St. Petersburg, plus interviews with distributor candidates. It resulted in a new joint venture approach between the two parties.


Japan — Opportunity Assessment and J-V Partnership

A leader in the garden-supply industry wanted to introduce a new plant food product in Japan. Our U.S. client had two pivotal questions: was the overall potential big enough to warrant a major investment, and should this brand introduction be handled by his current joint venture partner there. These issues were sensitive and complicated because of the cultural contrasts and the new U.S. product was similar to a line of Japanese sourced garden-supply products already marketed by the partner. Pathfinder evaluated the potential, and confirmed that the category was indeed underdeveloped and could be expanded with another new brand, if positioned and priced properly. A full business development plan was accepted and implemented by the client and his partner. Importantly, our open and candid approach enhanced the cooperative spirit of this venture as well.


Central/Eastern Europe — Training on Marketing and Strategic Planning

In conjunction with a team of American environmental experts, a series of workshops was held over a five year period to help develop market assessment capabilities and selling skills.  This was part of a U.S. government initiative with a focus on the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Poland, soon after these countries became free. Most attendees were from the chemical and energy industries in each country — i.e. from companies which had severe pollution problems at their facilities and knew very little about environmental audits, cleaner production and waste minimization practices. These managers also had very little experience and lacked skills in strategic planning, sales, or marketing. Workshops included role-playing exercises and simulations to educate managers on how to improve their own businesses and also to form alliances with companies in the West.


Brazil, Argentina and Chile — Market Assessment and Expansion

A high image, premium ice cream company in the U.S. had successfully expanded into Europe and the Far East, and now wanted to go into South America. As a first step, Pathfinder prepared an overview study of this region (Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Columbia, and Venezuela) to determine the basic feasibility, key issues and relative attractiveness of each market. The top priority market was Brazil, followed by Argentina and Chile. A comprehensive opportunity assessment was conducted for all three markets, including the sales potential, local partner candidates, and a financial analysis. The final business plan had detailed sales projections by city, retail chain, and the company’s own branded shops for the next 3 years.  A successful introduction in Brazil followed.


Poland and Hungary — Distributor Search and Market Introduction

A New York-based apparel company wanted to expand into Eastern Europe, particularly Poland and Hungary. The president of this dress manufacturer had little experience in these emerging countries, and certainly did not have the time or staff to research and open up these markets. The project required a meaningful evaluation of the “social occasion” dress market in both countries, including the specific trade requirements, duties, customs regulations, local distribution channels, pricing, etc. We found and screened several distributor candidates with good showrooms. Based on our recommendations and assistance during negotiations, our client selected trustworthy distributors for both countries.


Argentina — Revitalization Project

A large U.S. health/personal care product company had a well established subsidiary in Buenos Aires for more than 25 years, with complete manufacturing, marketing, and sales functions for all of Argentina. Although it was profitable, the new senior manager at the U.S. headquarters suspected that the business could be much larger. The main challenge was to verify this untapped potential, and then offer a new plan to jump start the business, without offending or alienating the local manager. Our approach started with a thorough benchmarking analysis of the real potential in Argentina, followed by a detailed plan for expanding sales. To avoid any perception of undermining the local manager’s capabilities, we worked hand-in-hand with the entire marketing/sales team. As a result the plan was viewed as realistic and a product of a team effort.


Poland and Baltics— Developing New Environmental Consulting Firms

A reputable environmental organization in New York was establishing local Pollution Prevention Centers throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Pathfinder was retained to help advise and train management in six of these environmental service firms, three in Poland and in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The goal was to eventually make these firms self-sustainable. The project involved development of realistic business plans and then in-market consulting and training workshops on awareness building, prospecting to high-potential clients, making sales calls, and other practical marketing tactics. Most of this consulting/training work was conducted with U.S. environmental engineers, who focused on cleaner production and waste minimization opportunities. (Similar efforts were later carried out in Romania.)


U.S. – Interactive Marketing

We were retained by a high growth digital marketing and web design agency in New York which had proven technology talent but needed strategic marketing experience.  We provided a fresh, branding dimension to all online marketing initiatives to ensure consistency with the client’s brand identity and appropriate strategic focus on all new campaigns.  Key to our success was the preparation and supervision of ideation sessions to generate new “hooks” or newsworthy ideas for online marketing initiatives, especially word-of-mouth marketing.  This resulted in the strengthening of the agency’s relationship with major clients.  We also were involved in all new business pitches.


Spain and U.S. – Re-positioning for U.S. Wine Market

The U.S. Trade Commission of Spain and the local wine association of the Montilla-Moriles region in Spain recognized that the awareness and interest in their dessert wines in the U.S. were very low, and hence needed marketing experts to re-evaluate their target consumers and to develop a new positioning and a re-launch marketing strategy.  We were selected to assess first hand the strengths and vulnerabilities of these dessert wines in Spain, followed by a comprehensive market assessment and consumer intelligence initiative in the U.S.  This included several internal ideation sessions to develop new concepts, leading edge consumer sessions, in-depth focus groups in different markets, and a series of trade interviews throughout the U.S.  The result was a fresh understanding of the target customer, creation of an asset profile that led to a complete re-positioning of these Spanish dessert wines, plus new direction for marketing their wine products, updated packaging, fresh brand imagery and a selling strategy to the trade – all implemented with success in the U.S. market.


U.S. – Workshop on New Product Development

A leading new business development firm in New York had just merged with a European agency resulting in a big expansion of its local staff.  There was an urgent need to update these new, young managers on the basic principles of new product development, in accordance with the philosophy of this New York based firm and the needs of its main clients.  Working closely with the owners, we developed new material and conducted workshops focusing on three core topics:  (1) fundamentals of brand positioning, (2) how to identify and leverage real consumer insights, and (3) how to write clear, meaningful concepts.


Latin America & U.S. – Market Potential Analysis for Educational Business

A major provider of testing materials for students of all ages in the U.S. and Latin America felt there could be an opportunity to introduce one of its tests for expanded use among English Language Learners (ELL’s) in the U.S., primarily Hispanic.  A comprehensive study of the ESL market (English as a Second Language) included an in-depth profile of these Hispanic students, assessment of competitive tests compared to the client’s portfolio of tests, examination of all implications from NCLB (“No Child Left Behind” regulations), plus recommendations for a re-positioning and new marketing opportunities to expand its reach and sales to schools for all levels for this emerging market segment.  All recommendations were executed.


Poland and Western Europe – New Growth Strategy for Environmental Software

An innovative computer software company in the Upper Silesia region in Poland had established a well-deserved reputation for pioneering and selling high quality software to measure the pollution emissions of factories, primarily in Poland.  Since these environmental problems in Poland had been severe for decades under Soviet rule, this software was fully tested and proven due to its extensive in-market experience, more than any other similar software in the world.  The demand for such software was rapidly emerging in Western Europe, but the general image of products coming from Poland was unfairly tarnished by this history of Soviet domination.  This firm definitely needed marketing expertise from the West.  Pathfinder was hired because we fully understood brand imagery, brand trust and was familiar with the cultural nuances and business practices of Western European countries.  We developed a detailed, realistic marketing plan for re-positioning its environmental software line, partnering with local environmental sales agents in Western Europe and establishing a “road map” for introducing its products in phases in targeted European markets.

Basics of Branding

– Sales on our product have stalled — we must re-brand it.

– There’s a lot of noise out there — what can we do to stand out?

– If we just use social media, the Millennials will want it.

– I know our customer, and I KNOW they will like our product.

Basics of Branding coverI hear things like this often in a variety of industries. Unfortunately they all reflect a lack of understanding of how real branding works and what it can do for your business. Powerful brands are different, compelling, and relevant enough to truly excite the minds and hearts — and wallets — of their customers. My new book Basics of Branding explains how you can create an emotional connection with your customer that results in sustainable brand loyalty and steady revenue growth.

Basics of Branding is essential for any manager who is involved in the strategic growth of his or her brand, whether B2C or B2B, whether student or senior executive. The goal for each is to develop a value proposition that makes a lasting impact and delights the customer. An essential first step is creating a message or impression that forges a bond of trust with that customer.

Jay Gronlund uses an easy-to-understand style that emphasizes practical and proven approaches for successful brand development, based on his own marketing experiences around the world, as well as the insights of other leading experts. All aspects of branding are covered — including product/service, corporate, employer, personal, and global branding.

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