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How ROR Saved A Company During Covid-19

ROR needs to be built on a genuine brand culture

Photo by Katie Wasserman on Unsplash

On 29 April, Renyi Chin, the co-founder of myBurgerLab, posted an appeal on his personal Facebook account to save the tiny Malaysian chain’s business which had been badly affected by the Movement Control Order. The mechanism was simple: buy a discount voucher so that they could have some much-needed cashflow to tide them over the month of May. The idea was elegantly simple and honest: “buying a voucher will save you and us.” 

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Renyi’s post was widely shared and also reposted in influential FB groups. The result was astounding. Within a day, he had raised the targeted RM50,000. How did myBurgerLab do it in one day, based on just one personal Facebook posting?

myBurgerlab could pull this off because they have strong brand affinity in the market. They had invested effort and resources into their brand because they understand the value of a strong brand. Unfortunately, many companies just look for Return on Investment (ROI) on their ad spend. What they should be investing in is Return On Relationship (ROR). 

What is ROR and why should you care? As Ted Rubin explains it, in this social media age, marketing metrics need to expand beyond ROI to include ROR. Simply put, ROI looks at money (costs and profits) while ROR looks at value that will accrue over time because a relationship has been nurtured with audiences. These relationships are returned through intangibles such as loyalty, recommendations, sharing and such.

myBurgerLab’s appeal is a prime example of the value of ROR. If an appeal like this was made by a brand that did not have a strong relationship with its stakeholders, it will just fall flat. Worse, it may turn people against the brand.

Many companies tend to categorise comms activities into “branding”, “PR”, “awareness”, “promotions”, etc. This is siloed thinking and results in many wasted opportunities. Instead, companies need to take a holistic view of their comms activities.

I’ve heard the sound of fluttering wings countless times when I advise clients that their sales problem stems fundamentally from poor brand perception in the market. When I suggest solutions to them, they flat out refuse because to them it sounds like spending on “branding” and not “promotions”. And just like that, opportunities fly out the window because they can’t see the value their brand can have on their sales. They seem to think that “branding” is some kind of vanity project.

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myBurgerLab is an interesting case study in developing ROR. If you look at their promotional materials, the majority of them are product-based and promotion-based. You will hardly see something that can be neatly categorised as “branding”, “PR” or “awareness” campaigns. Yet, they had managed to build up a tremendous store of goodwill in the market. So much so that hundreds of customers quickly rallied together, not to buy their promotional vouchers but to save the company.

A blog post like this is too short to discuss at length. But briefly, a brand’s value lies in the convergence of its image, reputation and customer experience of it. In myBurgerLab’s case, they have a consistent image and tone that resonate with their audiences – even when all they do is promote their products. They engage effectively with their customers – meaning they really listen and respond to them. The image, tone and engagement style carry over into their physical stores as well, providing customers with an experience that’s consistent with the brand image. They do it all very consistently, so the accumulated customer experiences and reviews give them a reputation that is congruent with their brand. 

And there, in a nutshell, is Return on Relationship in action.

Fine, But What Is ROR Worth In Hard Times? Companies need to focus on building relationships because investing for ROR will win the long game in business. If companies don’t invest for ROR in good times, they have little customer loyalty in bad times. If they don’t invest for ROR in bad times, they find it harder to compete and will be at a weakened position when the good times roll around again. Because if a brand:

  • is unknown, or
  • has not built up goodwill among its target audiences/stakeholders, or 
  • image is inconsistent with the company culture, or
  • is only known for pushing sales,

… people just won’t feel a connection to it. This can make a huge difference if companies are looking for pathways towards survival and growth – both in good times and in bad. 

Companies that focus on ROI – the financial costs and returns on ad spend – are missing the big picture. Relationships are the key to the long game in business. Major brands never make immediate ROI their only metric for ad-spend because it is short-sighted. Focus on investing in relationships and start tracking your ROR!

One last thing – you can’t fake a relationship. ROR needs to be built on a genuine brand culture. Again, myBurgerLab is a fine demonstration of this.

In a heartfelt message, Renyi thanked his supporters for rallying behind the company. Then, in a great display of the company’s great culture and its leaders’ integrity, Renyi closed sales of the vouchers when they had hit the target, and asked supporters to channel their goodwill (and money) to other local food operators instead. He also promised to repay supporters’ kindness and to pay it forward as well. Of course, this strengthens the love and support for the brand and wins them new fans as well.

This is the value of ROR. If companies are not building on this, they are missing out big time in the short game and losing out in the long game too. 

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Lai Chee Seng
Written By

Chee Seng is a writer and independent communications consultant with over 20 years' experience in advertising and marketing, corporate comms, digital media and content, PR, thought leadership, authorship and more. He helps corporations and agencies establish comms strategies and tell their stories well. Follow him on LinkedIn and website.

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