As the year draws to a close, agencies and academic publishers are promoting their forecast of 2016 marketing activity. Add this post to the list, I suppose. Here are 3 words to filter any branding or marketing activity you choose to do next year:
Simple is about focus and confidence. Consumers give you about three seconds in their first experience with your brand. It is therefore important to keep any engagement simple. For an online experience, two out of three consumers will move on if content is too long to read. When you spend the time to shave off unnecessary words or design, you make your message even stronger. It conveys focus and confidence that makes people pay attention.
See this recent article in Harvard Business Review on the top ten simple brands .
Consistent is about discipline and assurance (and return on investment). When a consumer experiences a brand consistently regardless of place and time, they become familiar with a brand. It is like meeting an old friend. This helps reduce uncertainties and builds trust. So please ensure that new ideas are rooted in some sense of consistency with your brand’s positioning, especially it’s values. Having this discipline pays off over the long term as activities reinforce a brand.
See this recent post from Percolate on a consistent brand experience being the new battleground.
Client-centric is about offering a benefit to your customer and closing the deal. Products and services are becoming more difficult to differentiate across many industries. Value is being created in new ways as the bar gets raised, and technology redefines offerings. The best companies are offering solutions, not products and services to customers. These solutions deliver layered benefits to consumers. Marketers should shift their paradigm in step with business strategy, and start to package solutions with clear benefits. This will help set your brand apart and make that sale.
See this recent video from Michael E Porter and James E. Heppelman on smart, connected products.
We’re watching the Star Wars marketing machine roll out the release of its new movie, JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens, on December 18. My 5 year old son has asked Santa for a handful of toys which will be my contribution to the franchise. It’s my guess that the grandparents will pile onto this. As a marketer, I’m experiencing the movie promotion with judgment and awe. Big brands have been known to crowdsource from creative talent pools or their consumers, but Star Wars has raised the bar. It is crowdsourcing its marketing from other big brands.
Last week the WSJ shared how Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co., challenged his marketing team’s spend and strategy. The result was ingenious crowdsourcing for the launch promotion. Last night, the football TV spots from almost every big brand touted their creativity around the Star Wars theme. It reminded me of what these big brands do for SuperBowl, only this time for another mega-entertainment brand.
Says the WSJ, “While Disney isn’t setting spending records, others promoting “Star Wars” are. Companies eager to appeal to fans of lightsabers and X-wing fighters spent about $38 million on “Force Awakens”-related TV ads in the U.S. through Monday, according to iSpot. That is a record for “co-branded” ads on a movie, the research firm said, exceeding the prior high of $26.5 million set by July’s “Minions.””
But too much of a good thing can turn bad. Consumers are catching on this and may grow tired with this media saturation. I imagine the Star Wars marketing team had plenty of debate around who to grant licenses to and how to guide commercial promotions. In the end, no single brand can hurt this well-defined mega-brand.
Some brands are doing a bang-up job with their creativity. When their creative agencies got the brief, it must have been happy days. Finally something different on the account for the creative department. I’d like to see AdAge or some marketing association poll the best cobranded execution of Star Wars, it will be fun.
The Star Wars marketing strategy shows us what big brands can do. It is a terrific example of how placing budgetary constraints and releasing control can unleash creative collaboration. I challenge more CEO’s and CMO’s to do this. Remember, you too, have the Force.
Brands are liked, loved and obsessed over. We spend gazillions of dollars on market research and metrics to tell us the depth of devotion customers have for us. But to evaluate brand strength, I propose it’s more effective (and easier) to simply pay attention to specific customer actions. Here are three real actions in the customer experience to win at:
1. Makes their lists
If customers jot down your brand’s name on their shopping lists instead of a generic product descriptor, it is a really good sign. Some examples include Kleenex, Tide, Gatorade, Coke, Pepsi, Tylenol. For service brands, pay attention to customer to-do lists. Be happy if customers jot down: Stanley Steemer, Scotts Lawn, McAfee. Customer wish lists are another source of picking up your brand’s strength. Look at their wish lists for birthdays, graduations and holidays. You’ll see IPad, Xbox, Coach make their lists, not personal computer, gaming system, or hand bag. Your challenge is how to get on one of their lists.
2. A part of social norms
Another positive sign for your brand is if it plays a part in cultural events such as holidays and social celebrations. Think Peeps for Easter, FTD for Valentines Day, Macys for Thanksgiving, Kisses for Christmas. Also look for your brand’s prevalence in social rites of passage, for example, Lego for young kids, Jeep Wrangler for college, Harley Davidson for mid-life. Your challenge is how to become a part of a social norm.
3. Is spoken, worn and tattooed
As you know, Google and Twitter are the ultimate signs of strong branding. They're so strong, they’ve become unbranded. They’re used as verbs for an activity we all participate in. Other examples of brands close to this magnitude of success include Apple, Starbucks, Intel who are allowing co-creation with their customers and curation by the public. These mega-brands have let go, they’ve unleashed, they’ve accepted themselves as belonging to their audiences. They are worn proudly on T-shirts and are tattooed on bodies like Harley Davison and Nike. Your challenge here is how to become a badge of honor.
If your brand does not have the budget or category benefits enjoyed by these big brands, you should still be able to use these three moments in your customers' experience journey. Try to pinpoint actions your customers take, build terrific experiences around them, and track your brand’s success. Remember what mom told you, “Actions speak louder than words.”
Related thought: Perhaps marketers should rethink the way we measure brand success, using customer experience actions, as our KPI's and use communications engagement actions as lead indicators to them.
Marketers ultimately strive to please three key audiences; our customers, our management & employees, and our business partners. Appeasing different audiences can feel like being pulled in different directions. If we're doing the right thing, it shouldn't feel that way. Put in the simplest terms, here's what we dream they'd say.
I left the corporate world after 18 years and this is my first “own-company” blogpost.
I have wracked my mind trying to think about what my coming-out post would be. I’m going to keep it sincere, simple, insightful and warm because that is what my personal brand is about. You be the judge.
I started my career out of college as editor of the Caterpillar customer magazine for its sub-Saharan dealer in Johannesburg, South Africa. Over the past 18 years, I’ve traveled the world working for Fortune 500 companies. Today I sit in my home office in Philadelphia on a rainy Tuesday and I’m a different person.
I am stronger, confident and even more passionate marketer than I’ve ever been. Why? Because I’ve seen what great brands in action. I’ve seen happy memories created around a delicious beer, new bonds made when feeding a new puppy, letting go of a cherished child on first day of school in a pair of shiny shoes, peace-of-mind in widows when their loved ones leave them a great financial plan. I’ve helped budding musicians get fame on television, global soccer stars come home to connect with tomorrow’s youth, and I’ve helped corporations find their own heartbeat by supporting local communities.
I’m excited about where I’m headed in 2016. The Union Marketing Group is my way of sharing my experiences and expertise with brands that are yet to be seeded, or brands that need a good polishing. In coming posts, I will share candid opinions on various marketing topics such as good brands, curation and client-centricity. I invite you to collaborate, debate and grow with me.
@smunthree | The Union Marketing Group | www.theunionmarketing.com
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