Business owners often hear different promotional buzzwords — marketing, advertising, public relations and branding — passed around when it comes to selling a service or product. Each of these facets has its own unique identity and will produce different results.
Depending on what is being sold, the business may only need one of these strategies to target the right audience, but more often than not, it’s an integrated approach that leads to the best results.
The action of promoting or selling products or services. This involves market research. Marketing involves anything from choosing the right location of the business, to knowing how much it costs to produce each product/service, deciding where to advertise and deciding who to advertise to. This also includes all marketing material, or “owned media,” such as brochures, websites and pamphlets. Think of someone named Brandon telling you, “I’m a wonderful fisherman.”
Change has been the only constant for M/C/C and one of its longest-standing clients, a leader in the satellite communications industry. In 1990 the Houston-based company was a small privately-held company that transitioned into a large publicly-traded company, back to privately-held and acquired for $550 million in 2010.
Originally a regional satellite communications service provider focused on the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico, the company matured into an international service provider with customers in multiple industries. M/C/C expanded the communications program to help drive and support the company’s dramatic growth through international expansion, acquisitions and new vertical market applications.
When it comes to how human’s make decisions, modern science has it all wrong. Textbooks will have you believe that decision-making happens in a small part of the brain known as the lateral habenula, which they claim performs a cost-benefit analysis on all of life’s everyday events. In fact, we at M/C/C have learned that decisions are made in an entirely different part of the human anatomy. This organ is called the breart.
The breart is one-half heart and one-half brain, fused together as one. At M/C/C, our specialists in human decision-making identified the breart a few years ago in a study to determine the best way to market our clients’ products to their customers. Essentially, what we’ve learned is that the breart is best affected by a combination of rational, thoughtful information and entertaining, compelling stories. Since discovering this organ and its role in consumer behavior, we’ve influenced the brearts of our audiences like never before, using informative content to stimulate the brain and creative stories to move the heart.
Because the physiological workings of the breart can be dry and complex and entirely fictional to some people, we’ve produced a simple video to help introduce this new scientific principle. We’re confident that, once you open your mind to the breart, you’ll discover entirely new ways to influence your customers, too.
Loosen that necktie, Mr. CEO. Let your hair down, chief marketing officer. April Fools’ Day is upon us, and your target audience just got extra casual. How casual? Mentally, they’re flip-flopped on a Mexican beach while James William Buffett serenades them about frozen beverages. Consumers have trained their minds not to believe anything you say this day. Does that mean you should go all scorched earth on your industry peers? Not quite, but you can have a little bit of fun.
April 1 is the day you can do something different. [Unless you’re Geico, then it’s just another day.] Over those 24 hours, feel free to cut the brand that binds and surprise your audience with something refreshing. Something amusing. Something foolish. Something…well, surprise me.
Building a brand is challenging – it requires a keen understanding of customer motivations, a clear differentiator, and a personality and promise that can serve as the foundation for building equity in the brand over time. Companies invest time, effort and resources in branding because they know it has tangible business benefits but it can all be lost if companies lose focus on their brand messaging.
We know what to expect from brands that have been consistent over time. Tide, Nike and BMW continue to build their brands through consistent messaging. They are reliable and customers come to trust them. Successful branding is achieved over time, not overnight, and consistency is the key. Once you establish persuasive, simple messaging, you must stick with it and continue to deliver that message time and time again. When you think about it, most brands that you know and love have stood the test of time.
“Good morning, Mr./Ms. Marketer. This is your wake-up call. While you were sleeping, the marketing world moved on without you and your company’s brand. We hope you enjoy your stay at Ye Olde Fashioned Advertising Inn. Goodbye.”
Modern marketing rarely gives you such clear notice. That’s why this blog is here. Gone are the days when your company only needed to run clever ads in the paper or on TV, telling customers why they should spend their hard-earned money on your product. Instead, technology has opened up new channels of two-way communication, and a growing number of techno-friendly customers expect your company to use these channels to engage with them on a deeper, richer basis than ever before.
Of course, there’s social media – that’s a no-brainer. Any brand worth its social salt should actively engage its audience with content they’ll find interesting and useful, not just sales messages. In fact, some of the most effective brands go further, using social media as a customer service resource, responding to customers individually in real-time whenever they report an issue via Facebook or Twitter. But social media is just one channel. The real opportunity awaits the brands that go beyond social media – to use every medium at their disposal not to talk AT their customers but to drive conversations WITH them. You can see what I mean by revisiting a legendary marketing campaign from the past.
If you were at least 10 years old in the 1980s, you might remember when Chrysler nearly went bankrupt the first time. To help turn its financial tide, the company revamped its product line and hired a new CEO. Little known to the average American when he took over Chrysler, Lee Iacocca became a household name as the star of the automaker’s TV campaign. In his commercials, he was frank and likeable and tough, and he had a patriotic swagger that America yearned for in the middle of a difficult recession.
The campaign was wildly successful, and Chrysler rebounded. But from a marketing perspective, Chrysler and Iacocca could’ve connected with America even more effectively using today’s technology.
In the last couple of years, there have been several marketing trends that I’ve been excited about such as the development and expansion of blogger relations, the rise and use of user-generated content and the continued growth of social media marketing for brands. But this year, the one trend I cannot wait to see grow is the use of the second screen!
Also known as the “companion device,” a second screen is an additional electronic device that allows a consumer to interact with the content they are consuming such as TV shows, movies, music or video games. According to a Nielsen study in 2011, 40 percent of U.S. tablet and smartphone owners used their device daily while watching TV, with more than 40 percent checking a social networking site during either a TV show or commercial break. Additionally, Forrester found that 63 percent of Generation Xers and 74 percent of millenials use a second screen device more than half the time they watch TV.
But what does this mean for marketers, and how are brands capitalizing on this? Marketers are using these interactive opportunities to not only engage with brand fans but build sentiment and loyalty for the brand. Three of my favorite ways they are achieving this are:
About three weeks ago, I was asked to blog about fonts and the impact they can make on your company’s brand communications. If you’re looking for valuable branding advice that will help you improve your company’s look and feel, I suggest you look elsewhere. Maybe here. Or put your brain on hold and watch this instead.
The fact is, if you’re not one of our clients, I’m simply not familiar enough with your brand to give you good counsel about fonts. And I certainly can’t tell you in a blog which font will help you improve your marketing. Speaking in generalities, the only thing I can say for sure is that fonts matter. They make impressions on your audience, which is why serious documents like the IRS 1040 will never appear in Curlz, and the Holy Bible should never be printed in Comic Sans.
Mergers and acquisitions always seem to be in vogue. If the economy is strong, companies are buying healthy “up-and-comers” who can add to their portfolio; and in bad times companies are looking to pick up good value from other companies who are struggling financially. For marketers, a merger or acquisition brings branding issues to the forefront like little else. Each one is unique and different, but there are some commonalities in how to approach and develop a brand strategy to take full advantage of the business decisions during the transition.
When mergers and acquisitions are discussed, there’s a lot of talk about executives, lawyers and accountants performing due diligence to understand the value of the decision. This review and discovery should extend beyond the financials, products and business strategies to examine branding and marketing of the acquired or merged company. Reviewing marketing research, perception studies, existing marketing materials and campaigns along with a competitive evaluation can inform marketing leadership on how to approach branding of the new organization.
One of the key challenges following any acquisition or merger is bringing the new organization together with a clear and common brand and purpose. Internal groups will likely have differing views of the organization and potentially different agendas on how it should be branded. Instead of taking those views and agendas as the primary input to brand strategy, companies should focus and rally around the most important audience – the buyer.
Understand the buyer
Brands are shaped by customers and their experiences. Conduct research with existing and prospective buyers to understand their evaluation and purchase criteria, perceptions of the brands involved in the merger/acquisition and how they believe they will be affected by the change. What are the positive perceptions that can be leveraged, and how can branding, messaging and marketing address the negative issues? A deep dive into the mindset of the market will pay off in spades when developing a brand strategy for the new organization.
Social media has profoundly changed the way people communicate with one another and is changing how brands engage with their audiences. What were once thought of as outlets for tech trendsetters are now mainstream marketing vehicles used by brands to connect directly with their customers.
Photo by Jason Howie, CC-BY-2.0
According to a recent Nielsen report, consumers are spending more time than ever using social media, and that consumption plays an important role as marketers build their brands and connect with their audiences more directly. It plays a significant role in how consumers find out about and share information about brands and products. In fact, 60 percent of consumers researching products through multiple online sources learned about a specific brand or retailer through social networking sites. Overall, consumer-generated reviews and product ratings are the most preferred sources of product information among social media users.
Research shows that social media is increasingly a platform consumers use to express their loyalty to their favorite brands and products, and many seek to reap benefits from brands for helping promote their products. Among those who share their brand experiences through social media, at least 41 percent share their experiences publically on social channels to receive discounts. Social Media also plays a key role in protecting brands: 58 percent of social media users say they write product reviews to protect others from bad experiences, and nearly 1 in 4 say they share their negative experiences to “punish companies.” Many customers also use social media to engage with brands on a customer service level, with 42 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds acknowledging that they expect customer support within 12 hours of a complaint.On the flip side, another trend is the interest of consumers to act as ambassadors and advocates for brands through social media. A majority of active social networkers (53%) follow brands. These brands are increasingly recruiting their fans and followers to spread word-of-mouth recommendations about their products and services, and among consumers who write product reviews online, a majority say they share their experiences to “give recognition for a job well done” by the company. Continue reading “How Will Your Brand be Viewed 10 Years from Now? Controlling your Brand Perception in the Age of Social Media” »