Category Archives: brand communication

The Power of Audience Trumps the Power of Your Marketing

It is a reality all brands and marketers must come to. Who has stronger influence on the awareness, consideration, purchase, and loyalty of your brand? You the marketer or others telling friends, family, and colleagues about the positives and negatives of your product or service? It is time to stop drinking your own Kool-Aid and recognize that the greatest power of brand conversion lies in the hands of the audience you target. The power comes from them advocating on your behalf.

audience power

More than ever, the entire user experience shapes the value and “goodness” (or lack there of) of your brand as perceived by the audience you wish to capture. All the elements of a user experience (corporate positioning, product positioning, product/service value, sales process, brand engagement, and customer support and service) must be integrated and orchestrated.

The next contributing factor to the power of your audience is their (not your) use of digital and social platforms. People talk about brands without being prompted by the brand to do so. This sharing and word of mouth marketing is usually instigated by user experience – either a positive one or a negative one.

All of this change in customer behavior does not mean that marketing is any less important than the days prior to the Internet, digital technologies, and smart mobile devices. It just means that marketers need to form strategies and plans differently. First off, the responsibilities of the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) need to expand to that of a Chief Engagement Officer (as I have written about before).

Second, marketers need to have strong empathy and complete understanding of their audiences’ needs, wants, desires, motivations, and turn offs. Social media monitoring tools enable much greater listening to individuals, but most companies use monitoring merely for sales opportunities as opposed to shaping their product position, roadmap, and go-to-market strategy.

The last point I will make is that marketing approaches must change due to audience behavior and their influence of brand reputation. You can no longer simply develop Hollywood-like advertisement and be content that will grab your audience. Marketers need to pre-plan how the creative will support and enhance the entire user experience. You need to think about how the content will be shared in a positive light. You need to think about activating your audience to become a brand advocate. And this brand advocacy and activation should be the pinnacle results you aim for. Remember – the power of your audience trumps the power of your marketing. So motivate and activate your audience to do your marketing. Think audience first.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, influence marketing, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

Why You Need a Chief Engagement Officer

Who is the most important person in your business? I hope you answered the customer or client? That’s right … you can take anyone out of your company and you will survive, but if the customer(s) is not there, you have a hobby, not a business.

So if the customer is the most important person, why aren’t you forming an organization around their wants, needs, and desires? Why don’t you have a point person responsible for all interactions with that imperative individual(s)? A person who is responsible for attracting them, building trust with them, selling to them, developing brand loyalty, and building a relation so rich that your customers will both rally for and defend your brand.

That is the role of the Chief Engagement Officer. Think of all the touch points that potential and existing customers have with your company. If we look at your organization today, the role and the responsibility of a Chief Engagement Officer is part marketing, sales, billing, and customer service.

Time for Chief Engagement OfficerNow you can say all the touch points I have defined and all the areas of responsibility I have listed have been in place for 100 years. So why do we need a Chief Engagement Officer now? The answer is simple. There has been one dramatic aspect that has changed the way business is done. That is the evolution and now ubiquitous nature of our digital world.

Digital technologies and cultural adoption uses have flipped the playing field completely whether you like it or not. The customer has far greater control of a brand position and reputation than the company behind the brand. There is no more making pretend this is not so and denying it. If you are, your business will soon be dead.

I recently read through an excellent presentation by David Meerman Scott titled, “The New Rules of Selling.” David details how buying behavior and actual purchasing has changed. Before they go into the car dealer, for example, they already have researched and have decided what they want to purchase. From my perspective, this means that engagement and proliferation of valuable information are paramount. The Chief Engagement Officer needs to manage all aspects of content, communication, customer service, and motivating loyal customers to advocate on behalf of the brand. I have come to the conclusion that marketing is the new sales. At bit confusing, yes, but think about it. You need to put valued information in front of your target audience to help them make buying decisions. This information and stories come from both your company and your existing audience.

As I mentioned in the beginning, “There has been one dramatic element that has changed the way business is done.” Similarly, Meerman Scott rightfully declares, “Now BUYERS are in charge of relationships they choose to do business with.” And given this reality, companies don’t require a head of sales, marketing, and customer support. They must have a Chief Engagement Officer that covers the entire gamut.

Now I know you can look me up on LinkedIn or see my bio here on my blog and see that I am the Chief Engagement Officer at Social Steve Consulting. Sure, you can easily say, “Oh Social Steve, that is so self serving to write an article covering Why You Need a Chief Engagement Officer.” But think about this … I have been a marketing executive for 20 years. I have my own consulting practice. I could have given myself any title. But I am a Chief Engagement Officer because the responsibilities that go with that title are driven by the needs of brands through out the world. Customer behavior and current business environment dictate needs to change organizational leadership structure. And organizations require a new type of leader if they really want to win customers and spawn word of mouth marketing. How much longer can brands continue to be stagnant and avoid organizational changes that must happen to drive success?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brands, change management, company organization, customer service, marketing, sales, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Surveillance of Brands

community surveillanceThere used to be a time when brands could say anything and get away with outlandish lies. There might be some group like Consumer Reports that would protect the consumer by validating claims and unveiling mistruths as appropriate.

Then this thing called the Internet came of age and shortly thereafter digital technologies became ubiquitous and available anywhere. Without a doubt, this is the greatest cultural life change in my lifetime. I am not a digital native and can remember times when marketing was pretty much limited to advertisements on TV, radio, print, and in-store displays.

Now the funny thing about this is that some brands now use digital marketing techniques, but their mentality has not changed from the old days. What I mean by this is that the brands use new technologies, but do not examine the effect of the technology on society as a whole and act accordingly. The cultural change that is missed is that EVERYONE is using the technology and LISTENING and a good majority of the society is PARTCIPATING in social and digital technologies. When you evaluate what this means, it really comes down to three things:

1) a greater degree of support and loyalty to brands,
2) a greater degree of calling out brands for missteps and lies, and
3) inflammatory statements about brands that are unsubstantiated and unwarranted.

Lets make sure we understand this. Brands, you are being watched. There are users that performing informal, but systematic surveillance. Some things that come out of this surveillance will be positive; some things will be negative; some truth will come out; and some lies will be launched. Yes, it is the Wild West for the consumer, but you can win over the audience by unleashing advocates in a time of need if you go about digital participation correctly. Here are some guidelines:

1) Always be honest, authentic, and transparent – the first time you break confidence of an audience, it will be extremely difficult to win them back. If they are participative they will make sure everyone knows you are wrong if you lack honesty.
2) Understand that many digital users want to share. They want to share your good and your bad. Work at presenting the best brand (honest) face. Think of tactics to use that make it easy for users to share your content.
3) Don’t get in a debate you cannot win. People will attack brands even when they are wrong. If you can have advocates and need their support ask them.

I find it most ironic that a band by the name of Smog would have a song titled “Live as if Someone is Always Watching You.” Well brands, forget the smog (and smoke) but remember the title. In the digital world someone is always watching you and talking about you. Behave accordingly. Listen. Make friends; make advocates. Motivate them to come to your rescue when you need them.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under ads, behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brands, digital media, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Changes in Facebook Signal a Need for Social Marketing Change

Just when you thought you were getting the hang of capturing your audience’s awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy via social marketing, the social world pivots. The new twist will require a change in your social strategy.

facebook changes

First, lets define the change. For the past couple of weeks there have been leaks that Facebook intends to drop the organic reach of brands to 1-2%. This means that if you have 200K fans on Facebook, roughly only 3K fans will see any given post. Is this what you worked so hard to build up your Facebook fan base for? Of course you can pay Facebook to amplify your posts. That is really not a bad idea as costs are reasonable (today), but it certainly is not something you are going to do for every post.

Many brands have witnessed a continuous decline of organic reach on Facebook. (Have you checked your numbers recently?) Facebook should no longer be viewed as simply a content-driven and engagement platform to win over the target audience. Content plus engagement and now paid amplification for content are required to get postings on newsfeeds of “brand-likers.” Facebook should now be viewed as a promotional platform. Daily posts no longer make sense.

So what do you about this now? Consider doing a Facebook “dark post” to a targeted audience that is not necessarily your fans. Do these promotions only when you truly have something news-worthy (new product release, special event) and not every day content. Think about having your own content repository for daily posts and then using a plethora of social channels to proliferate that content and drive traffic to your site (where your content repository resides).

What really drives me crazy is that Facebook states that the shrinking of organic reach is not to force brands to pay for Facebook use. Facebook suggests that there is a strong increase in content production from brands that has created a flood of spam marketing on Facebook. If revenue is not the reason for this sudden drastic change, why not allow users to “opt-in” the brands they want to see in their newsfeed. Why not just give the complete control to the users. That will eliminate spam. If users have the power to manage their own newsfeed, their actions translate to simply say, “make it worth my while and I will let you get into my newsfeed.”

Anyway, I am not holding my breath that this is going to happen. In fact I would say Facebook actions will set a precedent for other social platforms. Once a given social platform has built up a large enough user base, they will then turn to brands and say “pay to play.”

All this said, social marketing is still imperative to business. I’ll leave you today with two goals you should set that will yield very strong measurable results.

First, you do want your brand content and stories (not advertisements) to be consumed by your target audience. You want to win them over emotionally by delivering content that is valuable to them. You should no longer have a “social content strategy”, but rather a “brand content strategy.” Your brand content strategy should focus on the production of articles, photos, videos, and vines that have strong appeal to your audience. You should house these content pieces in a content repository that sits on your own site. Drive traffic to YOUR site, not someone else’s platform. Use social media channels to proliferate the content and engage with users where they are social.

The second piece of information (and maybe the most important) is to remember that there is nothing more powerful for marketing of a brand than advocacy. Having an objective person tell their friends, family, and colleagues that a brand is worthy of looking into is the greatest result a marketer can drive. Consider how you will motivate users to talk about your brand to other users on social channels. Do not worry about your brand being the “poster” of your brand story. There is much greater power putting these stories in the hands of advocates to disseminate. Your marketing strategy MUST address a plan for capturing and unleashing brand advocates on their social profiles and channels.

So social marketing is as important as ever. As always, you just need to stay on top of changing dynamics of social platforms and user behaviors. And then folks you are ready to …

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, Facebook, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Delivering the Content Your Audience Wants

When it comes to social marketing, there is only one response to the question, “what is the content your brand delivers to its audience?” The answer must be “the content they want.” Social marketing is not about delivering a marketing communication to push content on your audience.

And the second mistake most make in social marketing is thinking that their job is done when they acquire a high number of likes, followers, or fans. I like the way Nate Elliot puts it in his June, 2012 report “The ROI of Social Marketing” – “Fans have little innate value; it is what brands do with their followers – not merely that they have them – that creates value.” And this means delivering consistent value to those fans on their terms.

Lets talk about this through a case study of a leading consumer brand I recently looked at as an off-shot of some work I was doing. (Let’s just call them Brand-X)

Brand content reach and engagement

From the figure above, you are likely to think that the brand is performing well using Facebook to deliver content and capture strong reach and engagement. But when we look into real execution, things are not as pretty as they seem. First off, look at the peaks. While 500K people talking about this seems impressive it is less than 2% of the 27 million likes. It is also worth noting that the new product and service spikes came with paid sponsored posts. The content the audience reacted to most were celebrity video posts and a contest, and still, these posts reach less than 2% of the fans captured (which were likely via paid Facebook as well).

Once again, Nate Elliot expressed some interesting information. This month, the Ogilvy agency released data showing that the brand pages they manage reach just 6% of fans. For pages with more than 500,000 fans, Ogilvy says reach stands at just 2%.
Some have realized this for a bit, but were apprehensive to come out and say anything against the social media behemoth. Brands and agencies are now openly talking about their discontent. More and more brands are disillusioned with Facebook and are now placing their bets on other social sites — but few of them want to go on the record. In addition to poor Facebook measured results some see the biggest problem with Facebook is their constant rule changes.
But do not think for one second this does not mean that there is not a great value to brand social marketing. And I am not totally knocking Facebook either. But here are some points.

1) Facebook is extremely powerful when users (as opposed to brands) share the value of a product or service. Marketers may not need to focus on content distribution to Facebook, but certainly look to motivate their audience to share in all social channels.
2) Content marketing is extremely valuable. Brands need to get their marketing departments to evolve from traditional marketing communications to storytelling communication.
3) Compelling pictures and videos win audiences.
4) Think about numerous channels where content can be delivered to your users. (For example, I just did some research on a particular target audience for a brand and found out the targets were most active on Google+ and LinkedIn.)

When push comes to shove, pushing and shoving does not work in social media. Deliver compelling content YOUR AUDIENCE wants in the places that are likely to turn the best results. Think about having your own media repository and using social channels to distribute that content. Have others share it on social channels and be the place for conversations and engagement.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, content marketing, Facebook, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Digital Technologies and User Behavior Change What it Means to Be a Brand

If you look on Wikipedia for the definition of a brand, you find that it is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.” But as a marketer, I think it is much more important to think of what it means to be a brand in terms of your target audience.

Thus, I define a brand as a promise made from a company to its target audience with regards to the product(s) it sells. A brand is defined by characteristics such as quality, features, availability, and overall user experience. When done right, every single aspect of the brand definition is lived by and delivered by every employee of the company.

brand and digital

But a funny thing happened along the way. Knowledgeable marketers started using poetic justice of communication and claims of the product/service sold by the company and stretched the truth. All this in an effort to increase sales. In some cases, this resulted in members of the target audience reacting and purchasing the brand. If shoppers were unhappy, they would stop buying the product, and maybe even tell a friend. The user did not believe “the promise” and reacted. As this plight has continued throughout marketing and advertising of brands, it has spawned an overall skeptical outlook by people with regards to company claims and advertisement belief. This cynical perception did not happen overnight. It took a good 50 years or so of “Mad Men” to drive this behavior.

Fast forward to today’s world. How do people react when they feel they have been misled by product claims? How do they react when they have a bad user experience? More and more users are sharing their product experiences. Whether it is sharing with their entire network on a platform like Facebook or broadcasting it to the world on a platform like Twitter.

The promise is still part of being a brand, but it is exponentially more important today.

So now that you understand the change, let me describe for you the gigantic immense problem this creates. The stretching of the truth that companies get caught in is a big problem, but it really is not the biggest problem. The key problem today is that companies have lost their ability to build brand AND engage appropriately in the digital world, simultaneously. Too many companies treat branding as one activity and digital/social marketing as a separate implementation. Company executives need to take responsibility of this detrimental scenario.

How many companies have a responsible leader in place with experience, business knowledge, and creativity to build and retain a brand COUPLED WITH experience, business knowledge, and creativity to drive successful digital marketing? The answer to this question is very few. And even worse, the fact that brand marketing and digital marketing are siloed exacerbates the problem.

The debacle up from this problem shows its ugly face daily. There are numerous companies that do not reinforce brand positioning through their digital implementations. The people running the digital channels are most often blind to what it means to carry out a brand voice and imaginary through social engagement. Many companies do not have a digital engagement strategy that centers on upholding the brand persona.

And adding to the challenge is the fact that brand position is equally in the hands of the audience as well as the company’s hands. The audience has a voice that is stronger and moves faster than ever before. You need to have a strategy and a plan that addresses how to leverage this audience rather than ignoring their voice and power that is carried in the digital world.

I think it is imperative to understand how the world of a brand has changed due to the technology changes and more importantly, human behavior. Every company needs a leader that has the skill set to address the change. Through my experience, I have worked with companies that do not want to address the change head on. Working the corporate environment and being a positive change agent has become a slippery slope. I would not go so far as to call the two a dichotomy, but together they are definitely challenging.

It takes bold, strong, experienced leaders to navigate a company due to the real and significant changes that technology and user behavior have created. The outcome of these changes cannot continue to be ignored or swept away. Whether it is fear, lack of skill set, or don’t rock the boat corporate mentality, it is no longer acceptable to keep brand marketing and digital marketing siloed. The future of your business depends upon it.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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3 Steps to Fix Marketing Now

97% of marketing endeavors do nothing to move their audience. OK, that is not from a study. It is my own perspective. But consider the abundance of articles you see day in and day out noting marketing’s malignant state. For example …

Joe Marchese compares the state of advertising to the subprime debacle in 2008

• Joseph Jaffe hints to “The End of Advertising.”

90% of marketers are not trained in marketing performance, ROI

CMOs are missing the boat on what it means to be a modern CMO

• “While 74% of global businesses have a digital strategy, only 33% believe it’s the right strategy, and beyond that, only 21% – or less than one-fourth – believe they have the right people setting the strategy.”

needed marketing changeI could go on and on with the list above, but hopefully you have a bad enough taste in your mouth already. It would be great to talk about marketing innovation, but marketing innovation is an oxymoron. I’ll give you an example. I am an advisor to a new 1:1 brand/user content distribution company. We are a startup. How many CMOs do you think want a case study before proceeding? First off, every company that delivers case study has some spin to it. (If you want to gain some deeper insights into the flaws of case studies read what @augieray has to say about them.) And secondarily, don’t true innovators do something different rather than being me-too-ers.

According to Wikipedia, “Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, in-articulated needs, or existing market needs.” And that is exactingly what marketing needs. A better solution to meet the new changing requirements dictated by audience behavior. Audience behavior that is defined by digital, mobile, social, and the ability to validate, refute, or ignore brand advertising and communication. Marketing has done an extremely poor job at keeping up with their audience’s behaviors and usage patterns.

So what are you going to do to fix this? I have three recommendations:

1) Completely change your marketing mentality from being a sales-tangent to focusing on customer relationship building. Marketing needs to lead relationship building and demonstrate brand worthiness in the form of delivering continued value and optimization of the entire user experience. If you build a strong relationship with your customers, they will be loyal buyers and advocates. If you merely concentrate on a sale you open the door for another brand to win over a fickle customer. This change of mentality will actually yield greater success of your sales objective in the long run. Don’t be so short sighted.

2) The CMO must change or the CMO needs to be changed. An overwhelming number of top marketing executives are not active on digital, mobile, and social channels that their audience engages on. How can the emperor understand the common people if he/she does not participate where the audience does and engage with them? How can anyone put together a digital strategy that yields success if they are not a regular user in digital? Far too many CMOs (or Chief Strategy Officers) do not have digital skill sets. Far too many CMOs/CSOs do not understand user digital behavior.

3) Move to a zero-based marketing budget. Just throw out everything you’ve done in the previous year unless you are certain that it has returned positive measureable results. If we agree that marketing needs a major facelift, how can all marketing line items you do year in and year out be correct. Start clean. Your audience behavior has changed so much, it warrants a complete revamp.

I know I have brought up a number of contentious recommendations. Change is tough. No one really likes change. But as the audience behavior has dramatically morphed over the past number of years, too many marketing executives have stayed stagnant. Too many believe they can just hand digital marketing over to a young digitally sharp user and think they have things covered. Well results say this is far from true. So while company marketing leaders’ skill sets have not changed much over the years, a significant void has emerged. And it is going to take some strong willed people to make changes that are required.

Are you ready to step up to what is truly required?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, change management, digital media, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve