Category Archives: brand reputation

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

3 POVs That Define the Future of Brand Business

My professional mentality has been pretty simple for the past 8 years – evolve business marketing and strategy to follow the target audience. I bring that to my job day in and day out. I also bring that to my blog in my weekly writings that I share with you.

My blog is generally devoted to articles that are meant to help marketers be more responsible and effective at their roles. In the past month, I have written three articles that should be the guiding anthem for marketing. I did not plan it that way, but simply aiming for my blog objectives, the residual effect was writing a point of view (POV) trilogy that should define the future for successful brand business.

building a brand

Everything should always start with your target audience. It is all about them, not your brand. The democratized audience now has great control of brand reputation and position. Thus understand “The Dramatic and Fundamental Change in Marketing and What You Need to Do.” The article points out how to deliver marketing success in the age where consumer/client control has outpaced the power of businesses.

The next important change for brand marketing is the power of social marketing. Not social media, but social marketing. This means engagement with your target audience to increase awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. Not hard sales, but relationship building. You should really understand that “Social Media is NOT Social Marketing and Why It Matters.”

The changes and issues raised in the two previous referenced articles tee up “Why You Need a Chief Engagement Officer.” Your organization needs to take on change. Not for change sake, but as driven by the evolving nature and power of your target audience. While there are a few organizations making changes by adding the role of Chief Customer Officer (which is a good first step), I believe this role needs to go deeper by placing the responsibility of “engagement” with customers.

Companies are naturally resistant to change. But the current business environment demands the three changes as proposed in the three POVs, the articles mentioned. I categorically state you must make these changes to keep your brand relevant and your business successful. What is keeping you?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, change management, company organization, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

The Dramatic and Fundamental Change in Marketing and What You Need to Do

I am not a digital native. I remember when there was no Internet. I remember when brands used to put out advertisements and assertions that were not necessarily believed but difficult to refute or validate.

The Internet and digital communications allowed a shift of control of brand reputation to the consumer and purchasing business. Make no mistake. Brands can no longer make bogus claims. There is a democratized public that now plays the role of judge and jury. Technology enabled a behavioral change. Digital allows a new way for people to communicate – faster and to a larger audience.

consumer in control

The dramatic and fundamental change is that brands have lost power and control. It is now slanted to their audience. It used to be that brands could show up anywhere and push their agenda. Now, their target audience is in control and figuratively says, “I’ll let you market to me if you make it worth my while.” This changes the way brands must market to be successful. And there are still numerous brands spewing outlandish advertisements and claims without sensitivity as to how the democratized public will react.

So let’s examine two new mentalities for successful marketing in our changed world.

The first that I want to (re)introduce you to is a term that was popularized by Seth Godin – permission marketing. While the term was not originally defined by Godin, he certainly thrust the significance to a large audience. Permission marketing takes the place of interruption marketing. Marketers can no longer shove their agenda down their audience’s throat without negative ramifications and results.

From my perspective, permission marketing needs to move a gigantic step forward. It is not that brands need to literally ask their audience for permission to engage and converse, but the brands must have a strong degree of foresight as to how their communication and programs are going to be received. What this means is that brand marketers must have complete empathy for their audience and have a deep understanding and perception with regards to how their programs and communications will be received. If their audience believes that they are being sold BS, the audience will react, loud and fast. If the audience feels that they are being intruded opinion, the audience will react, loud and fast. It is as if brands need to truly understand the outcome of their marketing and ask, “Target audience – would you approve of what we are doing?” The challenge is that this permission marketing must be a validated premonition. Permission marketing means knowing your audience and how they will react ahead of time and proceeding appropriately. You cannot look at success of other marketing efforts and say, “Hey, we should do that. Just look at how many ALS Ice bucket challenge videos were made.” Is your audience really going to react the same?

The second element of change given the evolved consumer/purchasing business behavior is the supreme importance and value of word-of-mouth marketing. People believe others they can trust. Is it more likely that compelling communication of brand value will be come from a (objective) friend or the (subjective) brand? If you can motivate your audience to do your marketing for you, in there own words, you will definitely see positive results of awareness, consideration, and conversion.

If you want to be a successful marketer in today’s changed world, you must have a much greater understanding of your audience. You not only need to understand what they want and need, but you need to understand how to pre-assess their reactions. And you need to think how you will motivate them to deliver actions beneficial to your brand. This means a mentality of permission marketing is required. It also means that you need to rely on your audience to do your most compelling marketing – word-of-mouth marketing. Are you prepared for this change?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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

The Company Organization Messes Up Social Media

social media organizationWhere social media resides in the organization continues to be problematic. I have written about this issue and made suggestions in the past. But today I am writing to suggest that social does not fit into any department based on how companies are organize today. In fact this scenario hinders social media success.

Let’s start with a telling question. How many companies have a group that’s sole objective is optimizing and winning over the brand’s perceived reputation? Forget simply solving problems like most customer support organizations. Forget loyalty and lead generation as in marketing. Does any organizational group solely focus on great customer relationships and customer love? This goes beyond customer services. This is the social media marketing objective. When you take social marketing disciplines and place them in an organization that has other objectives the success and value of social gets diminished, maybe squashed.

While it is the goal of every company to generate strong revenue, different groups need to act and be motivated by other parameters beyond sales and lead generation. Sales and lead generation are certainly important, but they are short-term objectives. What about long-term objectives that drive sustainable business? Do businesses focus on this long-term sustainability anymore or are they just quarter to quarter driven. I can only think of a few companies committed to long-term success.

Consider the paramount value of social marketing – advocacy. Not only is advocacy leading social marketing outcomes, but it is also the strongest form of marketing. To have others market and suggest your product is far more effective than having the brand market the product. Different strategies and tactics must take place to spawn advocacy than the strategies and tactics to generate sales and lead generation. And yet, the residual effect of advocacy is revenue increase. The marketing group typically has lead generation and advocacy objectives. But somehow short-term objectives (lead generation) always overshadow long-term (advocacy). Thus, when social media sits in the marketing organization, the success of social is hindered because short-term objectives trump long-term objectives.

Marketing is always going to have objectives of sales and lead generation. Can marketing also be committed to post sales-conversion of loyalty and advocacy? Can the same person/group have sales/lead generation and loyalty/advocacy? The issue is that marketing has all these objectives and at the end of the day sales is what trumps all.

So when we look at social media success, understand the target audience behavior. Users are turned off by blatant sales. They want to feel comfortable with a brand. They want a great user experience. Then they will buy. So if the behavior has some precursor steps that must be accomplished in order to get to sales, should we make sure someone, some group acts in an appropriate way and gets measured on their success there?

Bottom line – marketing must change. Change is difficult and sometimes impossible at companies. If your company cannot change, then the responsibility of relationship building, customer engagement, building loyalty, building advocacy – all must be assigned to another group than your current marketing group. Change or move it somewhere, but get it done right.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand reputation, change management, social marketing, social media, social media organization, 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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Filed under ads, behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, change management, digital media, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

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

Why Marketing Must Change Due to Social Media Behavior

Let me get this right on the table. Neither technology nor hype demands the change of marketing. Rather it is the behavior of human beings usage of new technologies that demand marketers adapt.

marketing leaderBrand reputation always sat in the hands of the target audience. But now the way people use social channels to compliment or reject brands creates an exponential power for people to influence brand reputation. This is the main reason why marketing must change due to social media behavior. When brands falter, the nature of people is to call foul. And now the technology of social media creates a platform for greater consumer power. This is the case independent of a brand’s participation or lack there of on social channels. Many brands are afraid to open up a social channel in fear of what their customers might say. But anyone can post derogatory statements on Twitter, forum, review sites, and any other platform. And the use of these other channels is likely to have a more positive or detrimental effect on the brand anyway.

Earlier this week I tweeted “Social media means people see the difference between what you (brands) say and do.” Think about it for a minute. People now can (and do) call out brands in a highly social forum when they step out of line.

And this brings up a very important point. Honesty, not transparency, is a new marketing demand due to social media behavior. Too many people mistake the importance of brand transparency when they really mean brand honesty. Marketing is really about demonstrating a great value and overall user experience of your product/service. Nothing in the world is perfect. In fact, some companies may avoid perfection on purpose because the result would drive pricing up too much while the product at hand is quite sufficient and valuable for the market they serve. Transparency would mean a requirement to openly show all the warts of your business. This is not necessary. But honesty is. Be careful of stretching product claims via advertorial “poetic justice.” It is an invitation for revolt of social channels.

And there is one other thing about social media behavior you should consider. People want to share positive experiences with their friends, family, and colleagues. They express these experiences on their social space. This means that brands should go beyond the marketing of their product/service and give their target audience a reason to love them. There are many tactics that brands can use to accomplish this love. Social cause. Producer of valued added content. And many other tactics beyond product/service value that give your audience a reason to love your brand and share it.

So if there are two new punctuated rules to successful marketing it is 1) honesty, not transparency; and 2) taking a big step forward and offering reasons beyond product/service value for people to love your brand. These two approaches will truly ignite your audience. The audience will react and initiate your desired actions. This is the new successful marketing mentality.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, marketing, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve