Category Archives: marketing

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

4 Investment Musts for Social Media Success

As I talk to many new and potential clients I am constantly reminded that most companies do not know what it takes to be successful using social media. I think we are finally at the point where most believe they need to incorporate social into their business, but it feels likes the early 90s once again. In the 90s, most companies (and investors) knew that they needed to get on the Internet bandwagon but had little idea how to make it work for their business. Jump forward to 2014. Most companies know that they need to leverage digital and mobile technologies to increase their social capabilities with their target audience, but few know exactly how to invest.

Do we still think social media is free?

Social Media Investments

As I thought about the content for this article this week, I came across a headline “Marketers Lack Social Budgets, But Investments Growing In 2014.”

According to a Forrester study, “Some 28% of marketers surveyed by Forrester admit not allocating a budget to social in 2013, and an additional 55% allocated a mere 1% to 10% of their total budget, followed by 28% who invest zero, and 11% who allocate between 11% to 20%.” Empirical data supporting my experiences.

Before I get to the 4 musts, let me just say leaving any of them out destroys the possibility for success. Look at each of them as a single base hit in baseball. If you do three of them (or have three singles) and not the produce the fourth, you leave three runners on base and do not score. All four investments produce a winning run – don’t fall short.

1) People – Probably the most important aspect of a successful social effort at a company is having the right social leader and supporting cast. With regards to a social leader, companies must invest in an experienced hybrid digital and traditional marketer. Far too many organizations put leadership in the hands of a young digital millennial that has no experience driving business objectives, or in an experienced marketer that has not kept up with emerging new media. As I wrote a while back, “When Looking for Your Company’s Social Media Marketing Leader, Consider …” a dual skill set and experience is a must. Once the leader is in place, you then determine other support staff required to meet needs and synergy.

2) Content – Brands must invest in the production of great content. Content should include articles, photos, and videos. If you want your brand to stand out and be shared, stellar content is your must valuable asset. Brands need to think like publishers and producers. Great content pulls your audience to your brand’s digital assets. As I have stated before, “Content Marketing – Social Marketing – You Can’t Have One Without the Other.”

3) Tools – One of the biggest challenges is scaling social. Social requires human intervention. While we look for human interaction, it is presumptuous to think that companies can engage with every member of their target audience. Marketing automation should not be used for social engagement, but I am bullish on using technology to assist in social execution. There are an abundance of great social tools to help companies with their social programs. I suggest staying on top of new technologies, as the social tool space is making great advances. But for starters, you need to invest in three types of social tools – a) social publishing which helps you plan content calendars, manages content distribution on your social channels, and provides analytics with regards to post click through, reach, engagement, and shares; b) social monitoring and listening tool that allow you to monitor brand and category mentions; and c) influencer tool that allows you to determine top influencers in your brand space to prioritize for engagement.

4) Integration – Social cannot be in a silo. Every marketing effort and every business initiative needs to have a social component. As you develop business initiatives, the social leader needs to be involved to determine how each element can be socialized to promote brand value and motivate sharing and advocacy. Social needs to go across all business strategies.

I have outlined the four investment musts for social media success. Now the question for you … are you ready to invest in all needed social elements to drive winning results or are you just dabbling in social because you feel everyone else is? Success demands commitment and investment.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under content marketing, leadership, marketing, social business, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Digital Ignites the Human Economy – Brands Must Act

More and more people have displayed a strong disdain for corporate acts done with the sole interest of revenue and profitability. Whether it is unjust labor acts, environmental flaws, or unacceptable political positions, individuals are holding companies accountable for their operations. People want to stand by a company that shows concern for issues beyond its financial well being.

On the flipside, many consumers are seeking information and supporting companies that show strong support for communities, needy groups, and the earth preservation.

Human Economy

While I am not the first to use the term human economy, I will define it as a business condition where individuals are loyal to brands that demonstrate commitment to causes of interest and importance to them. Conversely the individuals may propagate and disseminate information on brands that take inappropriate actions against people and causes that they support.

Digital technologies have literally changed our society. We now seek and have access to an abundance of information that includes corporate activities and behavior of business leaders. It is virtually impossible to hide as more and more companies become (willingly or unwillingly) transparent.

I find it ironic that while many blame social media for the degradation of human communication and relationship building, that the exact opposite is prevalent for brand-audience relationships. People want and look for a deeper connection with the brands they purchase. They take the stand that if they are going to give companies their money and support, they want to know the brand is worthy of their contributions. The degree of (positive and negative) emotional bonding has increased as a result of digital and social media.

Shrewd companies recognize this cultural change and have incorporated relevant programs to their corporate or marketing agenda. Take the Dove “beauty from within” campaign. Think of Paul Newman’s corporate philanthropic commitment and activities. Whether these are true heart felt endeavors or not really does not matter, but rather the perception of the audience is what matters.

And now that digital and social use is the norm, corporations would be wise to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and/or adopt a social movement and utilize a social strategy to proliferate information and gain recognition.

While I would like to think that all on earth look beyond their own well-being and show a strong regard for all inhabitants of the earth, I am not quite so naive to believe this is the case. But independent of your personal convictions or not, I will tell you that corporate development of social cause is a business imperative. Our world has moved to the human economy. The people of the world are demanding more from corporate leaders. If businesses are to attract a target audience that cares way beyond corporate profits, business leaders need to change their image. And while companies work to market the new image, they need to consider how digital and social platforms will be used to listen, engage, communicate, and unleash their audience to share the brand in a most positive light.

I remember the early days of social media where most corporations were afraid to use social media because they were afraid what people would say. Well we are well past that day. Business leaders recognize that people can say what ever they want independent of the companies’ participation or not in social media. Executives must recognize the power of the human economy and adapt appropriately. Even if it is for their own selfish reason.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, change management, digital media, economy, 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

The Very Important Difference Between Emotion and Emotional in Marketing

Marketing must go through a dramatic change. This is not a superlative statement to garner interest or generate hype. It is the truth and still so many brands refuse to admit how weak and complacent they have been with their marketing efforts. Are brands really keeping up with their customers and their target audience behaviors?

The Internet, mobile, digital, and social are not over blown, new regime scare topics to create a marketing civil war. They represent the future and a growing number of marketing executives are not ready for the future. “A recent Forrester report surveyed 1,200+ global business executives and … [found] 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.”

One comment that really got me thinking was something Seth Godin said in a recent interview – “The Internet is the first medium invented in 100 years that wasn’t invented to make advertisers happy. The connection between running ads and making money is broken, probably forever. As soon as you take that out of the equation, everything we understand about marketing, manufacturing and, distribution–it all goes away. The new era of modern marketing is about the connection economy. It’s about trust, it’s about awareness, and it’s about the fact that attention is worth way more than it used to be. Attention doesn’t come in nice little bundles anymore.”

For me, yes the connection economy and trust are extremely important. But awareness and attention are just scratching the marketing surface. Awareness and attention often come from hitting on people’s emotions and being content with that “lead generation state.” But hitting people’s emotions is only the beginning. We actually want to create an emotional bond between the brand and the consumer/client. If we continually feed our customer with meaningful content/communication/engagement, then we might actually create an emotional bond rather than just stirring a few one-time hits of emotion.

Consider this correspondence (excerpt from an actual email going back and forth) I had with a sharp entrepreneur in my professional network I have great respect for. He said, “Lots of brands have been targeting our intentions by tricking us with emotions, (selling cars while showing us a hot babe…huh…) but the truth is that if you manage to reach emotions while actually targeting emotions (not intentions), then you win. It’s hard and most people/brands don’t manage to do that (for the past 40 years we’ve had the same lame ads about luxury and fragrances with good looking people in absurd pauses or celebrities with semi-moronic slogans..). They remain on the surface. They don’t go under the skin, and so to speak, to the heart. They tinker with emotions but they don’t grasp the fullness of it.”

emotions and emotional

I agree with his position and I responded, “With regards to emotion – do not mix this up with emotional bond. A brand should aim for getting their target audience emotionally connected to them. This has to happen over a course of time by continually playing to the audiences’ emotions. A good brand appeals to its users by tapping into their emotions … This is a one-time event. But a great brand does this continually to not just drive an emotion, but to obtain strong loyalty and an emotional bond.”

Our digital world has made our audience skeptical of advertisement. People can get real information across the Internet. And at the same time, the Internet/digital/mobile/social world presents an opportunity to continually disseminate valuable information and interact with the target audience.

So in essence what the new digital world has really created is a detriment for marketers that look for quick hits just to stir emotions. But at the same time the digital revolution creates an opportunity of great success for those that are committed to longer-term communication and engagement to build an emotional bond with a potential audience.

Short-term play with emotions = failure.

Long-term commitment to build an emotional bond = success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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

Social Marketing – Learn from a Nurse, Not a Doctor

Doctors-and-Nurses

This past week, I took my son, Max in for a procedure/operation. (He is doing well.) While this was an obviously concerning and caring moment for all of my family, the event played also like a strong metaphor for social marketing. And as you can tell from the title of the article, the nurses kicked butt and completely out scored the doctors in “user experience” and “brand relationship.” Let me explain …

So my son is 16 years old and went in for his first surgery ever. Not a complicated or life threatening scenario, but he was extremely uncomfortable and uptight, understandably so. Both the nurses and the doctors understand their target audience. They have been at this “business” for a long time and are seasoned professionals. Both the doctors and nurses had an objective of making the user experience as positive as could be. Their approaches to the objective differed slightly, but the nurses generated a much better outcome than the doctors.

The first nurse we met with started a conversation with my son and learned some things about him. She keyed in on the TV shows he watched and discussed episodes with him. The exchange was very pleasant and definitely took his mind off things for a bit.

Later Max met with the anesthesiologist and surgeon preforming the operation. They took a stereotypical approach of talking to a young male about sports. But you see they failed in their objective. Max is not interested in sports. His passion is in the performing arts. Max was uptight to begin with given the fact that the operation was about to take place. And then the irrelevant banter from the doctors worked him up even more. Max’s user experience was poor because the content of the conversation was not applicable to him.

Both the doctors and nurses had the same objective and approached the task with light conversation. But the key difference between the two was that one group listened to what was important to their audience and the other just assumed they understood the demographic. They both communicated and engaged, but one was right on target while the other was far off.

This could be a fable, but it was a real scenario and highlights some extremely important factors for successful social marketing. Have you ever heard the line, “I know I am wasting half of my marketing dollars; I just don’t know which half”? Well if you knew more about the people you were serving, you would deliver them content or ads that are relevant and resonate with them as opposed to broadcasting to the entire audience and serving no relevance to individuals.

To quote David Ogilvy, “Do not address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter on behalf of your client.”

Think about this … follow these social marketing steps …

UNDERSTAND
CONNECT
LISTEN
COMMUNICATE and LISTEN
LEARN MORE
REPEAT

Your marketing efforts will be much more effective as you get to understand your audience better. And understanding your audience is best achieved by listening. Do you hear me?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Nothing Unveils Customer Commitment Like Social Media

As a digital marketing executive, I see two types of clients. Type A wants to increase sales. Type B takes it a bit further and knows that to increase sales brands need to provide an exceptional user experience to sustain continuous and long-term growth.

customer commitment

Let me share with you a correspondence I had this week. I have edited some of the conversation only to respect the privacy of those involved, but the nature and essence of the correspondence prevails free of any poetic justice on my part.

Potential client – “I wondered first and foremost what your fee would be to
help us with our social media page … We are a small company with an extremely small budget.”

My response – “Really more important than getting you on track is you and your team’s ability and bandwidth to keep social in motion. You (or your team) would need to produce constant content reinforcing [your brand value] … Would you be able to commit to an article a week, curating content, and providing a POV (point of view) on issues on a regularly bases? If yes, I’d be glad to discuss how I can help and my fees.”

You see participation and lack there of truly magnifies a company’s/brand’s commitment to their target audience. If you just want to get another number signed up to your company service, social is going to be a bad marketing mix choice for your company. If you want to use social to demonstrate your subject matter expertise, sincere interest in providing solutions, and a desire to listen to what your audience says, social marketing is an awesome addition to your marketing mix.

There is no social media expert that is going to turn your social marketing effort into success unless YOU are a) truly committed to your customer and b) are willing to learn your audience’s digital behavior and adapt or reallocate time and resources to meet their evolved usage patterns? Do you believe this mentality and approach leads to continuous sales growth?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

Footnote – The response I got from the prospect was – “I hear you. I do know that it would take time out of my already busy day. That being said, I’m not so sure if I have a choice if I want to gain greater visibility equating to greater income, or do I? Your question of course is understandable, but I guess it would depend upon the actual process, and just how time consuming it would be.”

An honest assessment that many must ask themselves. I do not typically share specific client correspondence and activities with my audience, but I really think there is a great sense of reality and honesty conveyed here. It is an issue that you will likely need to consciously face.

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