The Future of Marketing

“Catch the mood and be there given that mood – just like music.”

It is really that simple. That is the future of marketing. But I want to take it a bit deeper and explain why.

Business leaders I respect talk about the importance of emotional intelligence and empathy. I too agree that  these skills are paramount. But what does that mean with regards to marketing execution?

People have been emotionally turned upside down from this pandemic. I would find it hard to believe that when this tragedy is over (and it will end), no one, is just going to return “normality” as we have known from the past. We all will have different emotions from time to time – happy ones; and not so happy ones – at various times and triggered by other events (both good and bad). Successful brands will learn to adapt as our rollercoaster life progresses through our journeys. They will need to adapt to inspire and sympathize at different times driven by their target audiences’ mood. 

If there is one example I can think of that perfectly aligns to mood swings it would be the music you listen to. Instead of thinking about compelling marketing, stop for a second and think about music that is compelling to you. You listen to music that serves your mood. When do you listen to calming music, jamming music, feel-good music. It is driven by your mood. What if your brand had this insight to its target audiences’ moods and served up something compelling at the right time?

Of course, there are many strategies, plans, executions, and data collecting and analysis to be done, but if you lead the marketing of a brand, hopefully this explains why The Future of Marketing reads like this.… 

“Catch the mood and be there given that mood – just like music.”

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Marketing Success in 3 Slides

Simple is hard. So I offer you 3 slides that describe how to drive successful marketing. The following are (simplified) excerpts from previous articles I have written.

Brand Proliferation – Slide 1

Brand marketing has to be the start of marketing.  

Brand

The brand is at the core of it all. You cannot have successful marketing without a solid brand definition and position. The goal of brand marketing is to link your identity, values, and personality with communications to your audience. Essentially, your brand is the bridge between your product and your customer. Brand marketing is not just about putting your logo and business name in as many places as possible and expecting to generate sales. 

Content

Once a strong and compelling brand definition and story have been defined, a content strategy is needed. Brands need to think like publishers. A publisher worries about producing content that people like and want to read or view. They create ways to make sure people come back and consume more. Brands have the opportunity to stay top of mind to drive brand preference. Brand content should address specific areas of interest for the target market and not necessarily talk about the brand or product/service. The topics covered should be tangentially related to brand offerings.  

Sharing

Once there is a solid content foundation and plan, then you are ready to start thinking about social media marketing. Not before. Social media platforms are a set of distribution points for your content. Social media channels allow you to share your content. But sharing the content on social channels is not enough. You need to provoke engagement, conversations, and other people sharing your content.

Sharing content on brand social channels drives increased awareness and consideration for your brand.

Advocates

As you start to use social media to distribute content, you will find specific people that actively share your brand content pieces on a regular basis. These people represent potential brand advocates. Make sure you reach out to them. When you engage with these potential influencers, learn more about things that matter to them. Listen and let their input shape future content and social posts. Advocates are not only the greatest ambassadors of brands, but they also help you zero in on compelling brand content for your target audience.

Integrating Owned, Earned, and Paid Media – Slide 2

Looking vertically across the x axis, you can see there are three time phases defined – pre-reveal, reveal, and post reveal. It is important to recognize there is opportunity and synergy for each of these phases.

The horizontals on the y axis are three different media types. Starting with owned media, it is good to leak some content early on. This could be in the form of a teaser, trailer, or even releasing excerpts before the big promotion or reveal. By doing so, you start to create some interests and following. It primes earned media for the official reveal, promotion, or release. Obviously the reveal or promotion time is when most of your content is released. But there is also an opportunity to produce and release content after the promotion. Content that talks to and summarizes the event or launch and reinforces the reveal in a compelling and entertaining way.

Earned media is leveraging your audience and advocates to help circulate and further promote your content. It starts by having content that is worthy of sharing. Assuming that is in place, you seed your content or provide references to it in places where your audience exists. 

Paid media execution takes place during the actual promotion time. This is both an economical and strategic decision. Economic because you want to minimize expenses; strategic in that it focuses at the premiere time. Maximize exposure – minimize expenses doing so.

Optimizing User Experience via Social Marketing – Slide 3

This slide above is referred to as the “A-Path” of digital marketing as we aim to build deeper relationships between brand and target audiences. There are different levels of brand-target relationships. As a brand, first you want to get your targets’ “Attention.” Then you want them to be “Attracted” to you. Once the targets are attracted to the brand, we want them to build “Affinity” for the brand. As they start to build affinity for the brand, we want the target to literally opt-in to be part of the brand “Audience.” A subset of the Audience will be power users  and look to turn these individuals into brand “Advocates.”

In the beginning of this A-Path we work off of the brand’s assets (or the non-brand digital assets – the whole universe of digital conversations and mentions such as blog posts, other twitter accounts, etc.). We monitor the entire digital space for relevant conversations and engage with the consumer where the conversations are happening. We then refer these people to the brand’s digital assets and build Affinity by producing valuable (informative and entertaining) content. As we build Affinity, we offer opportunities to join the brand assets (follow, like, register). We then identify the power users and engage one-on-one to build advocates.

In summary, I suggest starting with brand strategy. Determine your brand’s value proposition, position, and story of why you entered your business sector. Then define your target audience and have complete empathy for them. Be client/customer-focused and plan content that inspires them. Determine how you will reach them via owned, earned, and paid media. Have an engagement plan to optimize user experience using the A-Path.

Make It Happen!

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The Rubber Band Effect – The Art of Marketing Success in a Corporate World

I recently read an article on Ryan Reynolds and his marketing approach to Aviation Gin. The article is a good read, but has an implicit key takeaway worth highlighting.

Accolades for Reynolds 

“Reynolds is the creative dynamo behind some of the most amusing, sardonic and memorable ads of the past couple of years.” – He is a natural. 

Reynolds has one Advantage

“Not having to deal with bureaucracy, hierarchy and corporate bloat, he said, gives him a competitive edge.”

This is a luxury that most of us in marketing positions do not have. No matter how stellar of a marketer one is, there is always an executive or client that challenges them and they will have to answer to (not necessarily a bad scenario).

It is a delicate balance for marketers to deliver a) strategy and plans that they know will drive success and b) strategy and plans that they know will appeal to governing stakeholders. The first step is to understand your “management’s” biases as compared to your perspective of the prudent and successful marketing game plan. As a general rule, the correct approach is the intersection of the two as shown in this venn diagram:

But here is the catch. If you continue to provide marketing strategy and plans that just adhere to stakeholder bias, can your subject-matter-expertise be leveraged to drive innovation and greater success for the brand? I would argue the answer is no. And my suggested answer should be considered by the stakeholder as well – because, in fact, they also want supreme success for their brand.

Thus, I introduce the rubber band effect. As a marketer, you should try to “stretch” your stakeholders’ perspective, but to a limited amount such that you do not lose their respect and trust. A rubber band has a degree of elasticity and if stretched too far it snaps. Same is true in appealing to executives. You cannot push too far that you make them snap and lose your respect and trust.

Now, I will flip to the other side as well. Executives cannot handcuff their teams if they truly want innovation and growth. True leaders embrace ideas and perspective beyond their own knowledge, experience, and viewpoint. They too need to stretch their perspective rubber band and comfort level.

In summary, the rubber band effect is all about stretching your modus operandi a bit beyond given rules and subjectivity. How can anyone in any facet of life have progress if we do not stretch “what is” to “what could be?”

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Why Brand Marketing Resurgence in Necessary

branding

I can tell in less than five minutes if a brand’s content and social media presence is going to drive success. It starts with a two-minute conversation with the CMO or CEO followed by a three-minute conversation with the person that manages the brand’s content and social media channels.

The conversation/questions for the CMO/CEO are:

1) What is your brand position?

2) What is your value proposition?

3) What is the tone of your brand?

4) What is the compelling reason to buy your product/services?

5) Who is your target audience?

The questions for the person managing the brand’s content and social presence are the same five questions plus two more:

1) What conversations do you monitor and how do you monitor them?

2) How do you determine if you should engage in a conversation?

The answers to the first five questions should be almost exactly the same from the “Chief” and content/social media manager. Unfortunately, they rarely are. This is because a) the brand definitions and answers to the brand questions are not simply and concisely defined or b) if the brand definitions are defined within a company, they are not explicitly defined for the content manager such that they insure all communication reinforces that brand definition, or at a minimum, does not align with the brand definitions.

Regarding the two additional questions I ask communication/social media managers, they reveal whether or not a company uses target audience biases, perceptions, and tone to shape their communication. Explicitly stated, you must monitor what your target audience is saying as it relates to your brand, your competition, and product category your brand resides in as a whole. You must also actively engage with your target audience in these three scenarios:

1) When they speak directly to you,

2) When they speak about you, by mentioning your company or brand, and

3) When they mention something specific about the product/service category you are part of.

When it comes to brand communication, you cannot just do it. It seems that a focus “performance marketing” has minimized companies’ concentration on brand strategy and planning. “Hackers” replace strategists. Truth is you need both.

Necessity dictates that brand marketing, as a discipline and practice, requires resurgence. Brand communication, story telling, content marketing, social media marketing, and influencer marketing cannot be successful without it!

 

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You Are Part of Something Bigger Than This

pxfuel.com

Last night I watched Beyoncé’s new visual album on Disney + with my family.

A line from one of the songs kept hitting me –  “you are part of something bigger than this.”

YES.

We are a part of something bigger than each of us individually. Can’t you see this?

And now, more than ever, we need to be united. Each of our part in this thing is bigger than the individual in us.

And in this specific time – we are failing. We are too busy making sure our “individual freedom” is protected. Over a mask? A mask?

Wear the mask. A mask. A mask.  Is that such a big thing to ask?

Care about a human you might know or not know. We are talking about a human living soul.

Is that a real sacrifice of individual freedom? A mask for a human life?

If you cannot do this in a united fashion with every brother and sister of the human race within the “united” states, then I really question whether you want to be part of the “united” states. And if that is the case, “you are NOT part of something bigger than this” – but the rest of us are!

 

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If You Are Having Trouble Determining Your Daily Social Posts …

Social Posting Challenge

Brands need to stay top of mind with regards to their target audiences. One of the most successful ways to do so is to have compelling social media posts that your audience loves. The key here is to be customer/audience-centric as opposed to pitching your products/services.

As I talk to many brand strategists, content marketers, social media/community managers, I hear the challenges they have coming up with captivating posts day-in and day-out. If you or someone on your team is experiencing this difficulty, I have a method you should consider. It comes down to three applications:

  • Themes
  • Cadence
  • Channels

Let’s start with themes. Think of post stylizations such as memes, questions, quotes, facts, testimonials, polls, user-generated content, etc. Also think of topics that are tangentially related to your brand. For example, if your product is a fitness apparatus, health and exercise content should be provided. If your service is business consulting, best practices in your functional expertise is an appropriate theme. When determining themes, you should consider areas that reinforce your brand position, as well as fun, entertaining, and educational posts. List out all theme possibilities.

With regards to cadence, there are two factors – 1) cadence of each theme and 2) cadence of posts on each social channel. Consider a cadence of once a week for each theme. The cadence for each social channel varies. Here are a few tips I have found to be most productive for social channels postings as a function of my experience managing a content calendar and continued research:

 

Facebook – two posts a day.

Instagram – one post a day, Instagram stories can be more frequent.

Twitter – Multiple posts each day – even 10/day.

LinkedIn – for brands, 4/5 per week.

Pinterest – continuous updates, weekends work best.

 

While I make these recommendations, I encourage you to post, test, and look at data as it applies to your social presence. I have executed many “best practices” and the converse of best practices and found that each brand, each audience, react different. Best practices are not necessarily best for your brand.

Next, you need to understand how to post on each social platform you manage. You cannot post the same copy and visual on every social platform. Understand the nuances of each social platform. Instagram is image driven. Short and punchy copy is best for Twitter. Facebook requires something that catches people immediately whether that is a picture, the first three seconds of a video, or post copy that pulls in people immediately. Determine what themes work best on which social channels. Vary post execution for each theme as appropriate for the social platform it resides on.

 

Additional help is here – I previously provided a Content Marketing Series, which goes into much more detail on specific execution. The series is a set of 12 articles giving you a complete game plan for content marketing (not just social posts). In one of the articles, “Developing a Content Marketing Strategy I provided an example showing you how to relate Themes, Cadence, and Channels into execution plan as follows:

cm106-2

Using a table like above, you can then detail a content calendar for each day, for each social channel, which is theme specific like so:

content calendar

Planning is key – you cannot just wing it. Now you need to execute, look at results, and make modifications driven by data (engagement, likes, comments, shares, referral traffic from social to your site, etc.).

Please feel free to reach out if you have questions (add a comment below or email me at social.steve.goldner@gmail.com).

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The Case for Brand Marketing Taking the Lead

Businesswoman hand placing or pulling wooden Dominoes with BRAND text. and Marketing, Advertising, Logo, Design, Strategy, Identity, Trust and Values. Product development concept

COVID19 will have lasting effect- yes most unfortunate for people that have suffered and have loss loved ones. But I believe it is also a wake-up call on the importance of brand strategy, planning, execution and brand marketing as a whole.

Christine Moorman, T. Austin Finch Sr. Professor of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University states “The economic and social disruptions caused by the virus will continue for many months and a ‘new normal’ for business seems likely in the long run. As a profession, business function, and organizational activity, marketing sits at the center of corporate responses to these challenges as companies shift their go-to market activities.

And a recent Gartner CMO Survey confirms the importance of Brand Strategy …

Gartner Brand

Does your company have someone that actively owns and delivers brand strategy? If not, it is likely time to stop solely focusing on urgent company matters and devote time to important company matters. Too often, the marketing organizations get sucked into fire drills and forgets long term position, success, and viability. COVID19 has certainly caused this to happen in many companies.

Typical job descriptions emphasize that a brand manager is responsible for the overall image of a product or person. Key elements of the job are researching the marketplace to determine where the product or client fits in, developing marketing and advertising strategies and managing those budgets, helping create designs and layouts for print and digital advertising concepts signage and collateral, overseeing promotional activities, analyzing pricing and sales, and (re)evaluating how the brand can appear to a wider consumer base.

But in today’s time, successful brand marketers must broaden their responsibilities to include storytelling – because that is what people react to. That is what people hold on to. That is how they get to value and advocate for your brand.

In a previous article, I shared how a cohesive brand strategy must include content marketing, social marketing, and working with influencers due to your customers’ behaviors using online channels.  () Make sure your content and social media post and engagement are empathetic to the needs of your audience. Show that you understand their current situation. See the article for a deeper explanation of how brand, content, sharing, and influence are integrated.

As your target audience expands or changes, continue to adapt a brand strategy for a company’s target market. Successful brand management requires an ability to constantly adapt and learn – too many marketing leaders work on a brand strategy at start-up and do not continue to reformulate the strategy. The audience’s behaviors continue to evolve, the marketplace continues to evolve, but brand strategy and communication lag or never get the required attention and modifications. Brand leaders must continually create strategies that will change how people perceive the brand. Customers need to be at the core of everything brand managers do. They have to work hard to ensure that a brand remains recognizable, up to date, and exciting to potential clients.

It seems to me that brand marketing importance diminished in the past decade and those that are guilty of letting brand strategy drift are paying the price now (and will in the future). “In a world where products are heavily commoditized, consumers are now choosing where to shop based on a brand’s values, not the range of products on offer.

It is time to reinvest in your brand marketing endeavors!

 

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Cohesive Brand Strategy, Content Marketing, Social Marketing, and Influencers

brand content

 

Brand marketing is paramount now as we see challenges in the business world and disparate inequalities across gender, race, sexual preference, and ethnicity. I recently highlighted the importance of brand marketing in the article “Brand Marketing – Now More Than Ever.”

Brand marketing is the start of your content, social, and influencer marketing strategy and planning. These four marketing functions must be integrated under one cohesive organization.

 

Brand
The brand is at the core of it all. You cannot have successful content, a social presence, or influencers without a solid brand definition and position. As I previously stated in the article referenced above, “The goal of brand marketing is to link your identity, values, and personality with communications to your audience. Essentially, your brand is the bridge between your product and your customer. Brand marketing is not just about putting your logo and business name as many places as possible and expecting to generate sales. Many times, the importance of brand marketing gets overlooked, as it takes time. Many marketing departments are focused on short-term goals, rather than nurturing long-term goals that impact the entire business, like building a brand.” (Source)

As you look to socialize a brand to a target audience, the marketing team must define a great brand story complete with the company’s motivation for being in business and its value and distinction.

 

Content
Once a strong and compelling brand definition and story have been defined, a content strategy is needed. Brands need to think like publishers. A publisher worries about producing content that people like and want to read or view. They create ways to make sure people come back and consume more. Brands have the opportunity to stay top of mind to drive brand preference. Brand content should address specific areas of interest for the target market and not necessarily talk about the brand or product/service. The topics covered should be tangentially related to brand offerings. Do not underestimate the importance of content as part of the marketing and social media strategies and plans. (See Content Marketing Series for a detailed methodology for creating a content plan.)

 

Sharing
Once there is a solid content foundation and plan, then you are ready to start thinking about social media marketing. Not before. Social media platforms are a set of distribution points for your content. (See Integrating Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media for more information.) Social media channels allow you to share your content. But sharing the content on social channels is not enough. You need to provoke engagement, conversations, and other people sharing your content.

Sharing content on brand social channels drives increased awareness and consideration for your brand.

 

Influencers
As you start to use social media to distribute content, you will find specific people that actively share your brand content pieces on a regular basis. These people represent potential brand advocates. Make sure you reach out to them. Your social community manager should engage with one on one – it may be as simple as saying thanks. When you engage with these potential influencers, learn more about things that matter to them. Listen and let their input shape future content and social posts. Advocates are not only the greatest ambassadors of brands, but they also help you zero in on compelling brand content for your target audience.

 

 

For far too long, brand, content, social and influencer marketing have been isolated in company organizations. All these marketing disciplines and practices need to come under one leadership umbrella. If you would like to discuss and learn more about how your company can integrate strategy and execution of these functional areas, please reach out to me at social.steve.goldner@gmail.com – I am available full-time or on a project basis.

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Brand Marketing – Now More Than Ever

brand marketing

 

It is a tough time for businesses. And it is even tougher if your company does not have a recognizable brand and brand reputation.

So, in these tough times, I ask you, how important is brand marketing?

Before we answer that question, let’s make sure we are all on the same page and agree what brand marketing is – nailing down a definition is more difficult than one might think.

I googled “brand marketing” and here are a couple of definitions I found at the top of the search …

“Brand marketing is an approach to communications, sales, product, and service that grows the asset of brand equity.” (Source) For me, this does not say that much and it breaks a rule I learned in grade-school – that is using the same word within a definition … “Brand marketing is … brand equity.”

Next …

“Brand marketing promotes your products or services in a way that highlights your overall brand.” (Source) Once again, the grade-school rule is broken here. In this article, the definition continues to tell us what the goal of brand marketing is, but really does not define it …

“The goal of brand marketing is to link your identity, values, and personality with communications to your audience. Essentially, your brand is the bridge between your product and your customer. Brand marketing is not just about putting your logo and business name as many places as possible and expecting to generate sales. Many times, the importance of brand marketing gets overlooked, as it takes time. Many marketing departments are focused on short-term goals, rather than nurturing long-term goals that impact the entire business, like building a brand.”

Not a definition, but that’s pretty good in my opinion.

Brand is to company as personality is to person. So, try to look at your company as a personality. What are the TRUE characteristics of your company with regards to what you stand for as it relates to the audience you serve, the employees in your company, and the product and services you sell? As Simon Sinek often says, start with the “why” of your company as opposed to the “what.”

 

If you really want to invest in building a strong brand, I suggest the following steps:

1) Work hard on a positioning statement

Consider the following positioning template:

  • For …………….………… [target customer]
  • Who ……………….……. [key qualifier – form]
  • Our product is a ….. [product category]
  • That provides ………. [key benefit]
  • Unlike ………………….. [main competitor]
  • Our product ……….… [key point of differentiation]

The purpose of the positioning statement is 1) to know exactly who you are, 2) to do a gut check on your knowledge of your target customer and validation that you really deliver them value, and 3) to make sure you have distinct differentiation relative to your competition. The positioning statement is not something you specifically communicate. It validates that you have something truly compelling. The late Peter Drucker once stated, “In most American companies, marketing still means no more than systematic selling rather than its true meaning: Knowing what is VALUE for the customer!”

2) Answer the following: Why are you in business? What is the passion within the company? Besides selling your products or services, why was the business started? What is the story behind the why?

3) Look in the mirror. Is your company REALLY what you say it is? Is the company, it’s executives and employees truly practicing and living the value system you state?

4) Build content to continually reinforce your brand. Tell stories, don’t sell products. Yes, you can mention products and service, but execute performance marketing and selling products through other appropriate roles and responsibilities within the company.

5) Identify “influencers” who believe and communicate your same value system. Build relationships with them. Remember, real influencers are people who will advocate for your brand because they love what you do.  (See more on influencers here and here.)

6) Work to build an emotional bond with your audience. This is done through content marketing, social marketing, customer service, customer engagement, and all other aspects and touch points of customers’ experiences.

Never has brand marketing been so important, especially in these hard economic times. The political, pandemic, and racial injustice environments that we live in today highlight that purchase decisions go way beyond the specific product or service conversion. People look to support brands they believe in and ones that carry their equivalent value system. Brand marketing sells the company. And when times are rough your company will be rewarded if you have worked on and portrayed a strong brand image via brand marketing.

 

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Content Marketing Series

content marketing

Content Marketing – Here is a step-by-step plan to drive successful content marketing for your brand.

A few years ago, I was contracted by an influencer platform to write a content marketing plan for their blog.  That platform has been acquired and the plan is no longer available on the web.  Thus, I am sharing the content marketing plan with you on my blog.

The following articles provide a step-by-step methodology for content marketing to yield great results:

 

Content 101: Content Marketing Goals and Objectives

Content 102: Determining your Target Audience for Content

Content 103: Leveraging Your Brand Position to Produce Compelling Content

Content 104: Social Audits to Drive Content Marketing

Content 105: Messaging Strategy Before Content Strategy

Content 106: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

Content 107: How Do You Know Your Content Will Pay Dividends

Content 108: Content Marketing Metrics

Content 109: The Power of Orchestrated UGC – (User Generated Content)

Content 110: Earned Media – Finding Influencers to Distribute your Content

Content 111: What Does It Mean to Produce Data Driven Content?

Content 112: How to Determine Which Content is Driving Success for Your Brand

 

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

 

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