Category Archives: brand marketing

The Social Marketing Interest Pyramid – Successful Social Marketing By Industry Sector

Do you think there are greater interests hearing what Beyoncé has to say in social media or greater interest in a bar of soap? Beyoncé clearly wins out. But that does not mean that there is not a strong opportunity for less interesting brands to create meaningful and measurable social marketing presence. You just need to understand your place in the world and have an applicable strategy and plan. Or better yet, you need to understand your target audience’s world and where you can effectively and appropriately fit in.

Without a doubt, the sports and entertainment industry is at the top of the social marketing interest pyramid. People hunger for information, pictures, videos, and stories about famous people. Heck, some may not be famous. Just a bit crazed or out of the norm in what they do. Just look at the success of reality TV.

social marketing interest pyramid The next level on the social marketing interest pyramid is nightlife and traveling. Here there is very strong interest by many people with regards to “what shall we eat?” and “where should we go?”

Next and closely related is food and fitness. How many recipe sites can there actually be? Just ask my wife and I as we try to plan an evening dinner that works for the entire family and doesn’t take over an hour to prepare. Fitness is also a highly popular topic for perpetual exercisers or people looking to lose weight quick. While this industry group has a very strong digital and social presence and interests, I would also say it is the most saturated.

The point with all these industry sectors that are highly scoured on the Internet and other digital applications is that even though there is great interest, you must produce awesome, unique, and compelling content to rise and be heard above the noise.

The next-level of social interests comes from brands that are social movements or can closely tie a social movement to their brand.   Probably the pinnacle example of a social marketing meets social movement is last year’s ALS Challenge. Now of all the worthy causes in the world, do you think that many caring people had ALS charity on the top of their list? ALS did a great job of spreading awareness and support for their cause via social marketing. And then there are other for profit brands that can closely tie into a social movement. For example a beer company that takes on socially responsible drinking. Or using an industry sector mentioned in the previous grouping, a social program for “a better you” from a fitness brand. Academic tutoring; health products; technology companies investing in schools – all of these (and others) are examples of aligning a social movement to product/service offerings.

Then there are brands that solve problems that naturally meet the needs of a select group. These types of brands do best to talk about problem solving … the problems their product/service were created to overcome. This is far more effective in winning an audience than speaking about the produce/service specifically. Typically this is the case for B2B companies but there are definitely companies in the B2C realm that fall into this category (i.e. tax services, lawn care, etc.)

At the bottom of the social marketing interest pyramid are utility brands such as personal hygiene, soaps, consumer package goods (CPG), etc. Many people would say why would I want to engage with these brands. Do I really want someone posting about good soapsuds or something like that? But there really is a grand social opportunity for these brands. These types of brands must have a complete understanding of their target audience. The audience’s interests, motivations, and overall behavior. Brands in this category must play to their audience, not a brand agenda. Let me give you two brands that do a stellar job by playing to their audience as opposed to their product. The first is Dove soap. Dove understands that their market is primarily women. They understand their markets’ challenges and build social campaigns that promote women’s self esteem, leadership and inspiration. The second example of a brand truly understanding their audience and delivering content and social engagement to meet their interest is Red Bull. Their audience is likely a young male looking for extreme and crazy adventure. Red Bull works like a media outlet fueling their audience with awesome content to garner much awareness and loyalty from their target audience.

What I hope you get from this article is that, yes, there are some brands that are inherently positioned for social marketing as a nature of their brand category. There are others that seem like they would not fit, but that is really not the case. Think about developing a social movement that makes sense for your brand. Think about a social cause driven by audience (as is the case with Dove). Think about social memes driven by audience (as is the case with Red Bull).

Social marketing works for all brand categories. Sometimes the brand category makes it easy to produce compelling content and generate engagement. But if it is easy, it is likely that there is more competition for the ears and minds of your audience. So you must make sure you are providing something unique and worthy of attention in a crowded space. If your brand does not seem to be in a category that people want to socialize, gain a solid understanding of your audience and play to their interests and motivations as highlighted in the Dove and Red Bull examples. In any event, use social marketing wisely and you will increase loyal customers and advocates.

Make It Happen!

Social Steve

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Magnifying Business Integrity to Market Brand Trust

business integrity

Last week, I wrote an article, “Successful Marketing is a Matter of Trust.” I suggest reading it, but the general tone is that creative advertisement is worthless unless there is truth behind it. In fact today trust may be the most important factor in winning over customer/client audiences.

As social marketing has evolved and become a key element of a brands marketing mix, many people are talking about building relationships and trust. Having strong relationships ultimately leads to a strong pipeline of sales. Establishing trust motivates initial consideration, sales, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing. But relationships and trust are not attributes reserved for the marketing department. Maybe it is the marketing department that looks to develop and leverage customer relationships and trust. But it is everyone’s job in the entire organization to increase relationships and trust.

What really surprises me most of all is that with all this blabber of relationship and trust building that social marketing spawns, no one is talking about the pinnacle prerequisite. That is integrity, or business integrity. Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” Business integrity is doing right by your target audience. It really comes down to doing something for your customers as opposed to being in business just to satisfy a corporate agenda. How many businesses live in this culture? Yes, I believe all businesses should strive for strong revenue and profitability, but they should do so by delivering value to their target audience. I think most companies start out this way. But for some the lure of money acts like an addictive drug and reshapes focus and true goals somewhere down the line.

Now don’t get me wrong. Please do not read me as a naïve businessperson looking for companies to be actors in a Disney fairytale movie. Today, there is a much greater need for business integrity than in years past. It comes down to two audience expectations. First, as the customer characteristics change, business integrity has become not only more important, but paramount. More than 85% of millennials correlate their purchasing decisions (and their willingness to recommend a brand to others) to the responsible efforts a company is making. (Source – Millennials – The Next Generation of Consumers) The second reason that business integrity is a must is due to changing social behavior. People pass judgment on companies’ operations, practices, and commitment. The democratized public has a strong voice that travels wide and fast in our new digital world. The general public has demonstrated that they will speak their mind about worthy brands and questionable one. More and more whistleblowers have emerged because they digital world gives them power they lacked prior to the emergence of digital technologies. We have two types of whistle blowers now – both employees of a company and the brand’s target audience.

So lets assume you buy the importance of business integrity. As a marketing executive, you should magnify your company’s business integrity. This is for one simple reason – people judge companies on perceived integrity and demonstrating it wins customers. Here is an old cliché you should consider executing – “We do what we say and say what we do.” That’s right … go ahead. Make sure your corporate communication is actually reflective of your true business culture. If you have policies and procedures crafted for delivering excellence to your customers, make sure you really adhere to them. If you are committed to delivering value, stick to it. Don’t squeeze out dollars for operational costs at the expense of customer user experience. Use social media, content marketing and other digital platforms to amplify what you are doing. Your audience wants to hear how you are helping worthy causes, solving their problems, and generally leading business operations that are worthy of their purchase and loyalty.

Marketing is easiest when you don’t need to make something up. It is easiest when you have a product or service that is truly valuable to a target audience. It is easiest when you don’t have things to hide and worry about. It is easiest when your company has true integrity to deliver value where revenue and profit are the outcome. It is easiest when you have true business integrity. So go ahead. Don’t be bashful. Flaunt your business integrity and why you deserve to win the hearts and minds of your target audience.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Successful Marketing is a Matter of Trust

trust marketing

What are the brands you patronize and continually purchase? I’ll bet they are brands you respect and trust. Creative advertisements can get your attention, but if the brand generates unsubstantiated claims, their trust is lost. How many brands do you support and purchase that you do not trust?

Marketing is about winning over customers. If you accept this objective and goal then stop and think about your marketing activities. Is strategy based upon outlandish hype, sizzle, and claims, or are you really understanding your target audience and developing communications and establishing engagement to build relationships and win trust? Fewer than 25% of U.S. online consumers trust ads in print publications, and the numbers are even worse for digital media. (Source) 84 percent of millennials not only don’t like traditional advertising, but even more importantly, they don’t trust it. (Source)

Trust-based marketing focuses on customer advocacy tactics that help the target audience make informed purchase decisions based on knowledge of marketplace options and objective advice.

Now I am not saying that creativity does not play an imperative role in marketing. Creativity is paramount. But creativity aimed at trust is much more productive and rewarding than Super Bowl – like sensationalism. People have a great appetite for relationships with entities they understand and trust. Brands need to have empathy and understand this emotion in order to win the heart and minds of consumers.

So how do you build trust? Here are ten ways …

1. Develop marketing activities that aim to win the relationship. Not win the sale. If you succeed in winning a strong relationship, you will not only win the sale, but win an advocate as well.

2. Make promises you can and WILL keep.

3. Work to get your clients and customers to vouch for you.

4. Consider corporate social responsibility and adopt a cause.

5. Commit to and develop clear and straightforward content. Include facts and customer anecdotes.

6. Allow customers to post reviews and don’t vet the reviews.

7. When you make errors, be honest and admit your mistake.

8. Develop, maintain, and demonstrate your brand personality. Highlight people behind the scenes.

9. Promote earned media that validates your brand.

10. Respond promptly to questions directed to you and those that mention your brand in social spaces and digital spaces.

If you do all these things first and foremost, then sprinkle some creative dust on top of your operations. Far too often, brands start with a creative direction and go from there. Then end up producing something that is aesthetically impressive, but lacks brand realism and is disjointed from the brand personality. Work your trust issues first. I guarantee you will see winning marketing results.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Storytelling Must Be In-Line with Brand Persona

Everyone is talking about storytelling like it is the Messiah for marketing. Actually, I think it is pretty important. Not the Messiah, but definitely a very important part of a brand’s marketing mix. But here’s the question no one has really put on the table. What if the brand story is fiction rather than non-fiction? Or to be a bit more direct, what if the stories the brand produces have nothing to do with the brand value proposition or the brand’s persona?

I bring up the question of brand storytelling alignment with what the brand stands for in light of a recent marketing campaign by McDonald’s. Rick Ferguson did an excellent job capturing “The Danger of McStorytelling.” He highlights McDonald’s “Signs” commercial and its debacle. The ads show McDonald’s Golden arch signs with caring messages rooted in the community.

McDonalds Signs

McDonald’s attempts to show a soft side by trying to say “At McDonald’s, we care. We’re more than just purveyors of empty calories; we’re a part of your community, too.” Seems nice and compelling like motherhood and apple pie. And while there are questions whether the signs are fictitious or not (Photoshop can do wonders), the real issue is that the campaign and story is totally out of line with McDonald’s value proposition and brand persona. People do not believe that McDonald’s cares as much as the signs display. It does not fit their personality. It is outside of the value proposition they deliver to their market. And thus, the public used digital and social platforms to create an uproar and protest.

There are a number of other brands that have failed in the same vein. I know this seems a bit twisted, but even though storytelling is a strong marketing ploy, you cannot just tell stories. Your stories must synch with your brand position and persona.

In an article I wrote back in 2010 “Marketing Leadership (with a hint of Social Media)”, I talked about the need for having a position statement defined. The positioning statement template looks like this:

• 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]

I stated, “The formation of the positioning statement is done to know exactly who you are.” I later go on to explain that all marketing communication should be tested against the positioning statement to make sure the brand persona is reinforced or at least not in opposition to what the brand value is.

Some think that taking time to define their positioning statement is just an academic exercise. But when we look at marketing campaigns like the McDonald’s campaign above, you got to wonder if “creative marketing leaders” really understand some fundamentals of successful marketing.

You should start with defining the brand position at a minimum. But I think you should take it a step further. What does your brand stand for? What is the …

• Brand vision
• Brand promise
• Brand personality

Define these. Make pretend your brand is a person. What would that person’s characteristics be? When you have this in place you are ready to do your marketing. Then you are ready to do some storytelling (among other activities).

If you just go ahead and produce a creative campaign without making sure it is in line with your brand persona, you end up getting egg on your face. Or is that Egg McMuffin on your face.

Be smart. Start with the basics before you get creative.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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In Brands We Trust, Or Maybe Not

in brands we trust

I look at the recent debacles of Brian Williams and Bill Cosby and I am reminded how important trust is not only for people but brands too. Before the public learned that Brian Williams had embellished the truth, Williams was ranked as the 23rd most trusted celebrity in the country. After his statements about being in the middle of combat war were questioned, he fell to 835 on the list (according to The Marketing Arm). (Source) Bill Cosby had the persona of a great family man and positive role model. Then a plethora of drugging and rape allegations resurfaced. Rightfully so, his persona and brand are shattered.

What is the take away for marketers? Your persona, or brand can be destroyed by one false step. Your trust can be demolished by one bad move. Trust is something you earn and win perpetually. You always need to work to establish and sustain trust from your target audience.

I believe that brand trust is exponentially more important today than days prior to digital technology. Prior to the ubiquitous use of digital technologies and devices, almost all information about a brand and their products and services came from, and were distributed by the brand. Today, that is not true. If you do a search for a product or service on the Internet and social platforms, you will find more people referencing the brand than communication coming from the brand. Brand reputation and trust is no longer established by a fabricated company design by a company, but rather is in the hands of the democratic republic of digital users.

So given this reality, brands must now have a strategy for managing and influencing their reputation and trust factor. I really like an approach I read in a recent blog post …

Review regularly – Regular auditing of brand perception will help to assess threats and weaknesses – give you some foresight around areas to watch and emerging risks.
Show empathy – It is important to update your audiences on a regular basis and act to show that the safety and well-being of your customers is your number one priority.
Talk naturally – Consumers tend to respond badly to overwrought messages that sound too corporate or too familiar online.
Act fast – The first 24 hours of a crisis are when people are turning to each other for answers. Be ready to respond.
Become the hub of the issue – Since you know that people are looking for information on a topic, become the hub of all information. While you can’t control the conversation, make sure your opinion is prominently seen and demonstrates authority.
(Source)

There are a couple of things I would add to the bullet points above. First off, be truthful. It is easy for bogus claims and statements to be questioned and verified as false when you have so many looking and watching what you are doing. And if even one digital user unearths unsubstantiated statements, he/she has a strong way of voicing their concerns on platforms that move information to a large audience at lightning speed.

The second element I would add to the bullet points is that companies that look to win over a target audience should consider supporting a social cause that makes sense for their business. 90% of Americans are more likely to trust brands that back social causes.

While I was doing some research on issues related to brand trust, I found a very interesting point highlighted in a blog post by Bruce Turkel. In his article “Brian Williams is Toast” he talks about Bill Clinton lying when he said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Today, Clinton is one of the world’s most beloved politicians. Why wasn’t his trust destroyed? It comes down to expectations. Everyone expects politicians to lie so when he did so it really was not a big deal. Conversely, we expect journalists to not only be objective, but even more importantly, we expect them to be completely honest in their reporting. As a brand, ask yourself, what does my audience expect from me and how can I make sure I deliver. Consider Zappos, a well-respected and trusted brand. One of their company mottos is to “exceed expectations” and they deliver on this promise.

If you want to see a list of the most trusted brands, consider checking out “The 120 Most Trusted Brands” and “Top Brands: Most Trustworthy” among other resources you can find on the web. Loyalty goes hand and hand with trust. Within marketing the “net promoter score” often used as a metric to measure brand loyalty. The net promoter score takes into consideration brand “promoters,” “passives,” and detractors and applies them to the model. You can learn about NPS here and here.

The reason why I say brand trust is so much more important today than in previous years are due to digital technologies and platforms. These technological advancements have strongly changed the perceptions and behaviors of our culture as they relate to the product and services they purchase. I used the Brian Williams and Bill Cosby examples of losing trust because of the widespread coverage. But remember, your failures that lead to losing brand trust can diminish your reputation and destroy you just like the Williams and Cosby scenarios have killed their reputation, persona, and brand. Have a strategy and plan to continually win and sustain trust from your audience.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Greater Marketing Innovation In-House or Out-of-House? It is One Tough Question

inhouse - out-of-house

If you have been to The SocialSteve Blog before, you know I am extremely committed to providing marketing guidance and tips to help you in your professional success. But this blog post is different. I ask more questions than providing answers. I hope the questions that I raise make you think, rethink, and consider how we can drive much greater successes in the organizations we lead, manage, and work for.

So the question as stated in the title is whether there is greater marketing innovation that comes from outside consultants, agencies, and third party partners than in-house marketers? And based upon my experience as a current business marketing strategist and having worked in a digital marketing agency, I would say the resounding answer is yes. But I am not satisfied with my own experience. I have had discussions with a number of people to get their views. I have spoken to CMOs of Fortune 500 companies and much smaller companies. I have spoken to professionals that have graduated Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, other top and mid tier colleges and universities. I have spoken to high-level marketing and business development folks in leading sports, entertainment, retail, B2B, consumer goods, and other business. And yes, I have spoken to some very smart and talented people that have so much to offer but are untapped.

So granted, I have not done a scientific experiment, but I have gone much further than my own personal experience to get a perspective on the question, and further more, an explanation for the answer. And clearly most people agree … there is much greater innovation coming from outsiders than insiders when it comes to marketing. But is this to say that there is better talent in marketing consultants than client side markets? Absolutely not! So what is the issue?

I believe that existing organizations have rules (both formal and informal) that stifle creativity and innovation. Employees have set mandates and protocol they are expected to adhere to. Not that outside consultants have carte-blanche freedom to do whatever they want and are not held to specific tasks and guidelines, but they are not faced with the same rigor and formalities that often hamper innovation.

Now I am speaking as a consultant and so it may be difficult to say, but there is no reason why in-house marketing strategists, planners, and implementers should not be able to deliver the high-quality, highly impactful work of out of house marketers. I believe it is time for established organizations to look at their culture and reassess. I do believe that many start-ups have environments that promote and motivate creativity and innovation, but somewhere along the way businesses often loose this mentality and persona.

As a successful marketer, I find the need to constantly adapt and be agile as my environment and playing field evolve. Heck, I was around before there was any digital marketing, and now I would say a majority of my work, experience, and deliverables are in the area of digital marketing. So if successful marketers must demonstrate agility and evolution to continue to be successful, doesn’t the organizational environment where they practice their trade need to also morph?

As I said in the beginning – I am asking more questions than providing guidance in this post. I believe I have hit upon a couple issues – 1) Greater marketing innovation out-of-house, and 2) An in-house environment that clamps creativity and innovation. But I am not emphatically saying this is the case. My experience and initial investigation has led me to my conclusions. Go ahead. Tell me I am wrong. Give me your perspective. I want to learn from your experience.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Marketers in a Time Warp

Groundhog Day – one of the most important holidays of the year. Okay, maybe not. But forget the holiday for a minute and think about the stellar comedic movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray. Murray plays Phil Connors, a TV meteorologist, covering the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, PA. He is stuck in a time warp reliving February 2nd everyday he wakes up. Nothing changes. Eventually, he uses the repeating scenario to learn. He takes time to understand the people he encounters day in and day out. He reexamines his life and recognizes flaws. Finally he makes changes as a result of learning and evaluating what he has done well and not. And then magic happens … he moves forward with a new outlook on life. He finds happiness and success as the calendar finally turns over a new day.

Hopefully you see where I am going with this. Some marketers are looking at their audience and learning how to appeal to them. But still there are an abundance of marketers stuck in their old ways and they cannot get out of a rut.

groundhog day

This past week, I read a very interesting article titled “The Evolution of Marketing & the Future Retail Model.” The article examined consumers changing behavior (driven by the millennial segment) as it relates to shopping habits and the retail stores landscape. The way people shop (B2C) and make purchase orders (B2B) has changed significantly as I captured in the article, “The Dramatic and Fundamental Change in Marketing and What You Need to Do.” And for the first time I can remember, marketers are lagging consumers/clients. In the past, marketers drove purchase behaviors and audiences reacted. Today, people are driving purchase behaviors and marketers (for the most part) are not reacting quickly enough to their shifting actions.

We have seen too many examples of industries staying stagnant while their audience behavior and actions change. Take the music industry. The record industry did not change its distribution model in the face of digital streaming and downloadable music fast enough. New music distribution companies have emerged and have won over consumers. Another example is the print media industry. I lived it as I found magazine brands acting like a deer in headlights to the emergence of user preferences moving to digital content. Are shopping malls on a dead end street as discussed in the referenced retail article? How much did online purchases grow year over year for holiday shopping? The flags are up.

Yes, digital technology has spawned significant behavioral changes. Old school advertorial interruption used on TV, radio, and print does not work in digital media. Marketers cannot take their old methods and approaches to digital. If so, they are just stuck in an inadequate time warp of misery as Phil Connors was stuck in Groundhog Day. Marketers need to observe and understand their audiences’ behavior in order to get out of a rut of poor results.

Do yourself a favor. Watch Groundhog Day and determine how the movie is a metaphor for your marketing efforts. Don’t just wing it and do what you have always done. Learn, adjust, and move forward with happiness and success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

PS – If you think I am wrong about the stagnation of marketers, please share some innovative, audience driven examples. I would love to hear about your success or other brands you think standout as role models.

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