Category Archives: brand trust

Brand Ambassadors and Influence Marketing

ba and influ

As social technologies have become a way of life, an interesting outcome has happened. Individuals are speaking up and their word has greater influence on purchase decisions compared to what the actual brand has to say.

Think about it. To what extent do you believe what a brand has to say in their advertisements and corporate communication? If you were looking for great product or service providers, would you be more apt to believe someone you know that has had experience with the product or service?

Pretty straightforward and yet some are still mystified by influence marketing. There may be many definitions out there for influence marketing, but let me give you mine. “Inspiring and motivating objective people to distribute positive word of mouth marketing for a given brand.” It is that simple.

So who might be your influencers? Everyone thinks that you should work to get the person with 1 million followers to speak on behalf of your brand. So if Kim Kardashian actually tweets something about a product, do we actually believe her? Or is it more compelling if your friend mentions accolades for a product?

Do people with a mass following actually influence? A recent marketing study, “found that users with fewer than 1,000 followers received an average of 8.03 ‘likes’ and 0.56 comments per post. Those who had between 1,000 and 10,000 followers garnered an average of 4.04 “likes” and 0.27 comments.” (Source: eMarketer)

I am responsible for audience development for a brand. I will tell you that I look at each person who mentions my brand or mentions a topic relevant to my brand as a potential brand ambassador. Anyone that is talking about something relevant to my brand on social media has the potential power to influence others as it relates to my brand – generate awareness, consideration, and conversion. I look to start a conversation and engage with each and every one of them. Yes, that is a great investment of time and energy. But if I can motivate others to share my product/service with their network, that is the most powerful and compelling marketing that I can achieve. Thus, I view each person behind a relevant mention as a potential brand ambassador that I want to establish a relationship with.

I define influencers slightly different than a brand ambassador. An influencer is someone that is a subject matter expert relevant to a brand’s purpose or mission. They are not necessarily someone with a mass following, but rather an individual that has a strong and compelling voice on a topic relevant to a brand. I work very hard to develop relationships with these individuals. I want to share their voice on my brands’ social and communication channels. I want to find out what these potential influencers look to accomplish with regards to extending their brand. I work to find a win-win – truly. Most often these individuals are bloggers or some other form of content provider. I want to share their content and look for reciprocation. I carry their content on my brand’s digital and social channels so they are apt to share my brand with their audience.

There is no secret here. The way to work and get people to share your brand, become brand ambassadors and advocates is to build a meaningful relationship where both sides get value out of the “partnership.” If you are building a brand ambassador and influence marketing program, you must understand the WIFM (“what’s in it for me”) perspective of the potential partner and make sure you deliver.

This is not theory. It is successful implementation. Know how to develop a successful influence-marketing program.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brand trust, influence marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Successful Marketing – Here It is in a Nutshell

successful marketing in a nutshell

At the end of the year, many bloggers and/or self accredited experts put out their end of the year lists. These lists most often start with titles that entice readers to click through. Titles like, “8 Best Ways to Make Viral Content,” or “5 Biggest Marketing Trends for 2016.” As we have learned from digital marketing data collection, starting a title with a number provokes user behavior. And furthermore, the promise of unveiling information in a list is very compelling to users.

While I question the validity of the content in so many of these articles, I am guilty of producing similar titles (not here but certainly have in the past). But hopefully, you trust that the information I provide you leads to well thought out and proper marketing strategies and implementations. (Trust – we will revisit that issue shortly.)

I’ve looked at the 60 plus articles I have published (here on this blog and elsewhere) and I find particular themes for winning marketing solutions for the new consumer/client –driven world. There are 2 paramount evolutionary characteristics that have caused the need for marketers to morph their approach and tactical executions. 1) The consumers/clients control your brand reputation more so than you do. Brand position is reinforced and rejected by your target audience in full force and outcome. 2) Technology has changed allowing customers/clients to have a dominant role in brand marketing AND allow brands to market to consumer/client behaviors in a most accurate way.

Early in the year, I penned an article “5 Characteristics That Define The Future of Successful Marketing.” Successful marketing lies in a brand’s ability and commitment to

• Listen (to the target audience)
• Understand (their needs)
• Engage (on a personal and broad scale level)
• Deliver a great user experience
• Build trust

Listen, Understand, Engage

The key to marketing success is to truly know your audience. What turns them on, turns them off, and motivates them to take action. Think about it – your audience’s behavior literally says “Marketers – Be There When I Need You.” If you are there when your audience needs you, there is a very strong likelihood that the audience will support your brand with both purchase decisions and advocacy. You can only be there for your audience when they need you if you listen to them (by monitoring what they say about your brand and topics important to your brand), understanding their wants, needs, desires, and then engaging with them.

It is extremely important that your marketing communications are not old school broadcasting. You need to engage with people directly. Consider the recommendations defined in the article “Mastering and Scaling Personalized Marketing.”

Great User Experience

One aspect that truly makes a brand standout and win audience, customers, and advocacy is a great user experience. We look to create an emotional attachment between brand and target audience. The best way to accomplish this is to create an awesome user experience. Think about extending your product/service differentiation by providing an absolute stellar user experience. The user experience should consider every aspect of consumer/client – brand interaction. Interactions online, offline, experiential. Digital and experiential marketing should intersect. This is touched upon in the article “Here is Why Social Marketing is such a Vital Part of Experiential Marketing.”

If you are not convinced of the importance of a great user experience checkout “ROI (Return on Investment) of a Great User Experience and Social Marketing.”

Trust

Marketers can no longer make bogus claims. The general public is now the judge and jury via their communication proliferation using reviews and social conversation. In this past year, I really emphasized “Successful Marketing is a Matter of Trust.” In the referenced article, I highlighted ten ways to build trust. The end result becomes “In Brands We Trust, Or Maybe Not.” If you want to increase trust:

• Review regularly
• Show empathy
• Talk naturally
• Act fast
• Become the hub of the issue

Learn more about this.

Ultimately, you want “Magnifying Business Integrity to Market Brand Trust.”

Building an Audience

Remember, there is a slight nuance between sales and marketing. Marketing is really about building an audience. An audience that is queued up for sales conversion. An audience that continues to value your brand. An audience that becomes an advocate for your brand. There are “5 Keys to Audience Development” :

1) Monitor and listen
2) Engage
3) Find influencers
4) Have a content strategy
5) Use paid media

Social marketing is a key to audience development and “Understanding Social Marketing Means Understanding Audience Development.” But if you implement social marketing to build your audience, “Digital Marketers Should Start to Build Relationships Off of Their Home Court.” In this referenced article, I highlight the importance of engagement and audience development on social channels, forums, and blogs that are not your brands digital assets. Go where the conversation is happening and engage. Do not expect to have all conversations on your brand’s digital assets.

But marketing should go beyond audience development. Audience development is step one. Step two means developing something a bit deeper than an audience. Work to build a community. Community is a deeper connection than an audience. If you want to learn more about this see “In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience.” Here are some suggestions on “Building a Strong Community.”

Two other points I think you should consider to up your marketing game. The first deals with connecting with influencers to strengthen your marketing reach, perception, and overall reputation. Many think they can just find subject matter experts with a large audience to get them to push their brand. Wrong. My recommendation – “Stop Looking for Influencers, Find Great Partners.”

The second key point I want to make is that “Great Marketers are Perpetual Students.” Are you doing what is required to stay on top of changing audience behaviors and new technology? If you want to be successful, this is a must.

So there you have it – The Social Steve yearly summary. A summary that should help you to be most successful in the coming year. Not a list of unfounded trends. Recommendations you need to consider and implement. Make it a great year. Make it a successful year.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under audience development, behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brand trust, brands, community, experiential marketing, influence marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve, user experience, Word of Mouth Marketing

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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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand trust, brands, corporate culture

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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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand trust, brands, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve

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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