Tag Archives: brand position

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



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

Marketing Leadership (with a hint of Social Media)

You either get it or you don’t. The debate on social media is over. Be part of the conversation or be left out. For the past two years, I have been an evangelist, blogger, and overall supporter of new social media initiatives and their importance. As we turn to 2011, I see a movement and acceptance of social media – enough so to move onto the next thing …

Hey, don’t worry. I am not getting off the social media bandwagon. I just don’t feel the need to defend it anymore. And when I say I am moving on to the next important thing, I am talking about marketing leadership. The reality is that the customer has changed, so marketing must change. Are you a strong enough leader to take the necessary steps? What’s required is some good old traditional marketing mentality and INTEGRATION of some new social media. Yes – marketing leadership is a solid combination of old, proven approaches and new, customer-driven communication channels. Marketing leadership must consist of strategy and execution.

Marketing Strategy

So when I talked about what needs to be taken from proven marketing approaches throughout the years, I am really talking about two main areas: your positioning and how you tell your story. This is marketing strategy in the simplest form – brand position + how you tell your brand story.

In a recent article I wrote, “The Most Important Brand (You) and Social Media,” I talked about my days as a consultant and how I helped the companies I worked with write out a positioning statement. 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]
The point of this exercise is more of a strategic one as opposed to producing an executable deliverable. The formation of the positioning statement is done 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. It is not something you specifically communicate. To me, the power of this positioning tells you if you really have something to market or not. Do 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!”

Take time to tweak your product or service, if necessary, and make sure you have a standout positioning statement. When you have a solid product/service, you need to determine how you will tell your story. And when it comes to telling your story, Simon Sinek has some great advice and case studies. The emphasis of what Sinek talks about is that winning brands reinforce “why” they are in business as opposed to talking about “what” they are selling. He says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it … it is all grounded in biology.” If you really have something of value, “The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

Simon codifies examples of Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright Brothers demonstrating their successes by “marketing why” they did what they did as opposed to “marketing what” they offer. (Check out the video linked.)

Marketing Execution
Marketing execution is more than a marketing campaign. A campaign goes on for a finite period. Marketing execution must be continuous. Do you ever want to stop generating brand awareness and lead generation? So think of your marketing campaigns as mini vignettes in your entire marketing composition. Each of these vignettes should be aimed at a target audience segment, consist of stated objectives and measurement against the objectives, and have a call to action.

The target audience segment for each communication is likely to be a subset of your total target market. You should have different conversations specific to different segments of the total market. You also need to do an honest assessment and description of the current perception of the target audience. Do they think positively, negatively, or they don’t know your brand. It is important to capture the perceptions that need to be changed most and the perceptions to be reinforced.

Your objectives should be marketing objectives, not sales objectives. What are you attempting to accomplish through this initiative? Generate leads; build awareness; shift an attitude; build a client database; etc.? State exactly what you are looking to accomplish and the desired measurable results. Generate X hits on a website; capture Y new subscribers, sign up Z “friends/connects” or “fans”, generate some number of mentions; entice a number of comments, generate X requests of info, etc.? Define how results are to be measured and how the responses will be captured.

When all is said and done your marketing must draw your potential and existing customers closer to you – closer in relationship. Do you have something compelling and have you built up enough trust to lay out a “call to action” that will get a response? The call to action defines what next step(s) the target audience is to take. Subscribe, connect, attend seminars, visit a blog/website, became a fan/follower, tell a friend.

Social Media Integration

So everything I have talked about thus far has been straight-up marketing without the mention of social media. But back to what I stated up front – The customer is changing and thus marketing must change. And the significant change is the use of social media. Your customers are using it independent of your activity. Your customers have the control to change your brand reputation and position. Don’t like it? Get involved.

The social media integration must go back to marketing strategy – it is not just an execution piece. When you define “how you are going to tell your story” this is the point to collaborate with your social media colleagues. Discuss the social platforms where the target audience exists. Plan how you will traverse your targets through the A-Path. (Get their Attention, Attraction; have them build Affinity for you, become part of your Audience and then become your Advocate.)

Message to Marketing Executives and Social Media Managers

If really want to demonstrate marketing leadership, it requires tight collaboration between the experienced marketing professional and the creative social media manager. While the high level steps I have suggested here are very logical and far from rocket science, frankly speaking, I do not see many taking these or similar steps. I do not see an abundance of marketing leadership. I see much trepidation and fear from a majority of marketing executives. On the flip side, I see great motivation from the social media managers, but in most cases, a lack of true marketing experience.

It is time for the two worlds to embrace each other. So much can be learned and successfully executed if, what is by and large the generation gap were bridged. From my perspective this will be the start of marketing leadership that will demonstrate continuous brand success.

Market leadership – ready to show it?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve (a marketing executive before being social)


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