Tag Archives: brand

The Theory of Relativity – Marketing Relativity That Is

theory of marketing relativity

Albert Einstein defined the theory of relativity by stating that measurements of various quantities are relative to the velocities of observers. So for example, if you are riding on a train that is going 50 mph and another train passes right by you at a speed of 75 mph, your perception is that the train passing you is going 25 mph. If someone is standing on the side of the track they see the train going the true 75 mph, which is substantially faster than the perceived 25 mph.

The point is, as it pertains to “marketing relativity”, that marketing communication and claims are interpreted differently dependent upon where your audience member stands.

Every brand must do a deep and true assessment of their target audience’s perception of their brand as well as the industry the brand competes in. Having this understanding will allow brand marketers to evaluate the messages and claims they make to the target audience. Marketers will understand what messages will be perceived as accurate and compelling.

While every brand wants to make the bold communications filled with superlative adjectives and superior positioning statements, these claims may not be believable by the people you are attempting to attract. If you are an unknown brand, the first step is to create awareness. If people are not aware of your brand you may not be able to successfully claim your superiority straight out of the gates. Remember, we are talking about the Theory of Marketing Relativity here. Your audience needs to start to build trust before they will believe all your communication.

This is the crux of Marketing Relativity – BELIEVABILITY and TRUST. You need to understand where your audience members stand in order to craft compelling communication and engagement. If you met someone for the first time and they said, “I hold the record for …,” wouldn’t you be skeptical? Even if it was true? This is what so few get when it comes to marketing. You must build relationships and condition your audience before you make all your superlative claims. Even if they are true.

If we go back to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the example I posed at the beginning, the person on the train traveling 50 mph does not “feel” that the train passing them on the left is really traveling at 75 mph. They do not “trust” that the train is traveling 75 mph even though it is the truth. Their own perception causes subjectivity.

If you understand your audience’s subjectivity, you will have a much greater appreciation of what they are willing to believe and how much trust they will give to your brand. If you have a strong degree of empathy established, you are much more likely to develop a communication and engagement plan that resonates with your audience. This is the foundation of “The Marketing Theory of Relativity.” You must always be must sensitive to the subjectivity of your audience and whether what you say is believable by them – even if it is the truth. Build trust first. Then you are in a position to make bold statements that your audience believes. If you have earned your audiences’ trust, they will not only believe what you have to say, but they will share it with their friends, family, and colleagues.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve


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Filed under audience development, brand marketing, brands, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

There Are Only Two Things People Want from Your Brand’s Social Presence

brand social presence

How many brands’ posts’ get added to social channels in a given day? Some massive number close to a gazillion. (Now that is some empirical data for you :)) But how many of those posts actually resonate with the intended target audience and get shared. Unfortunately, the number is the inverse of a gazillion. That is because only a small minuscule percent actual gain traction. If you stop to think about it, you might get appalled at how much time, money, and effort are meaningless for brand social marketing.

So stop. Get back to basics. And at a high level reflect on why anyone would give any care to your brand’s social presence. It comes down to two simple mentalities. They want compelling content and they want a connection that makes sense for them, not you. Lets break these down a bit.

Compelling Content
Compelling content (from the audience’s perspective, not yours) must consists of educational and/or entertaining information. That is it. Forget all the other junk. Your audience wants to learn something important. And when I say your audience wants to learn something from you that does not mean product/service features. Give your audience something that enlightens them.

Content need not always be informational. It can be entertaining. If you go this route, think of your brand as a media company as part of a billion other media companies in a market. How is your entertaining content really going to stick out in a very crowded field?

It is worth noting that content can be both informative and entertaining. If you want more information on producing stellar content for your audience, I have written a number of articles on this topic. Some suggested pieces are:

Think of Content Marketing as Gift Giving All Year Round
4 Tips for Winning Content
Delivering the Content You Audience Wants
A Content Marketing Approach That Works

Yes, some people really value connections with brands. But that is only the case if you make it worth their while, not yours. Forget about connecting with customers. Your mentality should be to connect with friends that happen to patronize your business. Friendship mentality. Not customer mentality. If you connect with people in this approach, I guarantee that you will build strong relationships that pay dividends. Friendship means being there when someone needs you. This is how brands must treat their customers. Put your agenda on the back burner and the needs, wants, and desires of your target audience at the forefront. Have empathy for your target audience and be proactive to their wishes. Stay engaged.

You need both a winning content and connection strategy, plan, and execution.

I have painted a very competitive and crowded environment where it is tough to stick out. But the fact is I am still most bullish on social brands. Nothing can build stronger brand love than a great social presence. It is just a matter of doing it right or not doing it at all. Right by your audiences’ terms. Not your agenda.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, community, content marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Digital Technologies and User Behavior Change What it Means to Be a Brand

If you look on Wikipedia for the definition of a brand, you find that it is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.” But as a marketer, I think it is much more important to think of what it means to be a brand in terms of your target audience.

Thus, I define a brand as a promise made from a company to its target audience with regards to the product(s) it sells. A brand is defined by characteristics such as quality, features, availability, and overall user experience. When done right, every single aspect of the brand definition is lived by and delivered by every employee of the company.

brand and digital

But a funny thing happened along the way. Knowledgeable marketers started using poetic justice of communication and claims of the product/service sold by the company and stretched the truth. All this in an effort to increase sales. In some cases, this resulted in members of the target audience reacting and purchasing the brand. If shoppers were unhappy, they would stop buying the product, and maybe even tell a friend. The user did not believe “the promise” and reacted. As this plight has continued throughout marketing and advertising of brands, it has spawned an overall skeptical outlook by people with regards to company claims and advertisement belief. This cynical perception did not happen overnight. It took a good 50 years or so of “Mad Men” to drive this behavior.

Fast forward to today’s world. How do people react when they feel they have been misled by product claims? How do they react when they have a bad user experience? More and more users are sharing their product experiences. Whether it is sharing with their entire network on a platform like Facebook or broadcasting it to the world on a platform like Twitter.

The promise is still part of being a brand, but it is exponentially more important today.

So now that you understand the change, let me describe for you the gigantic immense problem this creates. The stretching of the truth that companies get caught in is a big problem, but it really is not the biggest problem. The key problem today is that companies have lost their ability to build brand AND engage appropriately in the digital world, simultaneously. Too many companies treat branding as one activity and digital/social marketing as a separate implementation. Company executives need to take responsibility of this detrimental scenario.

How many companies have a responsible leader in place with experience, business knowledge, and creativity to build and retain a brand COUPLED WITH experience, business knowledge, and creativity to drive successful digital marketing? The answer to this question is very few. And even worse, the fact that brand marketing and digital marketing are siloed exacerbates the problem.

The debacle up from this problem shows its ugly face daily. There are numerous companies that do not reinforce brand positioning through their digital implementations. The people running the digital channels are most often blind to what it means to carry out a brand voice and imaginary through social engagement. Many companies do not have a digital engagement strategy that centers on upholding the brand persona.

And adding to the challenge is the fact that brand position is equally in the hands of the audience as well as the company’s hands. The audience has a voice that is stronger and moves faster than ever before. You need to have a strategy and a plan that addresses how to leverage this audience rather than ignoring their voice and power that is carried in the digital world.

I think it is imperative to understand how the world of a brand has changed due to the technology changes and more importantly, human behavior. Every company needs a leader that has the skill set to address the change. Through my experience, I have worked with companies that do not want to address the change head on. Working the corporate environment and being a positive change agent has become a slippery slope. I would not go so far as to call the two a dichotomy, but together they are definitely challenging.

It takes bold, strong, experienced leaders to navigate a company due to the real and significant changes that technology and user behavior have created. The outcome of these changes cannot continue to be ignored or swept away. Whether it is fear, lack of skill set, or don’t rock the boat corporate mentality, it is no longer acceptable to keep brand marketing and digital marketing siloed. The future of your business depends upon it.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Who Gets Your Brand Persona?

A brand persona is the social role or character your brand plays. Does your brand have a (formally) defined persona? Before I even ask if your audience gets your brand persona, let me ask this … Does your entire company get your brand persona? And most importantly, does your social marketing person or team thoroughly understand the brand’s persona? The social manager needs to live the brand persona more than anyone else in your entire organization. Your brand’s social presence must be a total reflection and reinforcement of the brand persona.


I always knew the great importance of an established and solid brand persona, but it really hit home this past week … My son and I were watching the TV show “The Voice” (a guilty pleasure for both of us). The show was eliminating two contestants. There were eight singers from the previous days sing off and the three with the least votes from the television audience were in jeopardy. On the night we were watching, one contestant would be saved and continue in the competition. The show’s host asked the viewing audience to tweet “#thevoicesaveyourchoice“ within the next three-minute period and the contestant generating the most tweets would continue in the competition. Both my son and I thought one contestant should be the obvious one to be saved. I said Max, “Why don’t you tweet to save Matthew?” He said he agreed but that he did not want that on his tweeter stream. The indirect point he was making was that tweeting something in reference to The Voice was an infringement on the persona he wanted to portray on his social presence. In fact, I felt the same way. That is why I did not tweet a “#thevoicesaveMatthew” because it did not support my musical persona. (As I said, The Voice is a guilty pleasure.)

Subconsciously, both my son and I were totally tuned into our individual brand persona in our social presence. Not that we actually took time to think about “marketing” and “branding” when it came to ourselves. It was just a natural reaction. But we instinctively knew what type of postings support and deviate from the social presence and persona we wanted to portray.

Now let me ask you a question. How close does your brand’s social person or team produce a reflection of your brand’s persona on social channels? Every post, every engagement, every exchange in your brand’s social presence must fit your brand persona. Your social manager needs to be as sensitive as that teenager who worries what everyone will think of his/her post. The social manager needs to stop for a second before every social exchange and ask, “Does this reflect the personality and voice of our brand.”

While I recognize that what I am saying here may not be new to you, I am challenging you to make sure you REALLY execute.

1) Have a formal brand persona defined and distributed to everyone in your company.
2) Reinforce to everyone that if you are to get your target audience emotionally attached to your brand, the company as a whole must act and present itself in one unified personality and persona.
3) Train your social manager. Make sure he/she completely understands the brand position, personality, voice, values, and persona. Test the social manager from time to time to make sure they represent your brand presence 100% correctly.
4) Listen to your audience and insure your brand persona resonates and appeals with them. Make modifications to optimize the intersection of your brand position and your target audiences wants, needs, desires, and motivations.

Strengthen your product/service with an outstanding persona that creates an awesome extension of the brand user experience.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


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

Social Media Posting vs. Winning Brand Preference

Are you just aimlessly posting or are you working to drive brand preference in your social marketing efforts?

brand preferenceLet’s be clear. The objective of social marketing is to create brand preference such that when individuals are ready to make a purchase decision in the brand’s category, they repeatedly prefer your brand. Brand preference can be measured by a Social Brand Index that considers awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. (Note – I developed and use the Social Brand Index when working with brand clients.) Social marketing success is measured by the degree of brand preference you capture. You need to “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like” before you start your social strategy, plan, execution, and collection of data.

So if you are responsible for your brands social presence, recognize that each posting is a small opportunity to create brand preference. Many can come up with a cute or humorous post, but how many can pull together a social presence that:

1) creates continuous brand preference, and
2) integrates across all other company activities?

Let’s take these one at a time. First, what does it mean to create brand preference via social marketing? It means that

• every posting,
• all the listening on brand social platforms and elsewhere in the digital space,
• every piece of content production,
• every digital conversation, and
• all promotion opportunities

are aimed at

• influencing positive brand perception,
• brand loyalty,
• brand love, and
• growing word of mouth marketing for the brand.

How many social effort areas are truly choreographed to accomplishing this? While social marketing posts must by timely and spontaneous (real-time marketing), opportunistic content and postings must still be aimed at achieving and deepening brand preference. Before you post something, simply run a litmus test … Ask, “Is this post aimed at further creation of obtaining brand preference?” This is what I mean when asking what the difference is between social postings and creating brand preference.

But the social marketing effort is not done there. It must be integrated with all other company areas that affect and touch the target audience … That would most likely be the entire company. Remember, the job of social marketing is creating brand preference. Thus, social marketers must collaborate with direct marketers (advertisement, promotions, PR, email, event, SEO, display, etc.), executive branches, customer service, and all other support services. The collaborative nature with other functional areas in the company must be give and take. That is, social marketers must deliver target audience information and perception to the company as a whole as a function of social listening. Social marketers must also capture activities (plans, strategy, stories, programs, thought leadership, etc.) from the extended company functional groups that should be shared to the target audience to help shape brand preference.

Far too often, brands take on social marketing because they think it is a must for their business without understanding what the objective should be and how to measure the results. From a strategic perspective, this means developing a plan, activities, and metrics that will yield true brand preference. From a tactical perspective this means stopping for 5 seconds before posting to ask, “Is this post incrementally helping to yield brand preference.”

Brand preference is established by having (at a minimum) a satisfactory product/service, but that offering is then supported by unwavering commitment to the buyer. Social media is a prime opportunity to demonstrate target audience commitment. In social marketing, the commitment shown by production of superior content (valuable information and/or entertaining media), listening and taking action on applicable posts on a variety of platforms, and engaging in conversation with socially active users (especially influencers).

What are you doing in your social marketing activities to create brand preference?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Brand – What is Your Story?

How important is a brand story? Let’s start with a true episode … about a week ago or so, I am bugging my 11 year-old daughter to go up and shower and get ready for bed. She says to me, “Dad, I have to watch Glee.”

“We’re DVRing it. You can watch it tomorrow,” I said.

She replied, “No I can’t. I have to watch it tonight. Everyone will be talking about it tomorrow at school.”

Marketers – do you realize how powerful my daughter’s words are? Not because I am biased and think the world of her, but this is exactly what we want for our brands … That our audience feels the need to talk about it tomorrow.

And this is accomplished by having a story line with continuous, periodic episodes. Episodes where the characters that are developed are your values, benefits, products, services, and people. The content of your episodes reinforces why you are in business, not what you are selling (as I mentioned in the article “Marketing Leadership (with a Hint of Social Media“) .

You need a content strategy that plays like the best TV production you know. Glee is about production, character development, and supporting other marketing channels (soundtrack downloads, touring concert, and merchandise). The content each week reinforces their “products.”

I am not suggesting that you need to create and maintain a production as elaborate as Glee, but I am stating you need a storyline. And each content piece you produce is an episode of “your” show, your owned media reinforcing your brand’s value.

And why is a brand story so important?

What’s the story morning glory
Need a little time to wake up, wake up
What’s the story morning glory

– Lyric excerpt from “Morning Glory”, by Oasis

Because stories are what connect us to one another. And if you want to connect your brand with your audience and potential customers/clients and deepen relationships, you need not only have a good story, but also have to determine the outlets or channels where your story will be told and the scheduling for your content releases. If you want people talking about your brand, you need a well executed and coordinated content strategy.

According to Kristina Halvorson, “Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” In her article, “The Discipline of Content Strategy,” she goes on to say that the best content strategy defines:

– key themes and messages,
– recommended topics,
– content purpose (i.e., how content will bridge the space between audience needs and business requirements),
– content gap analysis,
– metadata frameworks and related content attributes,
– search engine optimization (SEO), and
– implications of strategic recommendations on content creation, publication, and governance.

I would go on to say that a complete content strategy (your owned media) must also define integration with earned and paid media as I cover in the article “Integrating Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media.” But I digress …

Mashable suggests:

– Knowing your voice
– Timing your content
– Knowing your audience
– Solving problems, and
– Being true

as their 5 Key Tips for a Successful Social Media Content Strategy“.” I would add that you need to think how you will stand out from the crowd (read creativity into this) and tactically plan how your content will be shared such that your audience continues to grow.

The point is you should have a brand story. This starts with a brand position but goes a bit deeper to explain why you do what you do. A brand story that is supported by a creative content strategy that views owned media as part of the product/service you deliver. Your content should be a production of episodes across different outlets and channels to continually reinforce the brand.

So what’s your story morning glory?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, owned-earned-paid media, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Where “Audience” Fits in Social Media

Hey, I love music and when I think of a great audience, I think of a Bruce Springsteen or Arcade Fire concert. Set your sights high – don’t you want to make that kind of a connection?

For those of you that have followed my blog, you know I often talk about the social media A-Path – Attention, Attraction, Affinity, AUDIENCE, and Advocate. (See “Using the Social Media “A-path” to Capture Ultimate Customers” and “How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully” for more information.) I think it is worthwhile to drill into what it means to have a brand audience.

Let’s start with the basics. Your target audience is really a target market segment. A target market segment is a set of prospects and customers with common needs, wants and preferences (requirements and buyer values) who reference each other when making buying decisions. YOUR audience is a subset of the target audience. It would be excellent if you capture the entire target audience, but that is unlikely.

Your audience is that group that continually comes back to your brand to hear what you have to say and engage with you and your brand. And it is not just to communicate with you. If you go back to the definition of target market segment remember that this group “references each other when making buying decisions.” So you don’t want your audience only to converse with you, but communicate among each other as well. All under the umbrella of your brand. And today, this is what we call a community.

You see “Audience” is a much richer experience than “Affinity.” Affinity means individuals like you, value what you have to offer, but “Audience” means they are “signing up” with you. As I previously mentioned in the article “How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully,” audience members show some type of investment. They provide equity of sorts and in social space – personal information is equity. It usually starts with a login name and password or could be as simple as an email address.

So now let’s relate audience and community. There are different types of community and they have different assets. No one community is right for all brands. You must state your objectives of the community and implement the appropriate community. BUT remember one thing – a community is not about your brand – it is about the people that are the members. You may draw people to your community because of your brand, but ultimately, you must deliver value to the members, give them freedom and control to involve the community as they see fit. To quote Mitch Joel, “The community decides when it’s a community… you don’t.” Yes, you set up the platform and people may start to come, but really the community environment and functionality are maintained by the members.

There are three basic types of communities in a social context.

The first, and maybe the most widely used, is a Facebook fan page – now called a “like” page. Facebook users like your brand and become a member. This means that your wall postings show up on their news feed. If a given Facebook user comments on your brand or writes a status on the like page wall, it shows up on the Facebook users’ friends news feed. This is extremely useful to produce sharing and viral content. But Facebook like pages have a significant liability. Facebook holds all the data on users of your like page and you have virtually no data on them. It is very difficult to engage with the users on your like page beyond the Facebook environment. From an “A-Path Audience” perspective, Facebook like pages are very good for CPG (consumer package goods) such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, but pretty poor for B2B plays where greater audience-brand connection is required. For B2B, Facebook is a good starting place for “A-Path Attention and Attraction” but you want to go beyond that.

The next type of community is a “group” within a social network platform such as “LinkedIn.” (There are certainly other platforms where you set up a group, but I’ll use LinkedIn as an example here.) You can set up a group and use the LinkedIn platform as the channel for your brand community. There is some sharing and viral aspect here as one can see their connections groups and posting/comments to the group on a LinkedIn page. Here, you also have a little more data on the members than with Facebook. It most cases you have the individuals email address and this should be the start of your social CRM database.

The third type of community is building your own social network. This takes the greatest investment and on-going support requirements. The value here is that you have all the data on your audience. This environment makes sense for organizations that are content rich and plan to produces continuous content. Content by itself is not enough. You also need to concentrate on engagement. You must have a community manager that is responsible for brand monitoring, and engages, responds, and is accessible to the community members. The functionality and design of the brand community is imperative and is a topic that requires much more than I’ll go into in this post. (I am actually working on community strategies, implementations, and successful execution in my “day job.”)

I will offer up a few points that you must consider when planning your brand’s audience platform(s).

1) Recognize that a Facebook community is very different than most other communities from a “friend” perspective. In Facebook, most of the users are friends with their connections. They know each other from childhood, college, or later in life. They connect with acquaintances, if not friends. The same is not true in a LinkedIn “group” or brand developed community. People join these communities because of common interest and usually not based upon acquaintances. This means that for active participation and overall community success, the functionality, UI (user interface), marketing and incentives of the community need to be designed very different.
2) Monetization: For non-CPG environments, I often ask this question. If you had 100K Facebook fans or 100K members of your own community, where do you think you can monetize the users more easily? It is a rhetorical question.
3) The most important aspect of audience and community is planning. Know your target audience. Know your objectives. Make community platform decisions based on this. Have a plan and resource allocations in place to ensure continuous brand investment in your community.
4) Look to influence your community, not control it. Allow a strong sense of democracy and not a dictatorship. Otherwise the public will revolt.

I have just scratched the surface on the topic of audience and community. There is so much hard work that needs to go into this to generate success. This is not a free social media thing. But these are the fundamentals to set you on a positive path.

Please share your community experiences (positive and negative) here on this blog. Thanks!

Make It Happen!
Social Steve


Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, community, Facebook, LinkedIn, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized