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Posts Tagged ‘Branding’

Screw the Competition: How to avoid dreaded commodification

February 16th, 2018
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In high school, I never quite found my niche. I wasn’t a jock or preppie, neither freak nor geek. I just had to be me.

In other words, my focus was on my intrinsic value proposition, not what the competition was doing.

Competitive analyses are valuable, don’t get me wrong. They are necessary to ensure you have a unique value proposition. After all, your product isn’t for sale in a vacuum. I’ve worked with a competitive sales office in the past and you can learn a lot from win-loss reports as well.

But don’t go too far with this business intelligence. My point is this …

Don’t let the competition define you

At some point, you have to say, “screw the competition.”

If your focus is on the competition, you’ll just be another Why Bother Brand.

And if your focus is on the competition, it’s in the wrong place. Your focus should be on the customer. That’s the way you create differentiated value.

Here are three examples of focusing on the customers, not the competition, from otherwise commodified industries:

Example #1: Southwest Airlines

Airlines have become a dreadfully commoditized industry. Just look how they move in lockstep. One airline adds baggage fees, and then every other “me too” airline jumps in behind it.

Not Southwest Airlines. I’m sure it has analyzed the competition. I’m sure it is aware of fee revenue.

But that simply doesn’t work for this brand. So Southwest offers “No change fees. No matter what.” And communicated that value proposition cleverly in a recent TV ad about a coach who believed in his basketball team so much, he already booked tickets to the championship game.

The kicker, of course, is that the team doesn’t make it to the championship game and has to change their flight plans. Cue the tagline — “That’s Transfarency. Low Fares. Nothing to Hide.”

Does this mean you’ll fly Southwest every time? Probably not. I know I prefer non-stop flights. And you might have a favorite frequent flyer program.

But I tell you this — next time you’re charged $200 for canceling a flight, you’re going to remember that Southwest commercial. And if you go through negative experiences with your current airline enough, you may choose not to shop only on price but to favor flights from Southwest Airlines.

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Copywriting: Listen to customers so you can speak their language

December 1st, 2017
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Words matter. Both for their denotation (to ensure prospective customers understand your advertising) as well as for their connotation.

(Words are subtle indicators to tell a potential customer “we understand you specifically” and “this offer is meant for people like you.”)

To truly speak our customers’ language, we must listen to them because our customers may be very different from us.

No easy task. As Don Peppers and Martha Rogers say in Managing Customer Experience and Relationships, “‘Listening’ has never been part of most mass marketers’ primary skill set.” (I’m reading the book as a student of the University of Florida/MECLABS Institute Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program.)

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Marketing 101: What is big rock content?

November 10th, 2017
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I had three hours to kill before my next flight to Dallas departed. While sitting in an airport café warming my hands around a mocha, I overheard snippets of an intense conversation in the booth behind me.

“It’s all about your big rocks. They are the most important. What are your big rocks?” 

At the time, I hadn’t heard of Stephen Covey’s analogy, so I had no idea what these two young marketers were discussing. Later, I was enlightened.

In brief, effective people prioritize their goals beginning with the most important (the rocks) and moving on to those of lesser importance (sand). Because when you think about it, if you try to fill a jar with sand before filling it with rocks, you will have troubles fitting the rocks in. Begin with the rocks and fill in the spaces with sand. It’s good advice and can be applied not only to marketing but our personal lives as well.

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Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy: What we can learn from Minor League baseball branding

November 4th, 2016
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It’s the morning of game seven of the World Series, and two of the longest droughts in Major League baseball history are hanging in the balance. Social media across the city of Jacksonville, Florida is lit up, talking about nothing but baseball.

… and shellfish.

On the morning of the historic game that ended the Chicago Cubs 108-year drought, Jacksonville, Florida’s minor league baseball team swept in and stole the news cycle with a re-branding from the Jacksonville Suns, to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

 

There he is, in all of his muscular glory. Bustin’ out the pot, and ready to play some baseball while viciously guarding the state of Florida. The shrimp that boiled the waters (wink) in the “Bold New City of the South.” 

For better or for worse, people flipped out. Whether it was praise or backlash, everyone was talking about a team that won’t have its first game for six months. 

 

Twitter went to work doing the marketing team’s job for them, even coming up with gold taglines like, “Shrimpin’ ain’t easy,” and promoting George Costanza to Assistant to the Traveling Secretary.

Fans dreamed about the delicious possibilities a Shrimp and (Montgomery) Biscuits matchup could bring and wondered if mascot dog Southpaw would have his name changed to “Grits.”

 

Soon this was even garnering national news thanks to the uproar, with Fox NewsNPR and Deadspin all writing pun-filled articles about the change and social media frenzy surrounding it.

So what can we learn about branding initiatives from this minor league mayhem?

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7 Surprisingly Successful Brands on Instagram

September 8th, 2015
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I love looking at interesting data. When I found Totem’s list of brands on Instagram, I dove right in. The first thing I noticed looking at the list was that it was full of obvious consumer brands at the top. Brands that are inherently visual —  mainly fashion, food and consumer goods.

What was interesting to me about the data were the outliers. The brands that seem like they wouldn’t fit at all on the mainly visual social network. Even more interesting for marketers are the reasons they are successful. If we can study these brands and their creative use of the platform, maybe we can model them for our own brands.

With that in mind, I tried to do some digging into the “why” of the success for each of the brands below. There were a few instances where it was obvious, and a few not so obvious.

Either way, I recommend you dive in yourself and study these brands. Figure out what they are doing and draw inspiration from the marketers behind these brands. Think of this as simply a diving off point. Without further ado, here are the most surprising brands I found on Totem’s list.

 

Pure Michigan (@puremichigan)

Official tourism brands have done extremely well on Instagram for obvious reasons. The Earth happens to be very beautiful to look at. For some reason (and nothing against Michigan) nowhere on Earth has more people posting pictures of it than Michigan.

@PureMichigan ranks first in Totem’s overall tourism category for Instagram users posting its hashtag #puremichigan. If you only look at tourism brands for geographical areas, after Australia and Canada, it ranks third in terms of follower numbers.

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Why You Shouldn’t Target Your Marketing: Target marketing fails

July 21st, 2015
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Targeted marketing, or the practice of aiming marketing collateral at specific prospects or customers, has become so prolific that it is one of the largest tools in the modern marketer’s toolkit.  In fact, the U.S. Small Business Administration lists targeted marketing as the third step in marketing implementation.

Imagine yourself attending the brainstorming session for your next marketing campaign or participating in one at a trendy advertising agency. Does anyone in the room ever verbalize the thought, “Let’s not target this campaign to anyone?” Of course not; they would be laughed out of the room.

However, simply targeting your marketing is not equivalent to being customer-centric, or customer-first, and this is where the majority of us go wrong. Aristotle hints at this in his master work, Rhetoric: “For it is not enough to know what we ought to say; we must also say it as we ought … ”

It is in the spirit of saying it “as we ought” that I humbly submit to you five steps that have the capacity to royally mess up your targeted marketing by not implementing it with a customer-centric approach.

 

Step #1: Target Just Your Intended Audience

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Harley-Davidson Overcomes the Baby Boomer Cliff by Creating a New Customer Base

May 15th, 2015
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Brands are not solely defined by corporate executives and marketing campaigns but by communities that are loyal to the brand and the perception of those communities by society.

These communities are never static. As the major purchasing power shifts from one generation to the next, brands need to evolve in order to ensure the survival of their market share.

Toy brands, for example, are excellent at targeting the next generation. They rely on detailed research and outreach programs to make sure their brand loyalty continues. These companies also rely on the nostalgia of parents who played with the toys when they were younger.

But what about brands with a loyal brand population that don’t have a natural turnover rate from parent to child? How can these brands prepare themselves for a major generational shift?

That major generational shift is already on its way. Baby boomers — Americans born post-World War II to around 1964 — are retiring in vast numbers. Right now, there are 40 million Americans aged 65 and older. These citizens make up 13% of the population, according to Census.gov. By 2030, the 65+ age group will climb to 20% of the population and become the single biggest age demographic, following “the greying trend” of other fully industrialized countries around the world.

This represents a major shift in purchasing power. Brands that rely on baby boomers as their core demographic have been aware of the coming shift for years.

But few have begun to prepare for it as successfully as Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

Harley-Davidson is an iconic American brand that truly grew into its legendary status right after World War II — growing up alongside baby boomers.

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Harley-Davidson, INC (HOG): Geared Up For a Strong Ride, Scutify (2014)

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Digital Marketing: What is a 21st century brand?

April 7th, 2015
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What is a brand?

Specifically, what is a brand in the 21st century, when we have the ability to converse directly with our customers?

Is it a product, a culture, a destination, service or ingredient? Or is it something more metaphysical? Steven Jones said in his book, Brand Like a Rockstar, that,

Brands are so much bigger than business, logos, names and locations. Brands go deeper, beneath the visible surface and exist in the mind. Brands are essentially perceptions and emotions. They are feelings and associations that come from interacting with a product or service.

A brand in the 21st century exists in the feelings customers get when they interact with a company’s product. It is a direct reflection of that company’s culture, value proposition and the individual personalities of its executives and employees that help shape the brand’s core values.

With the advent of social media, the cultural norms that dictate how a brand interacts with its customers have irrevocably changed the way we view it.

Brands have become more human, and today’s technology allows us to have a real-time conversation with our customers as well as allowing them to start a real-time conversation with us. This means brands are quicker to respond to the praise and critiques of marketing campaigns.

Recently, Starbucks had a social marketing campaign that focused on a desire to force its customers to talk about race. In the campaign, Starbucks had their employees write, “Race Together” on cups of joe.

race togetherThe idea was that every time someone got a cup of coffee, it could be an opportunity to talk about the recent racial and social tensions that have recently gained traction in the national media.

The campaign failed spectacularly.

After only a week of near constant criticism, it came to an end. However, it didn’t harm the Starbucks brand. In fact, it reinforced the brand’s values in the minds of the public. Because Starbucks has crafted a socially-conscious brand image, it has often been criticized by taking a stance on socially divisive subjects.

However, for better or for worse, the company has taken a stance on social issues, which is the main fact perceived not only by customers but also the media at large. Failures have (so far) been forgiven.

The hardest part of managing a brand in the 21st century is with all the avenues we have available to interact with customers, ensuring that messaging reflects brand values.

Brands today can make jokes in social media, wish customers happy birthday and interact frequently with the online communities that support them. It is these communities in the end that help define the perception of the brand in the minds of other consumers. By developing relationships with them, brands can grow a brand image that will absorb the blows of bad campaigns and help gather steam to launch its next marketing idea.

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Ecommerce: How to preserve your brand globally [Video]

March 27th, 2015
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Ecommerce offers a great opportunity because it allows marketers to sell globally much more easily than opening brick-and-mortar locations around the world. This video from the MarketingSherpa video archive features Rob Garf, Vice President of Industry Strategy and Insights, Demandware, covering this topic with some tips on global ecommerce and insights from the frontlines of selling online in new geographies.

 

Preserving brand value across multiple cultures

According to Rob, global ecommerce is growing, and the first challenge is preserving brand value while meeting the specific needs of the new marketplace.

“First off, you can’t not pay attention to [global ecommerce]. Retailers — historically, how they grew globally was to have to stand up an entire physical location, retool their entire supply chain, and it was really expensive,” he said.

“The digital world really allows you to grow across boundaries in a real, more efficient way. Be able to test different markets. Be able to reach new consumers and ultimately grow the business,” Rob added.

Rob explained that it comes down to culture and being entrenched in how the consumers behave and how they want to interact with the brand, and those factors are affected by geography. In order to accomplish this in marketing, merchandising and promotional practices need to be adjusted. In Rob’s words, “Have a local presence in order to be local.”

Watch the video to find out more of Rob’s advice on marketing ecommerce globally:

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Digital Marketing: Content marketing, social media and SEO predictions for 2015

February 20th, 2015
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Every year at Email Summit, we ask marketers for their predictions.

Before MarketingSherpa reporter Courtney Eckerle interviews you about your marketing predictions in the Email Summit Media Center, I figured it was only fair to put a stake in the ground and make some predictions you could hold me to as well.

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Prediction #1: Convergence is the watchword for digital marketing this year

You’ve already seen (and will continue to see) convergence among marketing and business software platforms, and this trend will continue to grow as the line blurs between publishers, brands and marketing agencies.

Curve by Getty Images. Verizon’s experiment with Sugarstring. And, of course, The Red Bulletin. More and more brands are learning the power of building this kind of one-to-one connection with their audiences, building an owned audienc, and not having to borrow interest from television or other content creators.

At the same time, publishers are creating content for brands with their own agency arms, as well (a bit of a blast from the past when newspapers used to help create ads to sell media space).

Tribune Publishing (which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other dailies) bought a stake in Contend, a content agency that creates branded campaigns. Onion Labs, The Onion’s in-house ad agency, has made some seriously cool campaigns. Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair and GQ recently hired a director of branded content and launched a branded content shop which blurs the line between editorial and promotion.

Advertising and marketing agencies, more threatened than ever by brands and publishers, will try to get an ownership stake in the ideas they help create, like Anomaly did with EOS cosmetics or how 37signals went from being a website redesign shop to a software company selling Basecamp.

Data, will of course, be huge. This will be of benefit to content creators of all stripes listed above. Since they have the traffic and relationship with the audience, they have the ability to learn the audience’s preferences based on their behavior, and then engage in A/B testing with these audiences to build a strong understanding of the products, services and offers that these customers will most respond to.

But behind it all, let’s not overlook the people with the knowhow to make it happen, which can be a scarce resource — brilliant, brilliant marketers, writers, designers and data scientists.

Being able to navigate this land of data and convergence, networking and real relationships will be critical for the marketer to build cross-functional teams that understand all the elements it will take to be successful — content, technology, data and strategy. That’s one reason we pay so much attention to the audience experience and foster interactions and networking at Email Summit.

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