Search Results for: yin yang

5

Sorting through the endless “marketing opportunities”

BNBranding logoThe marketing landscape isn’t really a landscape anymore. It’s more like a fast moving landslide, snapping trees and engulfing unsuspecting business owners up to their ears in muck.

Most clients I know can’t possibly wade through the complex maze of choices.

They are wearing so many different hats, they can’t begin to sort out all the “marketing opportunities,” much less make sound strategic decisions regarding each one.

Quite frankly, it’s silly to even try.

There’s affiliate marketing, agile marketing, advertising, analytics, ambush marketing, B to B, B to C, B to P, behavioral marketing, blackhat marketing, branding,  blog marketing and buzz marketing. And that’s just the first two  letters of the alphabet.

It’s nuts. This is one area where delegation and outsourcing are the only paths to sanity.

Even the biggest brands in the world, with massive marketing departments, can’t make sense of it all. Bob Liodice, President and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers summed it up at a recent conference in Orlando.

“Yes, there’s been substantial technological progress. But is that progress getting us anywhere? The answer is no,” Liodice said. “We should not accept this byzantine, non-transparent super complex, digital media supply chain. No one can understand it. ”

new approach to website designUnless you have a background in at least one major marketing discipline, or unless you have time to devote 30 hours a week learning this stuff, your business will be better off if you stay focused on what you know, and turn to a savvy marketing pro who can dodge the landslide altogether.

I’ve seen what happens when business owners try to forego that marketing help, and try to tackle too many tactics…

• Sloppy, ineffective websites go live, simply because the owner has more important things to do.

• Value propositions go undefined and miscommunicated, both to the sales staff and to end users. Ask 100 small business owners “what’s your value proposition” and at least half of them will be stumped.

• Trade ads get printed in consumer magazines because the “marketing person”/executive assistant doesn’t know the difference.

• E-commerce sales copy on umpteen online retail sites is unproofed, uninspiring and untrue, leading to lackluster E-commerce sales.

• High-dollar digital campaigns directed to teenage gamers pop up on Our Time – a dating site for people over 50. Re-targeting gone wrong!

• Marketing tactics and strategy get completely out of alignment.

• A company that provides private jet services spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on schlocky local TV ads. The phones ring, but no one buys. Big surprise. They’re shouting to the wrong audience entirely –  one that can’t possibly afford the product.

• Social media posts go viral – but they’re so off brand and out of left field, no one has any idea where they even came from.

Yep, the good, ol’ American do-it-yourself mentality dooms many marketing efforts, and even ensures the failure of thousands of businesses every year. For every new tactic, and every variety of marketing, there are a hundred different ways to screw things up.

waste in advertising - BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

So what are you supposed to do? How can business owners find the right marketing tool for the job and quit wasting time on marketing opportunities that go nowhere?

First of all, you need to have a general grasp of the complex marketing landscape.

Reading this blog and other credible sources is a good start. You need to know just enough to manage the process. It’s no different than managing lawyers or accountants or programmers… you can’t be totally in the dark about what they’re doing

Second, find someone you trust implicitly to help you wade through all the marketing clutter.

There are thousands of capable consultants, agencies, firms and freelancers who would love to help you. They will pour heart and soul into your marketing efforts, if you just treat them fairly and pay them on time and accept their outside perspective as a positive.

It’s easy to say, “yeah, well you don’ t really understand my business.”  They may not know it as well as you do, but what we do know is marketing, That’s what you’re hiring us for. We can learn the ins and outs of your operation as we go, just as you can learn the basics of marketing and branding.

Third, set clear goals, expectations and metrics.

Demand some accountability. The last thing you need is someone running around spending all your marketing dollars with no clear direction.

Balance your marketing strategy and tactics with BNBrandingYou need to balance your strategy and tactics and possibly even pull all the pieces together with marketing automation tools.

So start with strategy, not tactics.

Social Media marketing is not a strategy.

Digital advertising  is not a strategy.

Marketing automation is not a strategy.

If you don’t know the difference between strategy and tactics, all the more reason to  outsource your marketing.

Don’t expect a specialist in one little marketing niche to understand the entire marketing landscape. It may take one person to set the strategy and another group to execute all the tactics. After all, there are a lot of them.

I have a client who has spent 10 years studying marketing, just so he could “talk intelligently” with people like me.

He has read hundreds of marketing books, attended conferences, and traveled the country to hear the big-name gurus speak. He’s learned a lot, and yet he freely admits he could never do what I do. Because learning it from a book and actually doing the work successfully, over and over again, are two different things entirely.

But now he knows enough to manage the process. And he has someone he trusts to help him choose his opportunities wisely, and maximize every one.

Here’s more on how to find the right person to manage the complex marketing landscape.

If you want help navigating it all, call BNBranding. And if you’re thinking about marketing automation tools, we should talk.

Truth and clarity about Guerrilla Marketing

BNBranding logoIt’s 1810. Napolean’s armies have conquered all of Europe and are enjoying the spoils. But in Spain, small bands of dedicated freedom fighters wage their own war against the occupying forces.

They sneak. Strike. Move. Hide. And strike again. They involve the enemy in a long, drawn-out war, and ultimately prevail.

That’s how the term Guerrilla Warfare came to be. The literal, Spanish translation is “small war.”

Fast forward to 1983. Jay Conrad Levinson, an old-school, advertising guy from Chicago, borrows the term for a marketing book he’s writing. “Guerrilla Marketing” becomes one of the most popular business books of all time, with endless spin-offs and merchandise tie-ins.

1235585847_16010911_bgToday “Guerrilla Marketing” has become a cliche.

The words stick, but few business people have any idea what it really means. They confuse guerrilla marketing with blow-up gorillas.

For some, guerrilla marketing is nothing more than a convenient catch-phrase; justification for poorly planned, seat-of-the-pants marketing efforts.

They throw together a last-minute  promotion and call it guerrilla marketing.

They run a Facebook campaign to support the sale of the month, and call it guerrilla marketing.

They  print posters for telephone poles, and suddenly, they’re king of the guerrillas. Godzilla marketing!

The problem is, many people don’t understand Guerrilla war to begin with.

Guerrilla warfare might seem like a sporadic, hit and miss affair, but it’s not. Every attack is part of an expertly devised strategy. There’s always someone planning and orchestrating the attacks to make sure the guerrilla tactics produce the most damage at the least possible cost.

Strategy first. Execution second.

Levinson spells it out: “Guerrilla Marketing enables you to increase your sales with a minimum of expense and a maximum of smarts.”

balance your marketing tactics and strategy with BNBrandingRepeat, “maximum smarts.”

Levinson repeatedly stresses the importance of planning, especially for small businesses that have limited resources. His idea of Guerrilla Marketing involves wise strategic planning, big ideas and inexpensive but effective tactics.

A balance between strategy and tactics. 

“Entrepreneurs must govern tactical operations by marketing strategy,” Levinson said. “And all marketing efforts have to be weighed against that strategy.”

Good advice.

Most small businesses have all sorts of “guerrilla” tactics, but no strategy whatsoever.

And here’s the catch: Guerrilla tactics won’t work unless they are strategic and sustained. Unrelentingly.

Levinson’s book stresses personal commitment and consistency, like those Spanish fighters had. But many business owners give up campaigns and change directions on a whim. They don’t plan, they react. They wait and see how much they can afford for advertising and then spend haphazardly. It’s a knee-jerk effort that seldom produces any lasting results.

Instead of a knee-jerk approach, guerrilla marketing consists of a continual advertising presence all year long. It may be small, but it’s a presence.

So the true essence of Guerrilla Marketing, according to the book on the subject, is an innovative strategy and unwavering commitment. Your tactics may be inexpensive to execute, but you have a plan and you stick with it like a track on a tank. That’s Guerrilla Marketing!

“In working with small clients  the greatest stumbling block is their inability to understand commitment,” Levinson said. “You must think of marketing as an investment. Not an expense. And you must see to it that your marketing program is consistent.”

True guerrillas are committed to the bone… they won’t give up until they’re dead, or until the enemy is defeated. Guerrilla armies are outnumbered, out gunned, and out-classed in every conventional way. That’s why they resort to unconventional tactics.

In some of his later work Levinson defines Guerrilla Marketing this way… “a body of unconventional ways of pursuing conventional goals.”

Unfortunately, few guerrilla marketers qualify as unconventional. They employ the same tactics as their traditional competitors, only they do much less of it. They cut corners on important executional details and chalk it up to their guerrilla approach.

Guerrilla warriors use unconventional tactics.

Guerrilla warriors use unconventional tactics.

For a guerrilla army, it’d be like launching an attack in broad daylight with nothing but but BB guns.

Execution matters!

Levinson hardly mentions creativity in his original book, but creative, unconventional execution is crucial for guerrilla marketers. The biggest brands can throw money at a problem and run ads until a year from Tuesday. Guerrilla marketers can’t. They have to be smarter. Sharper. More persuasive. More creative.

Creativity is the key to Guerrilla marketing

Creativity is the key to Guerrilla marketing

Small businesses simply cannot afford messages that don’t resonate. Words that don’t inspire. Or photos that fall flat and impotent. Every element of every guerrilla marketing war needs to be honed and crafted, not thrown together at the last minute.

Levinson said, “many a hard-working, well-meaning business owner will sabotage their business with ill-advised marketing. Guerrillas market like crazy, but none of it is ill-advised.”

Giant, blow-up gorillas in the parking lot are ill-advised. Cutting corners on important executional details… also ill-advised.

For example: A business owner writes his own radio commercial and doesn’t spend any money on talent, editing, or sound design. Then he places the ads on a busy station with lots of national ads and high production values. Two weeks later he’s wondering why the ads aren’t working. A week after that he’s ready to give up on radio advertising all together.

That’s not Guerrilla marketing, and not good business either. A Guerrilla army would never give up simply because one little attack failed to live up to expectations.

History proves that guerrilla campaigns are effective in the long run. The Spanish against Napolean’s army. The French resistance against the Germans. The Afgans against The Soviet Union.

You might not defeat your industry’s superpowers, or even your biggest local competitor, but if you have the fortitude to stick it out, you can win enough little battles to build a great business.

“Confidence is your ally. Provided that your products or services are of sufficient quality, confidence in yourself and your offering will attract buyers more than any other attribute. More than quality. More than selection. More than price,” Levinson said.

Before Levinson’s book, marketing was something only fortune 500 companies could do. He was the first person to put marketing in context for small business owners and entrepreneurs. He put it in terms that common people could understand, and made it seem achievable. Even for underdogs.

“The guerrilla approach is a sensible approach for all marketers, regardless of size. But for entrepreneurs and small business owners who don’t have the funding of a Fortune 500 company, it’s the only way.”

The bottom line here is that even guerrilla armies need generals. They need someone who can plan the strategy and manage the ongoing battles on every front. The same can be said for your marketing efforts.

So if you need help managing all the moving pieces of your own Guerrilla Marketing war, give me a call at BNBranding.

Guerrilla marketing in BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

113 marketin strategy vs tactics BNBranding

The difference between marketing strategy and tactics.

BNBranding logoI’m appalled. A successful marketing guy asked me a question recently — a real no-brainer — which led me to believe he didn’t know the difference between marketing strategy and tactics.

How can that be? He’s held several high-paying marketing positions. He has an MBA. He’s gotta know this stuff.

So I started doing some research online and I’ve found the problem: The internet! And specifically, LinkedIn and other social media channels of misinformation.

marketin strategy vs tactics BNBrandingJust about every day there’s another misleading article about marketing strategy and tactics. There’s more misinformation than information out there. More nonsense than common sense.

For instance, I ran across one article that listed “search engines” as a marketing strategy and said “long-term strategies such as giving away freebies will continue to pay off years down the road.”

Freebies are NOT a strategy. Search engines are NOT a strategy. Digital is NOT a strategy.

Just the other day, one of the biggest gurus of digital marketing published a post about “marketing strategy” that was flat-out wrong. It was about media buying — specifically, choosing Facebook over Television advertising. I

That’s not Marketing Strategy, that’s tactical media buying.  Step 5 in the branding process, not the beginning.

This isn’t just a matter of semantics, it’s negligence! Advice like that would never get past the editors of a brand-name business magazine, but you can find it on-line. All over the place.

In any case, the easiest way to clarify the difference between marketing strategy and tactics is to go to the source…

marketing tactics vs strategy

I’m sorry if the war analogy doesn’t appeal to you, but that’s where these terms came from, some 3,000 years ago.

Here’s how it breaks down: Goals first. Then strategy. Then tactics.

Goal: Win the war.

Strategy: “Divide and conquer.”

Tactics:

CIA spies gather intelligence.

Navy Seals knock out enemy communications.

Paratroopers secure the airports.

Armored Divisions and tank battalions race in and divide the opposing army’s forces.

Drone attacks take out the enemy leadership.

An overwhelming force of infantry invade.

Hand-to-hand combat.

A marketing strategy is an idea… A conceptualization of how the goal could be achieved.

Like “Divide and Conquer.” Another possible war strategy would be “Nuke ‘Em.” (They call them Strategic Nuclear Weapons because they pretty much eliminate the need for any further battlefield tactics.)

In WWII, the generals spent more than six months mapping out the strategy to win the war in Europe before D-Day. They diagnosed the problem, researched the enemy,  pinpointed weaknesses and literally mapped out a plan of attack. Much of that strategic debate focused on what NOT to do… Where NOT to invade. What battlefields to avoid.

Here’s an example of good marketing strategy – from Under Armour.

A marketing tactic is an action you take to execute the designated strategy.

Strategic thinking. Tactical acting.

But let’s get off the battlefield and look at a successful brand. In business, great strategies are built on BIG ideas. And BIG ideas usually stem from some little nugget of consumer insight.

Back in the 70’s, executives at Church & Dwight Inc. noticed that sales of their popular Arm & Hammer baking soda were slipping. The loyal moms and grandmas who had been buying the same baking soda all their lives weren’t baking as much as they used to.

classic marketing strategy and tactics on the Brand Insight Blog

Business Goal:  Turn the tide and increase Baking Soda sales.

Strategy: Devise new reasons for their current customers to pick up that yellow box at the supermarket and use more baking soda.

Specifically, sell Arm & Hammer as a deodorizer for the fridge. That’s a big, strategic idea that led Arm & Hammer in a completely different direction.

They’re now marketing a whole line of environmentally friendly cleaning products. Every current Arm & Hammer product, from toothpaste to cat litter, originated from that strategy of finding new ways to use baking soda. And in the process, an old-fashioned brand has managed to stay relevant.

Tactics: All the traditional marketing tactics have been employed… TV advertising. Magazine ads. Digital advertising. Search engine marketing. Content marketing. Retail promotions. Website dedicated to all the various uses of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda.

All great marketing strategies share these common traits:

• Thorough understanding of the brand’s status and story. Arm & Hammer has a strong heritage that dates back to the 1860’s. That yellow box with the red Arm & Hammer logo is instantly recognizable, and stands for much more than just generic sodium bicarbonate. It’s iconic.

 

 

 

 

 

• A realistic assessment of the product’s strengths & weaknesses. Market research proved what Arm & Hammer executives suspected… that people don’t bake as much as they used to. But it also showed that people were using their baking soda for all kinds of things besides baking. That was the insight that drove the strategy.

• A clear picture of the competition. Arm & Hammer has always been the undisputed market leader in the category. However, when they decided to introduce toothpaste and laundry detergent, the competition became

balance your marketing strategy and tactics with BNBranding

fierce. Arm & Hammer’s long-standing leadership position in one vertical market gave them a fighting chance against Procter & Gamble.

• Intimate knowledge of the consumer and the market. The shift away from the traditional American homemaker directly affected baking soda sales. Church & Dwight kept up with the trends, and even led the charge on environmental issues.

• A grasp of the big-picture business implications. Good brand strategies reach way beyond the marketing department. When you have a big idea, execution of the strategy will inevitably involve operations, R&D, HR, finance and every other business discipline.

A great strategy does not depend on brilliant tactics for success. If the idea is strong enough, you can get by with mediocre tactical execution. (Although I wouldn’t recommend tactical short cuts.)

However, even the best tactics can’t compensate for a lousy strategy.

You can waste a lot of money on marketing tactics if there’s no cohesive strategy involved. Some people confuse marketing strategy with marketing objectives. They are not synonymous. Here are a few examples of “marketing strategies” from seemingly credible on-line sources:

Marketing strategy and tactics - the branding process at BNBranding

The top three circles represent strategy. All the activities in the blue circles are tactics. You can’t do it all yourself. Learn more about our proven branding process. 

“Create awareness.” “Overcome objections.” “Boost consumer confidence.” “Refresh the brand.” “Turnkey a multiplatform communications program.”

That’s just marketing industry jargon.

Those are NOT strategies, they’re goals. (And not even very good goals.) Remember, it’s not a strategy unless there’s an idea behind it.

Any number of strategies can be used to achieve a business goal. In fact, it often takes more than one strategy to achieve a lofty goal, and each strategy involves its own unique tactical plan.

Unfortunately, a lot of marketing managers simply throw together a list of the tactics they’ve always used, and call it a strategy.

If you’re still wondering about the difference between marketing strategy and tactics, try the “what-if” test…

At Dominoes, someone said, “Hey, what if we guaranteed 30-minute delivery?” Dominoes couldn’t compete on product quality or price, but they could compete on speedy delivery.

So a strategy was born.

After that, their entire operation revolved around the promise of 30-minute delivery. They built a hell of a strategy around a simple, tactical idea.  That strategy worked well for more than 20 years until a lawsuit forced them to abandon it.  Now Jimmy John’s owns the “Super fast delivery” niche in the fast food industry.

At Arm & Hammer someone asked, “What if we could come up with a bunch of new uses for baking soda?”  Presenting people with entirely new ways to use your product is a  good marketing strategy.

On the other hand, “What if we do search engines?” doesn’t make sense. Must be a tactic.

“What if we increase market share?”  There’s no idea in that, so it must be a goal.

What if we could screen all web content for factual errors and eliminate some of the conflicting information you find.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

The fact is, even the sharpest marketing people need help sometimes. Even the most savvy entrepreneurs run into roadblocks on a regular basis. They crash and burn, pick up the pieces and keep on going!

BNBranding can help you navigate the world of marketing and take your business to the next level. We have a disciplined  branding process that produces a unique strategy that will differentiate you from all your competitors. And then we help you execute that strategy it in creative new ways.

It starts with an affordable test drive assessment of your current marketing efforts. We’d be happy to do that for you. It’s a simple, no-risk assessment that will point the way forward. No matter where you’re starting.

 

 

 

 

All rights reserved. Copyright 2017 BNBranding.

6 Consumer behavior

Predicting consumer behavior: Or the whacky, random ways people buy.

BNBranding logoCorporations spend billions every year trying to predict consumer behavior.  Market research firms have sophisticated modeling protocols, ivy league PHDs and multivariate analysis to help them make sense of what is, inherently, nonsensical behavior.

Take, for example, the time my dad decided to replace his rusting Ford pick-up truck.

He drove two hours to the Big City so he’d have plenty of truck dealers to choose from. He went online to do some research, then he spent the weekend kicking tires, braving the onslaught of salesmen and test driving every make and model.

He came home in a Toyota Matrix. He was 75 at the time.

Consumer behaviorGod only knows what possessed him to switch from a Ford pick-up truck to a little urban pocket-rocket. The Matrix is more suited to base-thumping car stereo blast-a-thons than my dad’s easy-listening coastal lifestyle.

No amount of big data could have could have predicted it.

In hindsight, I suppose you could say it was consistent with his car-buying history, which is even more erratic than his golf game. I challenge anyone to find a pattern in this list:

1968 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe

1970 Chevy Caprice Station Wagon

1972 AMC Hornet (In order to torture his son)

1974 Chevy Vega

1976 Ford LTD 4-door sedan.

1980 Mazada 626 (below)

predicting consumer behavior

1985 Volkswagen Golf Diesel

1991 Ford Taurus

1997 Ford F-150 Pickup

2004 Toyota Matrix

2008 Ford Taurus

2010 Toyota Camry

2017 Toyota Camry.  (Wow, a repeat purchase. He’s getting predictable in his old age.)

I’ve decided he buys cars the same way he buys fruit… Whatever looks good, smells sweet and is on sale at that particular moment.

You might think that’s a little weird, but research published by University of Iowa neurologist Antonio Damasio shows that most purchase decisions are almost as random as my dad’s car buying. Predicting consumer behavior is not easy.

Damasio says marketing messages are processed outside the conscious mind. Emotions push us toward decisions we think are best for us, and we often bypass reason because experience endows us with what he calls “somatic markers in the brain.”

Somatic markers are the most likely biological basis for intuition. These pre-recorded behavior guides are based on inherited behavioral traits and formed by experience. When making decisions, somatic markers are triggered, often making reason irrelevant.

So it’s intuition and emotion that drives real life purchasing decisions. Not logic.

As Dr. Dean Shibata put it, “If you eliminate the emotional guiding factors, it’s impossible for people to make decisions in everyday life.”

On the other hand, when people are asked hypothetical questions about purchases, as in a focus group, the brain works on a much different, analytical level.

predicting consumer behavior“Instead of the real reason for buying, researchers get a rationalization based on the respondent’s idealized self-image. If they don’t account for this bias, researchers are left with a model based on how people think they ought to be motivated, rather than their actual motivations.”

So beware of market research that demands a rational explanation for irrational behavior.

And here’s another thing that makes predicting consumer behavior so difficult… Many times we aren’t “qualitatively conscious” of our motivation.

“Consumers have limited knowledge of their own values, needs and motivations that affect purchase decisions,” says Neurologist Richard Restack.

So my dad probably doesn’t even know why he made that decision to drive home in a Matrix. It wasn’t really because the garbage cans would fit in the hatchback.

The point is, all purchases are emotional purchases.

So the next time you’re throwing together a sales presentation, or putting together a Facebook campaign, you might want to spend more time trying evoke an emotional response, and less time building charts and graphs.

Reason certainly does play a vital role in some stages of many buying decisions. But in the end, the actual purchase is entirely emotional. The rationalization for the purchase is what’s rational.

Here’s an example from my own, personal experience…

I recently purchased a new driver, which was said to guarantee at least 20 more yards off the tee. (Don’t even get me started on those tired golf industry promises.)

Predicting consumer behavior

Here are the reasons why I pulled the trigger, now, on a new driver purchase:

  1. It’s been 8 years since I purchased a new club. I was due. I deserved it.
  2. A client of mine in the golf industry couldn’t shut up about this club. And he gave me a deal.
  3. I couldn’t find any consistency with my current driver.
  4. It was market research for this article.

Not exactly a rational decision, when all was said and done.

It had nothing to do with the features they tout in the golf industry magazines. I wasn’t searching for more distance. “Ten more yards” was not a relevant message for me.

The point is, people are unpredictable. Even old people who are brand loyal are unpredictable.

As marketers, the minute you start thinking you really know your audience’s hot buttons and can predict their behavior, forget about it.

Just when you’re sure you’re going to sell another Ford pickup, they throw you a curveball and go for the Matrix.

BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

 

 

If you’re wondering what your brand story should be, try this post.  If you want my personal advice, click here.   Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. John Furgurson.

 

1 waste in advertising - BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

Just a little trim around the ears — How to cut your marketing budget without hurting your brand image.

BNBranding logoWhen it comes to belt tightening, most marketing managers have it all wrong. The minute the boss gives them the bad news… “gotta cut your marketing budget”  they go straight to the list of tactics and start chopping off the bottom of the spread sheet. Not a smart trimming around the ears, a military-style buzz cut…

how to cut your marketing budget

First thing to get chopped  is  community support… those feel-good event sponsorships that help non-profit organizations but don’t return any discernible ROI.

The next thing on the chopping block is ”image” advertising.” Anything that doesn’t have a coupon or a response vehicle of some kind is out the window.

Brand building, it seems, can wait for better days.

Quite often, the only thing left is nearly-free social media posts and tiny little digital display ads that don’t get seven seconds of attention.

The short-term reaction often leaves companies looking quite bad in the long run.

What’s needed is a more strategic approach to cutting your marketing budget.

Rather than a military barber’s approach to cost cutting, try thinking like a surgeon. First, do no harm. Start by eliminating the marketing messages that are off brand, off target, or both.

In order to do that, you might need a second opinion.

You need more than just the bosses’ orders and one person’s opinion to wisely cut your marketing budget. You need to eliminate dangerous assumptions from the marketing planning process and work with objective criteria of some sort.

So here’s an idea… why not start with an objective assessment of what you’re currently doing? Get a second opinion on your messaging, your media buy and your overall tactical plan.

waste in advertising - BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

In my experience, it’s often the message, not the medium, that’s the problem…

Print ads say one thing, social media says another and the web site implies something else. Sales presentations go off in one direction, while promotions head somewhere else. Radio commercials, new media, good old-fashioned direct mail… it’s all scattered around with no coherent theme.

So before you do any budget cutting, use the opportunity to think about what you’re saying. Get your message aligned with your strategy. Reevaluate every marketing “touch point” in terms of consistency, clarity and brand worthiness. Then scalp all the wild hairs.

If you can just quit saying the wrong thing, you’ll save a ton of money.

Most marketing managers assume the budget was allocated in a logical manner to begin with. But that’s simply not the case. Most marketing budgets are handed down, year after year, and are based simply on “how we’ve always done it.”  No one ever questions the underlying assumptions.

And you know what they say about ass-umptions.

Here’s an example from the medical profession: Our client, the CEO of a multi-location pediatric practice, was enamored with the idea of “excellence.”  He wanted to build a “pediatric center of excellence” and recruit specialists from all over to “elevate the level of care to new heights.”  Operationally, that’s a great idea, but it was a terrible idea for advertising.

Because the assumption — that the quality of care is relevant to young mothers — turned out to be false. Moms believe that ALL doctors are good doctors. They just want one that they like in an office that’s convenient. So in that case, we started by cutting out all the communications that were focused on the quality of care.

Here’s another example of the messaging process gone wrong. I wrote a post about an ad for Wales Tourism. A classic case of paying a lot of money to place an ad  in Golf Digest that was wrong in both its strategy, and its execution.

As one British reader commented… “Golf Wales is an oxymoron.”  And even if you accept the strategy of selling Wales as a golf destination, the message was all wrong, so cutting that ad is probably the smartest thing they could do.

The fact is, Wales Tourism probably needs a lot more than just a quick trim. They need to rethink the entire hairdo. But who’s going to do that?

truth in advertising BNBrandingAny decent marketing person can buy media that will reach the desired target audience and choose tactics that will drive traffic. But revamping the strategy and nailing down that core brand message is something else entirely.

Strategy and message development are the hardest parts of the job, and unfortunately, many marketing managers aren’t up to the task. And even if they were, many bosses wouldn’t listen.

A well-crafted, comprehensive brand strategy book eliminates that problem and makes cost cutting a lot more logical. It’s like a brand bible that provides guidance and inspiration on every decision. So when push comes to shove, there’s no doubt about what should stay, and what should go.

That’s what my firm does… We help clients flesh-out their brand story and we put the strategy down on paper. Once it’s sold internally — and all the department heads are on the same page — then we help execute on it.

And by keeping that brand book close at hand, our clients eliminate waste and save money, without sacrificing their hard-earned brand  image.

So if you absolutely have to cut your marketing budget, start by reading this post.

BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

2

Judge Not. (And make better marketing decisions.)

BNBranding logoMarketing is a very judgemental business. Business owners and CEOs are constantly judging the results of their marketing efforts. Sometimes objectively, sometimes not.

judging your advertising agency's workAd agencies and design firms judge each other in a constant battle of “my work’s cooler than your work.” They also subject themselves to judging in award shows, where a few peers get to judge the work of hundreds of competitors on an entirely subjective basis.

When it comes to television advertising, everyone’s a critic.

TV viewers sit around and judge the advertising they see, based on entertainment value alone. If it’s entertaining enough, they might talk about it over the water cooler. If not, they vote with the remote.

But playing armchair critic is less harmful than being judgemental.

Critical thinking is tremendously important in marketing. If we didn’t look at things critically, we’d never push ourselves to come up with fresh, new ideas. Critical thinking is a key to good judgement.

You can be critical of someone’s ideas without judging the person. But there’s no such thing as constructively judgmental.

For example, “That’s the worst commercial he’s ever done,” is being critical. “That director’s an idiot for making that commercial” is being judgemental. Judgemental of who he is, versus critical of what he does.

Being judgemental has negative, disapproving connotations. It’s based on intolerance, stereotypes and prejudice.

I’ve seen a lot of sensible, savvy business owners and high-level managers make hair-brained decisions because they were too judgemental. One client I know believes that all advertising people are evil con-men, preying on well-meaning business owners. Once burned, he lets his past experience cloud his judgement to the point of being obstinately ineffective.

His poor judgement in that one area puts his leadership in question and hurts the morale of his entire team.

Good judgement, on the other hand, is the ability to form sound opinions and make sensible decisions. Great leaders and effective managers continually demonstrate good judgment. They’re open minded, they listen well, and they make good decisions based on balanced insight, rather than conjecture or some ill-conceived notion of what’s worked in the past.

Many people who strive to be less judgmental in their personal lives still fall into the trap in their professional lives. It creeps into their hiring choices, their strategic planning, and their marketing plans.

Here’s a classic example that I’ve heard more than once: “Oh, I tried radio, and it doesn’t work.”

That particular business owner condemned an entire medium based on one lame attempt… he had a crummy story to tell, a poorly-written script, and a media schedule that was thinner than a supermodel on a new year’s resolution. Of course it didn’t work for him — that time.

I’ve even run into CEOs who are completely biased when it comes to color. And I’m not talking about race. I’m talking about favorite colors and pet peeves like red, yellow or any shade of orange.

How rational is that?

Personal preferences and stereotypes creep into this business constantly. And stereotypes, based on judgmental conclusions at best, are not a helpful component of your marketing program.

In fact, poor judgment based on stereotypes or close-mindedness can ruin a small business.

At my firm we go to great lengths to get beyond the usual stereotypes of the target audience. One sentence on a creative brief cannot possibly sum up the feelings, attitudes and behaviors of a group.

On the creative side, we always try to develop intriguing stories with quirky, unexpected characters. (In Hollywood writing circles it’s common knowledge that most memorable heroes and villains are those that defy traditional stereotypes.)

Here are a few stereotypes from the marketing world that I’m familiar with…

  1. CMOs can’t possibly be creative.
  2. Copywriters aren’t analytical enough for strategy work.
  3. Art directors don’t know a thing about business.
  4. Account planners can’t possibly contribute on the creative side.
  5. Anyone over 40 can’t be trusted to manage social media or digital advertising.

Nonsense. Great ideas can come from anywhere. Writers and art directors pick up a lot of business acumen by listening carefully to clients in a wide variety of business categories. And creativity is not something you lose as you get older.

Being judgmental is so common it’s listed as a personality type on Meyer’s Briggs Type Indicator tests. And it’s so ingrained in American culture you even hear it in post-game interviews… athletes who come in second openly admit that the winner was a “better person.”

No he isn’t. He just performed a little better that one time.

Unfortunately, we judge the quality of the person according to his or her performance. Ironically, we even judge ourselves for being too judgemental.

Blogs are inherently judgemental. The whole idea of an on-line soapbox lends itself to judgmental rants on just about any subject imaginable. I addressed the soapbox syndrome in my very first post, and I’m working hard to make sure this blog doesn’t digress into a petty critique of the latest marketing blunder.

I urge you to do the same. Use good judgement.

Oregon advertising agency blog post on stereotypes

• Don’t let preconceived notions and stereotypes cloud your judgment when it comes to marketing programs.

• Don’t rush to judge someone based on their performance on one day, in one meeting, or on one project. Just because you didn’t like one idea, or one campaign concept, doesn’t mean the team is a failure.

• Make sure you’ve done your homework — your research — before you dive into something. That’s a prerequisite for good judgement.

• Set aside your personal preferences when making decisions about creative execution. Even though you may not personally like orange doesn’t mean it should be eliminated entirely from the brand design guidelines.

• Remember that your creative team is constantly judging  their own work against the best in the business.  And if they’re any good, they’re probably quite hard on themselves.

• And most of all, be open minded to new ideas. Don’t reinforce stereotypes, break them.

Click here for an unbiased, non-judgemental assessment of all your marketing efforts. 

Try this post if you want good judgement when it comes to website design. 

 

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34 State Farm is Where??? Insurance industry marketing

brand credibility from branding experts

Insurance industry marketing isn’t exactly exciting stuff. Not on most people’s radar, for sure. And yet when my kids were just 9 and ll they could sing the slogans of every major insurance company in the country. They had been exposed to so many commercials, they knew ‘em all…

“Nationwide is on your side.”

“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”

“You’re in good hands, with Allstate.”

Prudential. “ Like a rock.”

“We. Are. Farmers…”

As a parent, it’s alarming. As a branding professional, it’s very interesting.

How could Progressive Flow,  The Geiko Gekko and Mayhem Man become so ingrained in our everyday lives?  And why would the insurance companies spend millions on advertising that reaches children? Seems like their media buy on the Disney Channel and on ABC Family is a lot of wasted exposure.

But then I think about my own experience, and it sort of makes sense.

My parents were insured by State Farm, so that’s all I knew when I bought my first auto policy. My wife had a State Farm agent when we got married. It never occurred to me to look anywhere else, and we’ve never had a compelling reason to change.

Insurance industry marketing is a matter of momentum… if you can get ’em young you’ll probably have ’em for for a long time.

Because Insurance is one of those low-interest, out-of-sight-out-of-mind service categories that no one really wants to think about. I’d rather have a root canal than deal with insurance of any kind. And that’s why those early branding efforts are so important… once they have ya, they have ya.

We’ve stayed with the same insurance company for almost 20 years not because State Farm has good service or great rates. Not because we’re loyal to our agent, who lives 120 miles away and never speaks to us. It’s because we absolutely hate the thought of switching.

It’s like brand loyalty by default. Life, auto, home, boat, cabin… We’re all in, and the hassle factor of changing insurance carriers is just too much to even contemplate.

But that was before we ever filed a major claim. Before our little winter disaster. That’s when all that insurance industry marketing hype came crashing in around us.

Here’s what happened:

insurance industry marketing bnbrandingIt always snows a lot in the Oregon Cascades, but January 2012 was crazy. The garage/shop at our mountain cabin eventually collapsed under the weight of 10 feet of heavy, wind-packed snow. It was a total loss, to the tune of about $75,000.

Naturally, we called our Sate Farm agent. Her assistant put us in touch in contact with a claims adjuster, and for the first time, we realized that State Farm is like two separate companies. The independent agents who set up the policies and collect the money have nothing to do with the claims adjusters who pay money out and deal with the stressed out customers who have experienced a disaster. Of any kind.

For 80 years, State Farm has branded itself as a neighborly, down-home sort of company that would be there for us, if we really needed ‘em. That’s the perception they’ve spent millions to maintain. That was the perception I grew up with.

The reality, however, is quite different indeed.

The lady who’s supposed to be handling our claim definitely didn’t get the memo about being a good neighbor. In fact, any goodwill that State Farm has built up with us over the years went right out the window with just one claim. It was a nightmare.

It took seven months before they finished cleaning up the disaster area. Our neighbors were not happy!  State Farm covered the loss, eventually, but the process was painful at best. When we called our devoted agent to complain, we got nothing but excuses and second guessing.

I can’t even imagine what the Hurricane Katrina victims must have gone through. The State of Mississippi finally had to sue State Farm to get them to pay the claims due.

Talk about a PR debacle. Instead of looking like a good neighbor, State Farm came out of that storm looking like an evil, corporate giant that could care less about the little people. I’d love to know how much market share they’ve lost since then.

There are two important morals to this saga:

1. When it comes to branding, actions speak louder than words. You have to be very, very careful about promising something in a slogan or ad campaign that you can’t deliver day in and day out. The promises that are routinely made in insurance industry marketing are hard to live up to.

Fifty years ago, State Farm probably could deliver on their promise. Not anymore. Today, State Farm is the country’s largest home and auto insurer, with 21% market share in the homeowners category, and $18% in auto insurance. It’s too big to be a good neighbor. That’s why so many upstarts, like Progressive, have stolen market share in the last ten years.

waste in advertising - BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog2. Branding is not just a function of the marketing department. It’s also an operational issue.

State Farm’s claims operation is out of alignment with their brand. The sales side and the claims side are not operating from the same playbook, and State Farm can’t fix their problem by changing their tried and true slogan.

They have to change the way their claims division works in order to live up to the brand. They need to align the experience with the brand promise.

A tall order, no doubt.

Brands have always been about trust, and promises kept. For me, State Farm betrayed that trust. The behavior of one claims adjuster was so “off brand,” it actually prompted me to  start the long and painful process of changing insurance companies.

I went with Progressive for one reason only… I can do business entirely on line, and the user experience is quite pleasant. I don’t have to deal with an agent at all.

At least until I have to make a claim. Then we’ll see how Flow compares to the “neighbors” at State Farm.

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