Category Archives for "Marketing"

marketing characters Brand Insight Blog

Marketing Management & Leadership – Who’s really running the show?

BNBranding logoMarketing is full of colorful characters… Data nerds, creative prima donnas, wordsmith poets, actors, spreadsheet managers, order takers, MBAs, planners, directors, programmers, guru tweeters and on and on. Successful marketing management hinges on how you handle that challenging mix of characters, personalities and skill sets.

marketing management characters Brand Insight BlogYou have to choose carefully, decide who should lead, and practice good casting.

If you put the wrong person in the leading role, you could be in trouble. And if the bit players are not well directed you could end up spending a lot of money for very little return.

It’s a common problem. Finding the right advisors is always difficult, especially when the owner or CEO is inexperienced, insecure, or just not very well informed about marketing.

In many companies there is one character lurking in the shadows who steals the show and becomes the defacto marketing director. Even though she may not have a lick of marketing experience, she controls the decisions that make or break the company’s marketing programs.

Her influence is disproportionate to her skill or experience.

untrusted marketing effortsIn mythology, screenwriting and literature, this character would be referred to as a “shapeshifter.” From a marketing management perspective, she is trouble.

Shapeshifters are two-faced. They are pretending to be something they are not and it’s not unusual for them to change alliances frequently. These characters add uncertainty and tension to any story, and they’ll do the same for your marketing efforts. They’re not to be trusted. (Example: Severus Snape in Harry Potter.)

 

In real life business the shapeshifting character could be a secretary, an outside consultant, a hot-shit sales person or even the spouse of the owner. It’s always someone who has the ear of the CEO, and it’s usually someone who’s been around the company for a long time and “really knows the customer.”

When CEOs abdicate responsibility to a shapeshifter, things get messy. The brand story gets convoluted. Efforts get duplicated. Time is wasted. Morale throughout the company plummets. Money gets thrown at problems that don’t even exist. And, inevitably, the marketing programs perform quite poorly. There is no curtain call.

Here are four characters that I frequently find elbowing their way to the front of the marketing management stage:

Social Media "guru" brand insight blog

The Social Media “Guru.”

Back in the 90’s many business leaders mistakenly equated sales with marketing. So marketing departments were commonly run by sales guys.

Now it’s the social media specialist who often becomes the defacto marketing director.

But anyone with a cell phone and opposable thumbs can dub themselves a social media guru. She might do a good job of “getting your name out there” on the various platforms, and she might even generate exceptional engagement with her friends, but that’s not the whole picture.

I love this analogy from Peter Shankman, from the Business Insider: “Being an expert in social media is like being an expert in taking bread out of the fridge. He may be the best bread taker-outter in the world, but the goal is to make a great sandwich, and he can’t do that if all he’s ever done is take bread out of the fridge.

The Kid with a Drone and a Title.

Drones are all the rage right now. Many people seem to think that those epic aerial shots of their building and parking lot are all they need for TV commercials and a “killer” social media presence.

BNBranding's brand insight blogI even know one college kid who has a drone and the enviable title of “director of marketing.” And it’s not a small company. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in his marketing budget.

Hold that joy stick just one doggone minute. What’s missing from that equation?

Just because he can fly a drone without killing innocent by-standards doesn’t mean he can pilot a comprehensive marketing effort. If that same kid knew how to run the latest, greatest spreadsheet program would you make him CFO?

I don’t think so.

Effective marketing management is is not possible unless you have someone who understands the big picture of marketing, and the longterm process of brand building. You can’t rely on a young specialist to manage the whole she-bang.

The Wife/Secretary/CMO

This is a common scenario in family-owned businesses… The owner/CEO uses his wife to “do the marketing.” Which means she’s doing an occasional social media post, some fliers, and website updates.

Sometimes it’s the administrative assistant who fancies herself a marketing person. Since she controls scheduling and information flow to the CEO, she’s in the position to also control everything he sees regarding marketing. She can easily undermine the best efforts of the actual marketing staff or any outside agencies, especially when it comes to subjective decisions on creative issues. So it’s a recipe for disaster.

So here’s some advice for marketing management…

If you’re a business owner make sure you find a genuine expert in marketing management to be your leading lady. Get a generalist who knows how to keep all the other performers performing. Once you decide who that’s going to be, structure your business so that person has real authority, and don’t let anyone undermine that.

If you’re an outside agency providing marketing services, watch out for the shapeshifter who threatens to sabotage your work. Identify her early. Either make her your ally and work with her, or convince the CEO that she doesn’t belong in his cast of marketing characters.

If you’d like help leading your marketing efforts, call me. We’ll make your life a whole lot easier. 541-815-0075

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2

Masterful Brand Management – Golf industry marketing & Tiger Woods

Golf Industry Marketing and The Masters BNBrandingIt’s Masters Week —  the biggest week of the year in golf industry marketing and a tide-turning event for several brands.

Most notably, the TW brand.

Over the last 9 months the Tiger Woods brand has, shall we say, strayed a bit. The “indiscretions” of Tiger’s personal life have cost his brand millions in endorsement deals, and even more in public goodwill. As one sports writer put it, “it’s the most dramatic fall from grace in the history of sport.”

For Tiger Woods and company, The Masters represents the perfect venue for a comeback, and an ideal brand affiliation.

See, Augusta National is considered hallowed ground. It’s like the Sistine Chapel of the golf world and its annual invitational tournament is like Easter Sunday with the Pope.  Every player and every “patron” out there considers himself blessed to be part of it.

Call it the halo effect… TW needs some of that sweet aroma of blossoming azaleas to rub the stink off of him.

 

 

So Tiger started the week in Augusta with a press conference. Every question was personal. Pointed. Charged. Every reporter wanted to rehash the events of Tiger’s private life. To his credit, Tiger’s responses seemed genuine and heartfelt. Not overly scripted. But it was obvious that his answers were thought out in advance. As they should be.

From what I’ve read, the CEO of Toyota, with all his PR advisors, didn’t handle things as well in regards to the recall.  Toyota execs withheld information that put their customers at risk of death, and the press was easier on them than Tiger.

Different rules apply to our sports heroes.

In any case, Toyota has 50 years of dependable performance and customer loyalty to help pull it through this little bump in the road. And ultimately, when it comes to Tiger’s brand, performance will trump everything else.

tiger woods comeback logo brand video

The Tiger Woods logo for Nike

As soon as he gets back to his dominant form and wins a few of these majors, like The Masters, people will begin to forgive and forget. And golf industry marketing can get back on track.

Keep in mind, his Tiger’s brand bordered on superhero status before all this crap came up. But every superhero has his kryptonite, and now we know what Tiger’s is.

The events of the last year have had a polarizing effect on the TW brand. The people who weren’t Tiger fans before really hate him now. And he seems to be universally despised by women.

However, among the men over 45 who make up 75% of the golfing public, he’s still  more admired than despised. He still gets a standing ovation on the 12th tee at Augusta. Still inspires awe with his performance on the golf course. And that’s always good for business.

The other thing that TW and company did this week was launch a new commercial.

In classic, Nike fashion, the black and white spot features Tiger, just standing there looking stoic, while his father’s words hauntingly ask the questions that the entire world has been asking:

“I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are… did you learn anything?”

The mainstream media and general public won’t recognize the voice and might see it simply as PR BS. Some have called it crass and creepy. Others are saying it’s  “Exploiting his father’s memory.”

But the general public isn’t the target. Die-hard golf fans will know it’s the voice of Earl Woods, reaching out from the grave, and for them, it will have the desired effect.

It’s common knowledge that Woods and his father were very tight. One of the most poignant moments in golf history came shortly after Earl’s death… Tiger won the British Open and before he get off the 18th green he broke down completely in his caddy’s arms, grieving in front of the entire world.

So my hat’s off to the guys at Weiden & Kennedy. I think it’s fitting that it’s his father posing the tough questions. In fact, the whole concept hinges on it. Any other voice over and the spot’s not worth running.

Then there’s the look on Tiger’s face. They’re not making him look heroic. In fact, he looks like a guy in the doghouse, licking his wounds. Taking his medicine.

I believe the spot works from a damage control standpoint. And as far as brand personality is concerned, it fits. Tiger never was great at dealing with the fans. Not the most popular guy to get paired up with. Not the most forthcoming with an autograph or quick with a smile.

In other words, he was no Lee Trevino or Phil Michelson.

One thing’s for sure, the new commercial has a high buzz factor. And it makes you wonder, would all this have happened if Earl was still around, keeping an eye on his superstar son?

I was never really surprised by Tiger’s misbehavior. Dissapointed, sure, but not particularly surprised. He’s a rock star, after all. How many rock stars stay at the top of the game without a blemish for 15 years?

Just saying.

truth in advertising BNBranding

The Tiger Woods brand is definitely tarnished. But no matter what they think of his commercials or his off-course antics, no matter what they write about him, Tiger’s brand will recover and thrive because he’s so amazingly good at what he does.

His performance will dictate the script of his branding success. It may not come this week at Augusta, but it will come.

Tiger Woods promises to light up a golf course like no contemporary player can. He’ll always be intensely passionate. He’ll give everything he has to every golf shot he hits, and leave nothing on the course.

But I don’t think the TW brand promise ever went much further than that.

In 2016 Tiger Woods made $43 million without playing in a single tournament.

In 2017 he was the 4th highest paid golfer, behind just Rory McElroy, Phil Michelson and Arnold Palmer.

June 3, 2018 update… Tiger has $1.5 million in on-course winnings so far this year, and another $50 million in projected off-course earnings. In addition to Nike, he also has endorsement deals with Taylor Made, Buick, Titlest, Rolex and many other big names in the golf marketing world.

Could this be the beginning of Tiger’s second coming?

Stay tuned.

BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

improve your marketing don't be scared

Need to improve your marketing? Start with your P.O.V.

How you see things — your unique point-of-view — skews everything you do. You can’t escape it. Whether you need to launch an ad campaign, build a brand, make a video, or improve your marketing overall, your P.O.V. can make all the difference.

improve your marketing don't be scared In Hollywood “POV” is a common technique used by directors to add tension to a scene. Picture the POV of the ax murderer stalking his next victim in a classic horror movie.

The audience sees only what the character sees. It’s also called subjective perspective — as opposed the objective, third-person perspective in most movie scenes.

Marketers and business owners often get stuck in their own, subjective perspective trap. They’re too far inside the bottle to be objective when it comes to marketing issues.

Way back in 1960 Theodore Levitt coined the phrase “marketing myopia.”  In a famous Harvard Business Review article he said that short-sighted executives who are missing the big picture will fail to see new opportunities and/or new threats.

He cites the railroad industry as a good example. I would add Blockbuster video and Skype to the list of businesses that took their eyes off the ball.

Levitt encouraged executives to shift their focus from an inward-facing operations orientation to an outward facing consumer orientation.

In other words, don’t get stuck in a scary  movie. Sometimes you have to pull back like a fisheye lens and open your eyes to new, customer-first viewpoints.

“People don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole,” Levitt said.

 

 

 

 

The lack of a clear P.O.V. spells trouble for brands.

Many start-ups these days are built — like Tom’s shoes — around a purpose of some kind. Kudos to them for owning a definitive P.O.V. from the start!

But there many more business owners who duck and cover when it comes to taking a stand of any kind, on any issue.

They sheepishly say, “well, we don’t want to offend anyone.” (As if everyone is a prospect.) They won’t even entertain a back-door approach to their advertising. “Don’t focus on the problem, just talk about our product!”

Most of those who are trying to be all things to all people will fail to win brand loyalty. People don’t get passionate about wishy-washy brands.

 

improve your marketing perspective from BN Branding

 

All iconic brands have well-defined POVs. They take a stand — on something!

Patagonia has always had a very clear, authentic POV when it comes to the climbing community.

In the last decade, they’ve chosen to take on much bigger issues, as well. Patagonia’s stance on climate change is a natural extension of the products they’ve made, the markets they’ve always served, and the founder’s POV of the world.

Patagonia already had deep, meaningful connections with millions of customers, and that political stance just helped cement the relationship even further.

When it comes to branding, polarization can be a good thing. No one gets passionate about wishy-washy brands, so it’s better to be annoying to some, than invisible to all.

 

It doesn’t have to be a universally loved P.O.V. to help improve your marketing.

Chick-fil-A promotes a political POV that many find disagreeable, to say the least. And yet it’s the fastest growing food chain in the world.

The average Chick-fil-A location brings in 10 times more revenue than a Subway franchise. More than 30,000 people a year apply for Chick-fil-A franchises, even though it offers no actual ownership at all.

They don’t care if it’s UN popular to a large segment of the population. It’s insanely popular with another group that’s big enough.

The golf club brand PXG chooses to bring an obnoxiously superior point-of-view to everything they do.

Their claims are boisterous and unbelievable, but that’s the PXG brand. People either love it or they hate it. There’s no in between. It works with a certain segment of the market precisely because it’s strong and obnoxious.

 

improve your marketing - be seen BN Branding

Sometimes the problem is rose-colored glasses…

Some cocky business owners and sales leaders go through life with an unrealistic, overly optimistic point-of-view.

They’re absolutely, positively, 100% certain that they “know their customers.”

They’re on top of every new development in the market.

Everyone who’s a prospect knows all about them.

And, of course, their product beats every other product.

Everything’s just peachy!

Hopefully that’s your competitor, because those are the guys you can sneak up on in broad daylight. That rose colored point-of-view makes them a juicy target for new competition from all different directions. They’ll never see it coming.

 

In other cases  — I’ve seen this a thousand times — one person’s overbearing perspective becomes a roadblock to progress.

Every year he vows to do something different to improve his marketing, but he approaches the task from the same old skewed point-of-view. And that perspective is just pain wrong.

You have to change your mind before you’ll ever change behavior. Sometimes the mental change of is the hardest part.

So the first step toward dramatic marketing improvement is seeing your lack of perspective for what it is; A hinderance of human nature.

Humans hold on tightly to what we think we already know.

If you want to improve your marketing, avoid the myopic “me, me, me” P.O.V.

This is one of the most common mistakes in marketing and advertising: The business owner or marketer puts her point-of-view ahead of the audience’s point-of-view.

It’s an inside-the-bottle perspective that revolves around business goals, egos and operational realities rather than what’s in it for the audience.

That’s marketing myopia.

Even the biggest brand fall prey to it. There was a period of time, in the mid 80’s, when Nike lost its way and became too inwardly focused.  Then Jim Riswold at Weiden & Kennedy came up with “Just Do It.” It was a turning point for Nike.

Keep this in mind… here’s the reality:

Prospects won’t buy unless they can first imagine themselves using your product or service.  In their fist-person P.O.V.

That’s the single most important perspective to consider.

So you have to step aside for a second. Shut up! Quit talking about what you can offer and listen to what they really want, need and desire.

That’s how you can start seeing things through a different lens. And that’s how you can improve your marketing across the board.

Need help with that? Call me. 5541-815-0075

 

 

 

2

Non-profit branding (A story of start-up success and failure)

In 2009 I called it “A feel-good brand in a bummed out world.”  It was the type of non-profit brand that genuinely touched people, and put smiles on little faces. For me, a few minutes at Working Wonders Children’s Museum was a sure cure for a crummy day. It was also a great example of non-profit branding.

WWLogo - smallOur story of success, and failure, is valuable for anyone who’s starting a new business or running a non-profit organization.

When we started Working Wonders we did a lot things right. It was non-profit branding “by the book” all the way. First, we thoroughly researched the market and determined that there was a gaping need. (We conducted large-sample phone surveys as well as focus groups.)

Once we saw encouraging results from the research, we wrote a mission-focused brand strategy and built a business plan around that. After our strategy was clear, and the business plan written, we came up with a great name, designed a nice logo and put an operational plan in place based on our cohesive brand platform.

 

 

non-profit branding case study by BNBranding bend oregon

Print ad for Working Wonders Children’s Museum

At first, Working Wonders was just a concept. A “museum without walls.” Initially we raised enough money to build some traveling exhibits and we went to every event in town to introduce kids, and their parents, to our brand of educational play.

And it caught on! Before the days of Twitter, it went viral.

Our bootstrapping, “museum without walls” strategy achieve the immediate goal: Proof of concept.

Parents and kids loved it. In less than three years we raised $400,000 and arrived at that crucial, “go or no-go” point. We had a location and we had enough money to open the doors. Just barely.

The argument TO go: We figured it’d be easier to raise money once people could see a finished children’s museum. We knew we could spend years traveling around, trying to raise more money. (Many Children’s Museums spend a decade doing that.) Or we could get the doors open, and go from there.

The argument to NOT go:  We’d be undercapitalized. Cash would be tight, and there was no endowment safety net. We were relying on the on-going generosity of a couple key donors and most of all, corporate sponsors.

We chose to go. Damn the torpedoes!

A team of volunteers scraped up donated materials, did the heavy lifting, and created a children’s museum that was small, but delightful. We launched in less than one-third the time and for one-fifth the cost of most children’s museums. It was a labor of love. A thing of beauty. A non-profit branding success and the biggest accomplishment of my marketing career.

Working Wonders ran successfully for four years. It broke my heart when it had to close because of the economic tidal wave that hit our town in 2009. Despite our best efforts and exceptional marketing, it was not sustainable.

Some people contend it was actually branded too well.

Many customers and community leaders thought we were part of a national chain of some sort. Never mind that our marketing was done with volunteer labor. (mine) Never mind that our advertising was mostly donated space. The general public simply couldn’t conceive of a little, local non-profit doing things so professionally. They figured we had all the money we needed, from some, mysterious, out-of -town source.

But there was no endowment. By the time we identified the perception problem and started addressing it with overt messaging, it was too late.

Our lessons learned from Working Wonders tie-in directly to an online discussion that I’ve been following about non-profit branding for marketing for 501c3 organizations. It’s an informative conversation between branding professionals that everyone can learn from. Profit or not.

One key question that came up:

What happens when the public image of a non-profit organization suffers because of commercial branding strategies?

One could argue that’s what happened with Working Wonders. However, there’s more to the story than that.

If not for commercial branding practices the children’s museum never would have opened in the first place. That’s how we were able to touch so many kids. In hindsight, the execution of our marketing was not the issue. We did a great job of reaching the parents of young kids. They came in — over and over again.non-profit branding by BNBranding Brand Insight Blog in Bend Oregon

Unfortunately, in the non-profit world customer satisfaction and brand loyalty doesn’t always translate to financial viability.

For children’s museums loyal, repeat customers aren’t enough. They also need loyal, repeat donors who can provide an endowment.

That’s what we missed… the big dollar benefactors.

In a town of only 100,000 people those are hard to find, so we relied heavily on corporate sponsorships, and those dried up overnight when the economy tanked.

As the online discussion points out, nonprofits are often torn between two marketing objectives: Attracting visitors and attracting donors.

But the biggest effort HAS to be directed at board recruitment and fund raising.We woulda, coulda, shoulda spent less time getting kids in the door, and more time on a grass roots effort to raise money and load the board of directors with wealthy supporters.

So if you’re working with a small, local-level non-profit, by all means, do a professional job with your marketing. Non-profit branding is absolutely important! But first and foremost, make sure you’re telling your story of need to the right people. Solidify the base of financial support first, then open your doors.

more effective advertising from BNBrandingIt’s always a delicate balance to demonstrate that dire need without looking desperate. That’s your challenge as a non-profit marketer. And keep in mind, if the organization does not appear grass-rootsy, potential donors might jump to unfortunate conclusions about your funding sources.

If you’re in a for-profit venture, look closely at the passion and commitment of the people who help build non-profit organizations. At Working Wonders, we were all deeply passionate about the needs of our young kids. That cause is what fueled us.

What’s your “cause?”  Every great brand has one, beyond just making money. Is it written down somewhere? Is your operational plan aligned with that? Does anyone really care? These are some of the key strategic questions you need to ask yourself, before  you worry about executing your go-to-market plan.

And, of course, you have to balance that thinking with the practical, numbers and sense question of, “where’s the money coming from?”

For more marketing tips and non-profit branding advice, check out THIS post:

BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

 

 

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.

 

 

Predicting consumer behavior is like trying to predict the weather in Central Oregon. Things change by the minute.

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.

 

2 retail marketing strategy

Retail Marketing Strategy — Super Sales vs. Super Brands.

BNBranding logoIt’s discount days in the retail world right now. Everywhere you turn there’s a super sale, an inventory reduction, a seasonal clearance event or some other equally banal form of discounting. That’s always the default retail marketing strategy.

retail marketing strategyRetailers,  both brick and mortar store owners and ecommerce operators, are desperate to get people in the door, even if it causes long-term damage to their brand.

But does discounting really hurt your brand?

That’s a question that often leads to heated debates between ad agency folks and their clients.

The creatives are quick to condemn anything that involves a price point. But clients want to “move the needle” and “get an immediate ROI” on every advertising dollar. They often claim that any sort of “image” advertising is a waste of time.

Then there’s the agency Account Executive, trying desperately to bring the two sides together in a sort of middle-east peace accord that will save the account for another year. Not a good scenario for a lasting client-agency relationship.

But I digress.

 

 

 

The question is, where does discounting fit into your retail marketing strategy?

Does it hurt a brand to run a half-off sale? It depends on the brand and the strategy behind the sale.

So before you hire that sign painter to emblazon your front window with “Everything Must Go!”  ask yourself two questions:

Does the sale or promotion complement your brand promise or contradict it?

Who would the sale appeal to?

Are you luring only your best customers, or is a sale a good way to introduce new folks to your brand. And will you ever see those people again?

retail marketing strategyNordstrom has the right answer to both those questions.

When it comes to brand integrity, Nordstrom is the bellwether for the retail industry. It’s a chain known for high prices and bend-over-backward customer service.

Bargains are NOT part of the Nordstrom brand ethos. So yes, frequent discounting would definitely hurt that brand.

If Nordstrom had a Super Bowl sale and a Valentines Day sale and an Easter sale and a Mother’s Day sale and a Father’s Day sale like most department stores, consumers would slowly but surely begin to question the entire premise of the business. They’d begin to doubt Nordstrom’s stature as the industry’s service leader and wonder if the chain compromised the quality of the merchandise.

Might as well go to Macy’s.

So here’s how Nordstrom handles retail discounting without compromising their brand promise:

They only have one store-wide sale a year: The Anniversary sale. (Plus an annual Men’s Sale and an Annual Women’s Sale.)

retail marketing strategyPlus, in order  to manage the inevitable department store inventory challenges and discounting pressure, they opened The Nordstrom Rack.

If you like Nordstrom’s outstanding merchandise, but don’t want to pay standard Nordstrom prices for the service, go to the Rack. It’s like a sale all the time. Same stuff, but a totally different shopping experience.

So here’s the final answer: If you have a retail brand that emphasizes customer service and outstanding quality, use discounts very sparingly. Because every sale will send mixed messages to an already skeptical audience.

Contrast that with Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart shoppers aren’t going to Nordstrom for the annual men’s sale. They’re going to Wal-Mart every Saturday where a constant barrage of markdowns is always expected, and perfectly “on brand.”

Wal-Mart’s corporate culture takes frugality to an entirely new level, and it shows up on every isle in every store.

Wal-Mart’s brand promise demands big, loud sales, or at least the perception of sale prices all the time. That’s why they have spend more than $800 million a year on advertising… it’s a constant state of “Sale.”

For both Wal-Mart and Nordstrom, the retail marketing strategy delivers on the brand promise. Their sales appeal to core customers as well as those who are looking for a bargain. And there’s a good chance they’ll come back again after the sale.

Unfortunately, most business owners can’t answer the question, “is this sale consistent with your brand promise?” Because they don’t know what their brand promise is. When pressed, they can’t pinpoint what their business is really all about, beyond making their quarterly numbers.

They’ve never thought about it. They’ve never articulated it. And they certainly haven’t communicated it to the public in a clear, compelling, consistent manner. They’re too busy advertising “value.”

The Gallup Organization has done extensive research regarding brand promises and have found that the vast majority are poorly defined and poorly communicated.

retail marketing strategy

Sometimes it takes nerve to resist the “big sale” temptation.

“Rather than attempting to convince a skeptical audience that their brand offers something truly meaningful and distinct, some companies have found it easier just to bribe their prospects with constant promises of savings on top of savings.

Repeat purchases that are driven solely by brand bribery, however, are not the same thing as a brand relationship.

In other words, sales might increase short-term transactions, but they don’t improve your brand loyalty.

Successful brands like Nordstrom have lasting, loving relationships with their customers, not one-night stands. And the more Amazon pushes its automated, efficient-but-impersonal approach to retail, the more valuable Nordstrom-like service becomes.

So think twice about your retail promotional strategy. If your brand’s promise is to consistently deliver the cheapest goods and services in your category, then go ahead. Run sales every month.

But if your brand promise is to deliver value or service or anything else beyond low price, then find another way to drive traffic.

Your brand will be better for it.

For more on brand strategy, try this post. 

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For more on how to differentiate your store without resorting to bribery, try this post. 

Or call us! 541-815-0075

perception vs reality in natural foods marketing by BNBranding

Secondary Reality (Alternative facts in natural foods marketing)

BNBranding Bend, Oregon advertising agency“Those marketing guys aren’t dealing in reality.”

I’ve heard that one before from sales guys, engineers, CFOs, CEOs and COOs.  To which I say, “Damn right.”

If the marketing team dealt only in reality the operations team wouldn’t have an operation. The finance guys wouldn’t have profits to count. The Human Resources department wouldn’t need more resources. And there would be no iconic brands.

perception vs reality in natural foods marketing by BNBrandingBecause perception IS reality. Especially when it comes to natural foods marketing.

A few years ago in a piece on brand credibility I said, “The best story tellers — novelists, moviemakers,  comedians, preachers — can get audiences to suspend disbelief and go along with plots that are a bit far-fetched.

By using vivid, believable details and dialog they draw us into their stories and “sell” us on characters that are bigger than life and settings that are out of this world. 

J.R.R. Tolkien commented on the suspension of disbelief in an essay, “On Fairy Stories.”  Tolkien says that, “in order for the narrative to work, the reader must believe that what he reads is true within the secondary reality of the fictional world.”

There’s a secondary reality in every market segment. Consumers within that segment share a powerful belief system that is not based on facts at all. It’s what psychologists call Motivated Reasoning.

“Motivated reasoning is a pervasive tendency of human cognition,” says Peter Ditto, PhD, a social psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, who studies how motivation, emotion and intuition influence judgment. “People are capable of being thoughtful and rational, but our wishes, hopes, fears and motivations often tip the scales to make us more likely to accept something as true if it supports what we want to believe.”

We all have a natural tendency to cherry pick the facts. We tune in to the information that fits our existing beliefs, and blow-off everything else.

Politics and our modern media landscape seems to be amplifying the retreat from facts.

“These are wonderful times for motivated reasoners,” said Matthew Hornsey, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Queensland. “The internet provides an almost infinite number of sources of information from which to choose your preferred reality. There’s an echo chamber out there for everyone.”

 

 

tips for new logo design by BNBrandingIn natural foods marketing there’s a powerful, secondary reality that says if it’s in this category, then it must be good for me. That’s simply not true. The reality is that many so-called “natural” foods have no health benefits whatsoever.

Doesn’t matter. Perception is reality.

The tribe of people who who are drinking the natural, fortified kool-aid of the health food industry make certain assumptions and hold a particular set of beliefs that the rest of the world does not share. They are highly motivated to find products that fit those beliefs.

So you don’t have to present scientific proof that a product is actually healthy. You just have to work with the existing perception, and present the alternative fact that your product is healthier than the traditional choice.

Being relatively better can translate into big bucks.

Look at how Vitamin Water went from startup to $4.1 billion acquisition in just 11 years… In reality, the product is nothing more than watered down Kool-aid for adults. And a 20 oz Vitamin Water has almost as much sugar as a 12 oz Coke.

But that reality doesn’t matter because the product name and the packaging position it as a healthier alternative to Coke or Pepsi. That was the immediate, accepted perception…  It’s less bad for you than the traditional carbonated beverage. In grocery stores it isn’t even on the same aisle as the soft drinks. It’s sold next to the bottled water.

Drinking this relatively healthy beverage helps consumers rationalized their consumption of other, unhealthy foods. It’s like taking a one-a-day vitamin and it still provides that refreshing sweetness that people crave.

Plus, the launch of Vitamin Water was timed perfectly to leverage two emerging consumer trends: The backlash against all the high fructose corn syrup in sodas and the need to stay hydrated. Drink more water. Plus, it leveraged the commonly-held truth that we need more vitamins in our diets.

Seth Godin refers to these as “truth” stories. They’re true within the alternate reality of the market segment.

For example… Those natural potato chips that I crave everyday for lunch… probably not good for me. But I believe they’re healthier than the traditional, mainstream choice – Lays. So my own motivated reasoning tells me to buy the natural alternative.

I know it’s not like eating broccoli, but it’s incrementally healthier than what I used to eat, and that’s okay. That’s what fits into my own personal reality. That’s my truth.

So if you’re making “healthy” salty snack foods, remember… You can’t compete with broccoli on healthiness. But you can compete with Lays.

Here are some other examples of alternative facts from the health food industry:

Baked is better than fried. Doesn’t matter if those natural cheese puffs are loaded with fat, the mainstream consumer will buy them as long as they’re not fried. And health foods are moving more and more into the mainstream.

Healthy fats are okay.  Forget about the old adage that says “fats make you fat.” The pendulum is swinging the other direction right now, and many companies are using the term “healthy fats” in their product claims. The FDA’s not buying it, and it’s highly debatable in the scientific community, but that doesn’t matter. Consumers are buying it.  Just look at the sales of coconut oil.

natural foods marketing on the brand insight blog by BNBranding

XYZ secret ingredient is the best thing ever.  Health-minded consumers are quick to jump on whatever ingredient is trendy…. kale, acai, turmeric, ginger, apple cider vinegar, duck fat, coconut water, Aquamin, prebiotoics, probiotics, whatever.

Beware… Those trends are fickle. All it takes is one high-profile “scientific” study to discredit your main ingredient and doom your entire product line. You need more than just superfood ingredients.

You also need a story that will ring true.

Here’s the real truth behind ingredients for the supplements industry: Companies that market those ingredients routinely accept anything more than 50% success rate in initial clinical trials. So in other words… even if the ingredient is only effective half the time, it’s still commercially viable.

Are you kidding me? Doesn’t matter. Consumers are swallowing it. Perception IS reality.

In natural foods marketing it’s not just about ingredients – even the best ingredients cannot drive sales by themselves. It’s not about what the product is, it’s what the product could be in the mind of the person who lives in the same, alternative reality. It’s entirely aspirational.

Advertising legend George Lois put it quite well; “Great advertising campaigns should portray what we feel in our hearts the product can grow to become. The imagery should be ahead of the product, not in a way that assails credulity, but in a sensitive way that inspires belief in the product’s benefits and instills a greater sense of purpose to those who produce and sell it.”

Credulity is rampant in natural foods marketing. In every category.

Michael Proctor, a colleague of mine who’s been in the health food industry for 30 years, says you have to dance around the side of things.

“The messages are getting more mainstream. The benchmarks and buzzwords keep changing, so it’s like a crab, always moving sideways. But you have to know what the prevailing reality is, in order to skirt around it and find the reality that you resonate with.”

Know the reality. Tap into the prevmarketing supplements Brand Insight Blogailing perception.

Getting your messaging right is not an easy task. The good news is, most of your competitors are probably missing it, which means you have room to move in and effectively control the dialog.supplements marketing BNBranding

Is “25 billion probiotics” an effective claim to make? 50 billion? 100 billion? 200 billion? What’s the number?

Probably none marketing supplements and natural foods marketingof the above. Those companies are getting caught up in a numbers race and are missing the more relevant point.

Probably time to move like a crab and find another story to tell.

For a little more help in natural foods marketing, give us a call at 541-815-0075 or visit our website.

Go here for more on truth in marketing,

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Small-Business Management 2020 — Unusual times require an unreasonable approach.

brand credibility from branding expertsYou’ve heard this pessimistic preamble a thousand times by now… “In these unprecedented times…  Blah blah blah.”  And you’ve probably seen the memes that categorize 2020 as spoiled lutefisk on moldy toast, and other equally stinky analogies.

It’s sad that so many businesses choose to lead with that line of thinking. But it is understandable. Times ARE tough, and it’s natural to be afraid. But when it comes to small-business management, pessimism seldom plays well.

This viral turn of events that we’re all experiencing doesn’t spell doom for most businesses. Despite the pandemic, most owners, managers and entrepreneurs are finding ways to adapt and survive. We look for silver linings, no matter how small, and we shift our thinking in ways that help us cope.

small-business management BN BrandingIn American culture that means moving forward. Making progress. Anything but a stand-still!

There’s a very interesting quote from George Bernard Shaw that’s relevant to small-business management these days:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

On the surface, this makes no sense. You can’t change the world to fit your whim. Right?

Wrong. We can change our own, little worlds.

 

 

Entrepreneurs do it all that time. They start businesses that are built on that very goal, and that higher level of purpose is what propels them past big bumps in the road — like this pandemic.

In small-business management, purpose paves the way to progress.

The reasonable person would say, “I don’t have any control over this COVID thing, so I’m just going to play the cards I’m dealt, hunker down, and hope for the best.”

The unreasonable person says, “What can I make of this horrible situation? How can I change the world in some little way that aligns with the core of my being and produces some financial return? ”

A lot of smart, reasonable, people are wasting their time analyzing the COVID statistics, dwelling on the scope of the problem and worrying about the lack of any clear path out of this mess.

They’re reasonable, but stuck.

Progress depends on unreasonable people… The visionaries who flip the script. The dreamers who choose not to accept fear, constraints, and outside circumstances at an excuse for inaction.

Action is the antidote to despair.

Being UNreasonable in this situation doesn’t mean you dispense with common sense and good decision making. It means you get outta your head, and into action. It means embracing the uncertainty, and pushing forward anyway.

This is definitely not “business as usual” for anyone. It’s unusual, uncomfortable, and unpleasant, but it doesn’t have to be your undoing.

Let’s play a little word game: Think about all the negative, UN words you can apply here, and start editing them out of your vocabulary — and out of your business operations.

Unhappy. Make it your personal quest to make sure your people are happy, even if you have to cut their hours back. That means making sure they’re learning, growing and progressing. It’s not just about the money.

Unfocused. Use this opportunity to re-focus your marketing efforts around a sound business strategy. Streamline your offerings. Narrow your niche. Pivot if you have to. That’s small-business management in a nutshell.

Unclear. Clarity should be lesson #1 in small business management:  Clarity should be a priority in your marketing communications, in your presentations, and in your personal correspondence. It’s one of the simplest little changes that you can make, and it pays off handsomely. Just take time to be more mindful about how you communicate.

new approach to website designUnassuming.  I’m always amazed by how many successful entrepreneurs are terrible self-promoters. They’re so humble, and focused on doing their specialized work, they don’t see their true value in the marketplace. So they fly under the radar and continually underachieve.

Unaware. In small-business management, awareness is the first step toward progress. A business interruption can be a great opportunity to actually stop and look at the big picture. Reevaluate your efforts. Be more aware of what’s going on, inside and outside of your immediate little world. Do some strategic listening and you just might see a clear answer to your problem.

Uninspired.  Inspiration may be hard to come by right now. If that’s the case, keep reading the Brand Insight Blog. Hire us to infuse some new thinking into your operation. Or better yet, schedule a retreat to Bend, Oregon for a nice, safe change of scenery and a huge dose of branding inspiration.

No one is unaffected by the pandemic, but you can choose to be undeterred by it.

You can be unflappable. You can be undeniably determined to succeed, regardless of what’s going on.

So start being unreasonable for a change. You might be surprised how much progress you can make. An if you need a creative kick in the pants, call us!

 

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14 4 ps of marketing brand insight blog

The 4 Ps of Marketing – Plus one for Ecommerce

brand credibility from branding expertsEvery year, thousands of E-commerce startups are launched with nothing more than a whim and a prayer and Shopify site. Most will fail because they ignore the 4 Ps of marketing and launch with just a product and a place – an online store.

the 4 ps of marketing for e-commerce BN BrandingBut a few will experience meteoric success and become iconic brands. (Here’s how Zappos did it.)

What’s the difference? Why do some e-commerce start-ups succeed while so many others come and go faster than a bad Chinese restaurant?

Often it’s for the same reason that traditional, brick and mortar businesses fail: They don’t follow a disciplined process of brand building, and they ignore the traditional 4 Ps of marketing.

Many people in the on-line world seem to think they can abandon everything that was taught in Marketing 101 simply because they have a relatively new distribution method. But “Place” is only part of the picture.

4 ps of marketing brand insight blog

The traditional 4Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place (distribution)  & Promotion is an old-school notion that’s just as applicable today as it was in the heyday of Madison Avenue.

However, there’s at least one new P you should also seriously consider if you’re in the ecommerce business.

But before we get to that, let’s look at the originals that make up the 4 Ps of Marketing. Consider it a handy refresher:

 

1. The first P of marketing: Product

There’s an old saying in advertising circles… “nothing kills a crummy product faster than great advertising.” These days, it happens in hyper time.

Blogs, tweets, and consumer-generated reviews doom bad products faster than you can type “#bankrupt.” So the first P is more important than it’s ever been. If you’re starting an e-commerce store, you better find some good products to carry.

Thirty years ago if you had pockets deep enough for a sustained mass media campaign and a good creative team, you could you could go to market with a mediocre, me-too product or service.

Not anymore. These days your product line-up has to be among the best in class. Because people expect more. They’re looking for something compelling — and genuinely different — that’s built in to your core product or service. In other words, the marketing needs to be baked right into the product.

Seth Godin Purple Cow BookSeth Godin talks about a Purple Cow or a “Free prize inside.”  Tom Peters talks about the pursuit of WOW!

Whatever you want to call it, Product still is, and always will be, the single most important P of the 4 Ps of Marketing. Doesn’t matter if your business is providing the latest, greatest mobile web technology, or an old-fashioned widget, Product comes first and all the other P’s fall in line from there.

 

2. The second P of Marketing: Price.

I’m no expert on pricing, but I know this: Smart pricing strategies are crucially important in e-commerce. Here are just a few of the reasons:

• With Google at our fingertips it’s easy to make more intelligent purchases than we did 15 years ago. We’re doing more research and minimizing “bad”purchases and buyer’s remorse. We’re still willing to pay a little more for premium brands, but we’re not going to get gouged. And we’re much more likely to price shop, since it doesn’t involve driving all over town.

• In the world of e-commerce you can’t just apply the old “cost-plus” pricing model. It’s way more complicated than that. Even though e-commerce businesses tend to have high margins you have to work really hard to develop sustainable revenue streams. Discounting, shipping costs and the rising cost of pay-per-click ads and social media advertising are eating away at margins.

• It’s harder than ever to compete on price. Unless you’re the size of Amazon or Walmart, forget about it! There’s always some other website waiting to undercut you.  So you have to go back to the first P. You have to devise a retail experience that has a higher perceived value than your competitor’s, but a sale price that’s equal or lower.

Apple has adamantly stuck to their premium pricing strategy. It keeps them honest. It’s one of their brand fundamentals. They know they have to keep launching products that are superior in design and function. They understand price elasticity and the value of their brand.

 

 

The Third P of Marketing: Place.

The traditional third “P” refers to distribution channels and the placement of your product in stores; Basically, where and how you sell your product. Where can customers find/buy your product?

This is still one of the most fundamental elements of any solid business plan.

Look at Costco… They didn’t start out as a retailer. They said, we’re a wholesaler, but we’re going to open our warehouses to the public. That’s a big idea. A purple cow based on the 3rd P.

Even though you may be selling your product strictly over the internet, Place is still critically important. In fact, you could argue that the internet, as a distribution channel, has actually added complexity to the decision…

Will you sell on Amazon? Use Amazon fulfillment? Start an affiliate program and let other web merchants sell your products? Will you warehouse some products, or drop-ship everything? Sell to specialty brick & mortar stores at wholesale? Thanks to the internet, there are all sorts of possibilities.

One thing’s for sure, when your website is your only storefront as well as your #1 marketing tool, you need to make sure it’s absolutely fantastic on every level. 

Messaging. Content. Ease of use. Overall design. Product presentation. Back-end functionality. It’s all important.

 

The 4th P: Promotion.

Everyone understands this one… it’s how you get noticed, seen, and chosen.

Historically, the fourth P revolved around mass media advertising. Sure, there were other elements such as sales promotions, telemarketing, PR and direct response, but advertising was the heart of it. And many businesspeople equated advertising with marketing.

the 4 Ps of marketing for E-commerce - BN BrandingThese days, a lot of people seem to think social media is synonymous with marketing.

But social media is just another promotional marketing tactic… Just another way to spread the word about your product or service. There are dozens of other tactics you should consider once you’ve devised a clear brand strategy.

Insight first, then execution. Strategy then tactics. One without the other is like a Ferrari without a throttle.

Once again, the internet complicates matters… Where there used to be just four or five choices, you now have dozens… Content marketing, You Tube videos, paid search, Facebook posts, Twitter, Snapchat and a hundred other online options complicate the tactical marketing mix. The marketing landscape isn’t so much a landscape these days, as it is a landslide. Most business owners are overwhelmed by all the “marketing opportunities” out there.

And don’t forget packaging, which has always been lumped into this category. If you’re doing business exclusively online, your ecommerce website is, essentially, the packaging.

But here’s the good news about the 4th P: Ecommerce offers advertisers what they’ve always wanted: definitive, trackable ROI on their investment. Tracking those click-throughs to conversion allows you to hone in on the message that’s most persuasive and eliminate the promotional efforts that don’t pull.

Many great brands have been built, just in the last 10 years, on nothing but social media campaigns and word-of-mouth advertising driven by micro-influencers.  Laird Superfoods, Warby Parker, and the golf brand Sub 70, to name a few. And it doesn’t take a huge budget or Kardashian-level connections to make it happen.

So that’s a brief on the traditional 4P’s of marketing. Think you can afford to ignore any of them?

What about the new one I mentioned?

The biggest complaint against the original 4 P’s was this: They’re designed from the top down, around what the company wants, rather than what the consumer really needs. They’re too inwardly focused.

new approach to website designThe new 5th P of Marketing: Perspective. The consumer’s perspective, to be precise.

Ecommerce companies that thrive today are the ones that embrace the perspective of the consumer. Not the 1980’s idea of the consumer as one, massive heard of lemmings. We’re talking about individuals. Real people who are involved and engaged with your brand.

How do you do that?

It starts with market research in its most basic, fundamental form. It’s what Tom Peters calls “strategic listening,” and he contends it’s the most important job of any C-level exec or business owner and it’s a critical first step in the branding process.

 

Strategic listening requires that you set aside your existing perspective and listen without prejudice.

Some people simply can’t do it themselves… they’re too far inside the bottle to see clearly. So get some professional help. Talk to your front-line employees, customers, non-customers, competitor’s customers. Do it on the phone. In focus groups. In on-line chats. On Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. Doesn’t matter. Just do it.

The point is, you’ll come away with a new perspective about the genuine wants and needs of your potential customers. And that insight is what weaves all the other Ps together. It’s a great way to jump start your branding effort – with BNBranding.

It should be the starting point, not an afterthought.

You may have to change your product or revise your service. You might have to rethink your pricing structure, shift your promotional strategy or adopt an entirely new business model, but it’ll be worth it.

Because then you’ll have a business built on a foundation of solid marketing fundamentals… five P’s. Put them all together, and sustain the effort, and you’ll have one big, iconic B:  A Brand.

At Zappos, they moved their headquarters and changed their entire approach to customer service in order to build their brand around one key brand concept. Read the Zappos case study about their holistic approach to branding.

Want more on the 4 Ps of marketing and the fundamentals of branding: Try this post.

Need help getting that new perspective you need?  Talk direct with a branding expert who can give you a fair and affordable assessment of where your are and what you need.  Schedule a meeting directly with me on Calendly. 

  See some of the Ecommerce sites we’ve worked on.

The ancient, proven path to marketing success – Credible, Emotional, Rational

BNBranding Bend, Oregon advertising agencyHumans love instant gratification. In fact, our brains are wired for it. But the path to marketing success is not instantaneous. It starts in the gut, meanders around till it hits your heart, and finishes in the head — if you play your cards right.

Say hello to the holy trinity of marketing success: Credible, Emotional, Rational. Gut, Heart, Head, in that order.

This isn’t a new idea. In fact, it’s a proven process of persuasion that dates back thousands of years, to the ancient greeks.

the ancient proven path to marketing success - Aristotle

Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher.

Aristotle was onto something. His famous modes of rhetorical persuasion — Ethos, Pathos and Logos — were strikingly similar to Gut, Heart, Head. Effective arguments, Aristotle said, include all three.

The path to marketing success begins with Ethos — the credibility piece.

Aristotle recognized the importance of credibility, and said persuasive power often comes from the character of the presenter.

The idea goes like this… If the audience has a good gut reaction to the presenter, they are much more likely to believe the presentation or buy the product.

It comes down to trust.

Back in the Mad Men days of advertising Ethos was used to sell everything from toothpaste to pick up trucks… put an actor in a white coat and you’ve got yourself a credible expert. “Nine out of ten dentists recommend…”

These days people are more skeptical, and it takes more effort to earn trust in the marketplace.

That’s what being a “thought leader” is about. That’s why white papers and case studies make for good “content.”  That’s why authenticity is such a hot topic in marketing circles.

That’s also why so many companies pay millions for celebrity endorsements. When they don’t have an honest differentiator, they often borrow credibility from A-list Hollywood stars. They even pay for big-name voice-overs.

Ethos in advertising bend advertising agencyWhen Donald Sutherland does a voice-over for orange juice, even the farmers feel the love. That’s ethos plus pathos. Gut and heart equals booming orange juice sales.

Pathos represents the emotional heart of your sales pitch.

The english words “sympathy” and “empathy” come from Greek root, “Pathos”.  This is where passion and creativity comes into play, and it’s where most business people fail miserably.

Managers, particularly those inclined toward the finance side of things, think vertically. They work in a straight, logical line from one thing the next. Top to bottom. It’s hard for them to leap out of that left-brain world and into the realm of emotion and empathy.

Creative folks, on the other hand, think horizontally, diagonally and vertically. Sometimes all at the same time.  We bounce from one seemingly unrelated thought to another and connect the dots in brilliant new ways.

That’s why creativity is so valued in the advertising world.

All the latest brain research proves that emotion drives behavior. Not logic. Logic rationalized behavior. So smart brand managers know the path to marketing success is hiring advertising pros who can communicate the emotional heart of their brand messages.

It’s not just a digital media buying exercise. It’s strategic message development. It’s not just reaching an audience, it’s making an honest, emotional connection with real people. It’s not shoving stuff on unsuspecting consumers, it’s making a genuine connection with people.

Logos is the left-brain rationalizer.

Sometimes you need more than just a credible presenter and a heart-felt pitch. That’s why there’s Logos. Pure Logic. Stats and data. The left-brainier, cognitive leg of the stool.

Unfortunately, many companies rely solely on this. They present all sorts of supporting facts about the features of their products and forget all about the main emotional benefit.

This is especially true in business-to-business marketing and in technology marketing. Most CEOs are simply unequipped to make the leap from the rational, factual side to the emotional side of the equation.

path to marketing successBut just because someone’s making a buying decision at work doesn’t mean she’s suddenly turned into Mr. Spock. She still has feelings.

In their extensive research, Antonio Dumasio and Joseph LeDoux of USC have verified the theory that the head is primarily used to justify decisions that have already been made in the gut and the heart.

We aren’t rational, but we are rationalizers.

Their studies show that emotions don’t decide for us, but they weigh in early and heavily into the decision making process. Plus, emotions are inextricably interconnected with rationality, so no decision is purely logical.

“We’re not thinking machines, we are feeling machines that think.”

That’s why it’s very difficult to sway a consumer to change from one tried and true brand to something completely new. A long list of rational bullet points cannot compete with gut feelings.

Douglas Van Praet, in “Unconscious Branding” sums it up for marketers: “The emotional part of the brain serves as the primary driver of our behavior, while our rational mind acts as a backseat observer that, more often than not, goes along for the ride.”

So the path to marketing success is a matter of balancing Aristotle’s three elements.

Ethos — credibility to elicit that positive gut feeling about you and your product. Without it, no one will be open to receive your message.

Pathos — emotional content to connect in the heart and create brands that are truly loved.

Logos — facts and data to help people rationalize their decisions in their own heads.

If you want a more balanced marketing effort, give us a call.

541-815-0075

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