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1 balance your marketing tactics and strategy with BNBranding

The Yin & Yang of Marketing – Are your efforts in balance?

BNBranding logoIn Eastern philosophy yin yang represents the concept of duality. Two halves working together toward wholeness and harmony. It’s the dance of opposites — where seemingly contrary forces are actually complementary.

marketing strategy vs. tactics: yin yang of marketing

Like marketing strategy and tactics.

“Wholeness” — ie optimal results — is only achieved when you strike that delicate balance between the two. When the marketing tactics flow naturally from the strategy.

If your marketing efforts are predominantly tactical, without adequate strategy, you’ll be throwing money at ill-conceived tactics. Ready, fire aim!

If your marketing efforts are tipped the other direction, you’ll spend all your time preparing, planning and aiming, without pulling the trigger.

When you employ both halves of the marketing equation you can touch a glorious chord of emotion while still employing a data-driven strategy. It’s old-school story telling balanced with new technology and analytics.

Right-brain creativity with left-brain analysis. Yin and yang. Marketing strategy and tactics. One cannot live without the other.

All marketing programs are a mix of strategy and tactics, but most small business owners gravitate heavily toward the tactical side of the equation. They forego the strategy part for several reasons:

• Because they can’t do it themselves or they don’t understand it.

• Because they perceive it as being too expensive.

• Because they don’t have time… too many other things to do.

• Because they don’t see the value in it.

They skip the most important step to save a few bucks, but they pour a lot of money into tactics.

They use social media specialists and graphic artists to produce content. They purchase TV time and digital ads. They produce videos for YouTube and run radio ads, but there is no thread of continuity. No consistency of voice or message. No strategic platform from which to work.

No yin yang balance.

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Therefore, the effectiveness of each tactic is compromised.

Let’s look at some of the opposing, yin yang elements of any good marketing program:


Inward vs. outward.

Many businesses are too inwardly focused when it comes to marketing. Instead of addressing the needs, wants and emotions of their prospects, they talk about themselves and their industry. It’s all me, me, me, me, with a bunch of jargon thrown in for credibility purposes.

Not only that, outward facing marketing tactics and messages are often out-of-balance with the internal operation of the company. The ultimate success of your brand doesn’t hinge on what the marketing people say, it hinges on what you actually do. When you do great things, effective marketing messages are much easier to come by.

So what are you doing internally that your marketing department could build a strategy around?

Emotional vs. analytical marketing.

If you want your marketing strategy and tactics to balance, you can’t underestimate the influence of feelings.

Many business owners operate as if cold, calculating characters like Spock make all the buying decisions. They line up the spreadsheets, produce some charts and graphs, and expect facts and data to do all the work. But it NEVER does.

balance your marketing efforts with BNBrandingThe latest brain research — fMRI testing — proves that emotion commingles with reason, even in rigorous business-to-business purchasing decisions. In fact, many studies show it’s emotion that triggers action.

As one writer put it, “emotion is in the Oval office while the rational brain is in the press center, justifying the decisions that have already been made.”

Trust is not a rational thing. Trust is a feeling. And it’s trust that builds brand loyalty.

Simon Sinek says it succinctly, “Most companies are quite adept at at winning minds; all that requires is a comparison of features. Winning hearts, however, takes more work. That starts with WHY. People don’t buy WHAt you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

Fast vs. slow

Some tactics need to get done quickly. For instance, social media posts are often very time sensitive, so there’s not much consideration for craftsmanship. Promotions are also short-term. TV commercials or print ads, on the other hand, demand careful attention to detail, so you need to leave time to do it right. Branding is a long-haul play.

Strategy also takes time and thoughtful consideration. Strategic issues arise when the strategy is rushed to accommodate the tactical to-do list. Confusion and credibility issues arise when the tactics are produced in a vacuum, with no strategic guidance. All yang, and no yin.

 

Positive vs. negative.

Some marketers believe that you should never mention the competition. Always stick to a rosy picture of positivity, they say.

But there are some strategic situations that demand a negative approach to execution. Sometimes it’s simply stronger to refer to someone else’s weakness than to talk about your own strengths.

The yin & yang of competition is often the most poignant and effective approach for campaigns.

All great brands have arch enemies. Coke has Pepsi. McDonalds has Burger King. Apple has Microsoft. Don’t shy away from that just because you’re afraid of offending someone. Better to offend some, than be invisible to everyone.

That said, you can’t have a marketing campaign that’s completely negative, all the time. Especially in small town. It’ll probably come off as snarky.

Male vs. female

A comedian once said that women make 80% of all the decisions — and they have veto power over the other 20%.

Keep that in mind when you’re working on tactics, planning your strategy and building a brand. Women remember things! And they’ll attach very strong emotions to those memories, so you better not piss them off.

On the other hand, if you show genuine empathy, and make them feel good, they’ll be great brand ambassadors for you. And don’t forget… Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram skew heavily toward women.

Yin Yang is not static. Neither is your marketing.

The nature of Yin Yang flows and changes with time. So does your marketing. Sometimes it’s stop and go.

Some initiatives are purely tactical, while others are more strategic. Factors outside your control can change your strategy completely or rob you of tactics that you once counted on.

The seasonal nature of most businesses means that tactics may be bunched heavily into one time of year, while planning takes place another. Not only that, goals can change dramatically from one year to another. So you can’t just upload the same marketing plan year after year and expect it to work. You can’t keep running the same ads on the same shows or websites.

The balance point is always shifting. Hot & cold. In and out. Yin and yang. Enlightenment is achieved only when marketing strategy and tactics come together.

If you’re wondering about your own balance point, give us a call. Let’s start a conversation about your brand. 541-815-0075.

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BNBranding how to choose the right message for your ads

TMI – How information is killing your advertising

brand credibility from branding expertsContrary to popular belief, information is the enemy of persuasion. Not the friend. In fact, too much information is the number one killer of advertising, presentations, speeches and brand messages in general.

Most people think they can convince, sell or persuade by piling on facts and stats. Well, it might make you feel smart, but it’s not going to produce results. In fact, the more information you stuff into an ad, the less you’ll get out of it.

Information is what web sites are for. You can cover all the nitty gritty details in the content of your site. That’s where you go deep with blog posts and white papers. Don’t try doing that in your advertising.

too much information in advertising and marketing

Lead them gently down that primrose path to conversion.

Effective advertising leads prospects to that information and moves them further down the primrose path to conversion. It doesn’t change minds, it simply gets people moving in the right direction… from ad, to website, to content, to store, to purchase. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Many people try the short cut, thinking they can do it all in one ad. There’s no thinking behind it. No strategy. No emotional hook. And worst of all, no story.

Just get the word out there. Load ’em up with product specs and features. Give ’em every detail of the coming event. Show ’em every product that’s on sale! Baffle ’em with the factoids.

 

 

Here’s an example: Several local hearing aid businesses run huge, full-page ads in the paper every week. It’s a wise media strategy, because the newspaper reaches senior citizens quite effectively.

Terrible execution though.

The ads are all type and hype… packed with nothing but facts, retail features and weasels. Someone could easily win that marketing battle simply by removing the facts and taking a less-is-more approach.

Because seniors don’t like being bored to death either.

If you ignore the emotional benefits of hearing well, and start droning on about the techno-wizardry of the latest, greatest hearing aid, you’re missing it entirely.

Advertising is an arena geared specifically for stories and emotional benefits. The imaginative part of the sales pitch, if you will.  Save the product features, details, proof points and testimonials for your website or for the sales pitch once they’re in your store. And even then, you need to use information wisely.

A Harvard Business Review study revealed the underlying problem with more information:  unnecessarily confusing paths to a purchasing decision.

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your ads

“Companies have ramped up their messaging, expecting that the more information they provide, the better the chances of holding on to increasingly distracted and disloyal customers. But for many consumers, the rising volume of marketing messages isn’t empowering—it’s overwhelming. Rather than pulling customers into the fold, marketers are pushing them away with relentless and ill-conceived efforts to engage.”

The study compared the online advertising of two digital camera brands. Brand A used extensive technical and feature information such as megapixel rating, memory and resolution details. Nothing about the beautiful images you could capture.

And guess what? All that information didn’t lead people closer to a decision. It led them down a frustrating rabbit hole and drove them to consider Brand B.

“Brand B simplified the decision making process and helped prospects traverse the purchase path quickly and confidently.” The approach focused more on the end results have having a great photo, rather than the features of the camera. Duh.

“The research showed that customers considering both brands are likely to be dramatically more “sticky” toward Brand B… The marketer’s goal is to help customers feel confident about their choice. Just providing more information often doesn’t help.”

I’ve had bosses and clients who believe that every inch of every ad should be utilized to its fullest extent. In other words, pack it with facts. Leave nothing out. “White space is for people with nothing to say.”

The underlying reason for that is usually insecurity and/or inexperience. The results are predictably dismal… You end up with a frustrated creative team, confused consumers and lousy response rates.

So if you’re working on a new ad campaign, make friends with the Delete button. Embrace the white space. Learn when to shut up. When in doubt, take it out!

For more on this subject, check out THIS post

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

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Truth, Lies, and Advertising Honesty.

I don’t comment on politics. However, the constant flood of blatant falsehoods from President Trump has certainly inspired this post on brand authenticity, honesty and truth in advertising.

In politics, the standards for lying are lower than they are in business. You can sling mud, tweet utter nonsense, and hurl half-truths at your opponent and get away with it. He’ll just sling it back. Or the populace will simply look the other way.

In business, it doesn’t work that way. “You suck, we don’t” isn’t a good messaging strategy.

Consumers are quick to call you out, via social media, if your advertising is BS. And if you say nasty things about your competitors, you’ll probably get sued.

It’s actually illegal to blatantly mislead consumers. And if you live in a small town, like I do, disparaging a competitor will almost always come back to bite you in the karmic ass.

In marketing, advertising and selling, there’s a big, gaping grey area when it comes to the claims you make and the image you portray.

 

 

Many people believe “truth in advertising” is an oxymoron.

Of course burgers always look bigger and juicier in ads than they do in real life. All women are rail-thin and perfectly endowed in fashion advertising. And it’s always clear skies and mai-tais in the travel brochures for Kaui. (No one really expects them to show the island in a downpour.)

So critics jump to the conclusion that all advertising is false advertising. That all marketers use dishonest “trickeration” to get us to buy things we don’t want or need. They say there is no truth in advertising. Alternate facts, maybe, but not truth

Not so.

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Great brands are built by business owners (and their agencies) who know how to tell good stories. And good story telling always involves elements of truth, plus a little “creative license.”

Your brand stories don’t have to be literally true, but they must ring true to a particular group of people.

Even the most well-documented non-fiction stories are not 100% true.

Ken Burns, the famous documentary filmmaker once said, “all story is manipulation. Truth is a by-product of our stories. And emotional truth is something you have to build.”

As marketers, that’s what we’re really after… emotional truth. Nothing works better.

When your brand story strikes an emotional chord that matches someone’s personal world view, you have a truth in his mind, and a winning campaign.

It’s more like suggestion than manipulation. In this age of instantaneous customer reviews, manipulation won’t fly. You have to be more subtle than that.

BNBranding truth in advertisingIn Seth Godin’s book, “All Marketers Are Liars” he reminds us that the brand story you tell isn’t really your story at all. It’s the consumer’s story that he tells himself that really matters.  You might try to “sell your story,” but in the end it’s the consumer who convinces himself why he wants or needs your product.

In an old 60-minutes episode, the producers tried to paint the Italian eyeglass company, Luxottica, as irresponsible and phony because they make eyewear for dozens of different designer brands, including Oakley, RayBan, Prada, Polo, Coach, Vogue and many others.

60 Minutes says it’s misleading, that all those fancy brands are made out of the same factory.

Perhaps. But I don’t think anyone cares. The factory that produces the glasses, and the parent company behind the factory, are not the story that’s relevant to consumers. The brand is what’s relevant.

Sometimes truth just doesn’t resonate.

Regardless of the fact that all those glasses come from the same factory, consumers will convince themselves that their brand is better. Different. More desirable. That’s the power of great, long-term branding.

When you buy designer glasses from DKNY or Tiffany & Co. you’re buying into a different story than if you choose Oakleys. For some people, the Oakley story is more personally meaningful. More “true.”

For me, it’s not Oakley or any of the designer brands. It’s the Maui Jim story that rings true. Or at least, the most truthful for me.

As consumers, we constantly frame and reframe “truth” to fit our own values and beliefs. 

Marketing helps the process along, basically enabling us to continue telling ourselves stories that justify our purchases. Even ridiculous ones like $300 sunglasses.

brand credibility

The famous, old Avis campaign is a good example.  By adopting the tagline “we try harder,” Avis helped people reframe the truth… that Hertz is #1 in the market.

Avis planted the seed of doubt… that bigger is NOT necessarily better. Suddenly, that market leadership position didn’t equate with the best.

That long-running campaign rang true for millions of people, and helped Avis grow tremendously.  It was an idea that lasted more than 40 years.  Was it absolutely true? No, probably not. I doubt that every Avis employee actually tried harder than the guys at Hertz. But inside the company it was a truthful effort. “We try harder” became one of the company’s internal core values.

So here are some tips for truth in advertising, marketing and branding:

1. Facts are far less interesting than stories. If the facts are truly on your side, that’s great, your marketing job will be a lot easier. But you still need to find a creative way to present those facts. That means weaving them into a compelling narrative.

2. If you have a me-too product, you’re going to have to “bluff with fluff.”  That’s when your advertising messages are even more critical to success. You have to come up with something beyond the product or service to hang your hat on. That’s what Avis did. That’s what Allstate’s doing with the “mayhem” campaign. That’s what every golf club manufacturer does. Product parity demands an effective use of exaggeration. A little more “spin.”

truth in advertising anchored in truth BNBranding3. Make sure your marketing communications are anchored in truth. The premise of your campaign, and the meat of your message, has to hold water. Otherwise, consumers will tag it immediately as B.S.  The mayhem campaign for Allstate is anchored in a common truth… that trouble lurks around every corner.

4. Be consistent. Once you figure out what that emotional truth is, stick with it!  You can vary the execution, but the underlying message and the “voice” of the campaign needs to stay the same. The more your messages bounce around, the less credibility you’ll have. Click here to get help from BNBranding.

5. Always portray your product in the best light possible. Being “authentic” doesn’t mean you should use crappy photos of your product, or cheap packaging. If you have to, leave out the facts that point to another choice. Steer the conversation your way.

6. Admit it when don’t know or can’t stack up. Admitting a true shortcoming of your company or your product is a great way to disarm prospects and build trust. Be truthful about what you don’t do, and use that to your advantage.

7. Never pay people for “reviews,” and don’t write fake testimonials. Verbatim comments from happy customers carry a lot of weight, but people can tell if you’re writing them yourself.  There are subtle little language clues that give you away, every time.

8. Remember, your story is what the consumer believes it to be. And one person’s truth is another person’s lie.  You’ll never please all the people… Just those who share the alternate reality of your particular market segment.

9. Business is about relationships. Relationships hinge on trust. So lying, cheating or doing anything that betrays trust, also hurts the brand. As Marty Neumeier said, “Trust is the ultimate shortcut to a buying decision, and the bedrock of modern branding.”

10. Remember that consumers are deeply, contagiously skeptical.  And if they feel they’re being duped, they’ll shout it out any way they can. In fact, there’s a small, but vocal, segment of the population that has nothing better to do than lurk around on Twitter just waiting for something to snark about.

11. Be Novel.  Great novels aren’t true but they reveal truths. They involve deep, meaningful characters and a storyline that grips, moves, builds. Brands should do the same.  If you’re staying static, you’re losing relevance. And great writing is a differentiator, all by itself!

Click here for more on truth in advertising. 

Click here to get help from BNBranding.

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Under Armour marketing — Sailing into a big, blue ocean of opportunity.

BNBranding logoKevin Plank, founder and former CEO of Under Armour, likes to tell the story of his origin as an entrepreneur. And it always revolves around focus…

“For the first five years we only had one product. Stretchy tee shirts,” Plank said.  “Great entrepreneurs take one product and become great at one thing.  I would say, the number one key to Under Armour marketing – to any company’s success – plain and simple, is focus.”

Under Armour marketing strateg on the Brand Insight BlogThe Under Armour marketing focus on stretchy tees for football players enabled Plank to create a whole new pie in the sporting goods industry. He wasn’t fighting with Nike for market share, he was competing on a playing field that no one was on.

It was a classic “blue ocean” strategy… instead of competing in the bloody waters of an existing market with well-established competitors, he sailed off on his own.

Under Armour marketing strategy on the brand insight blog

And Plank kept his ship on course until the company was firmly established. Only then did they begin to introduce new products and expan

d the Under Armour marketing strategy. It wasn’t until years later that they entered the footwear business and the golf business and the fashion business.

That’s good branding. That’s a Blue Ocean Strategy. That was Under Armour marketing in a nutshell… Stretchy Ts for football players. 

 

 

Plank didn’t have to explain the Under Armour value proposition to anyone… From the very beginning it was ridiculously clear what the company was all about. Potential customers grasped the idea immediately.

Often the lure of far-away treasure is just too tempting for the entrepreneur. The minute they get a taste of success, and have some good cash flow, they sail off into completely different oceans.

It’s a common phenomenon among early-stage start-ups, where it’s spun, for PR purposes, into a strategic “pivot.” 

Every meeting with a potential investor or new strategic partner triggers a dramatic shift in the wind…

“Wow, that’s a great idea. We could do that.”  “Oh, we never thought of that. Yes, definitely.” “Well, that would be a great pivot for us. We’ll definitely look into that.” 

Those are usually the ones that burn through their first round of funding and then sail off into oblivion. Because there’s no clear purpose. No definitive direction. No substance upon which a brand could be built.

W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne wrote the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” back in 2005. They don’t mention Under Armour, but it fits their blueprint of success precisely…

“Reconstruct market boundaries to create uncontested market space.” “Use value innovation to make a giant, disruptive leap forward in your industry.”

Plank was sailing into uncontested waters with one simple, focused idea. Plus he had a well-executed brand identity that was perfectly aligned with his blue ocean strategy.

The name, Under Armour, fits perfectly. It sounds strong because it was originally targeted toward strong, burly football players in tough tee shirts. Plus, it’s under shirts, not outter shirts. It even implied safety in an inherently unsafe sport.

When it comes to branding, simplicity trumps complexity. The strongest brands are always built on simple, single-minded ideas.

Take Ikea, for instance. They have thousands of products, but they all revolve around one simple core brand concept: Furniture for the masses.

They figured out how to offer functional, contemporary furniture for a lot less money… by leaving the assembly in the hands of the customer.

The products themselves are cheap, cheesy and downright disposable. But that’s not the point. You can furnish an entire apartment for what you’d normally pay for a couch. Plus, Ikea created a shopping experience that makes you feel like you’re getting something more. And consumers eat it up.

Ikea has a cult-like brand following. People camp out for days at Ikea store openings. They drive hundreds of miles and devour 191 million copies of Ikea’s printed catalog. All because of two things: price and shopping experience.

Ikea didn’t try to compete with traditional furniture manufacturers who focused on craftsmanship and quality. Instead, they ascribed to the old saying, “If you want to live with the classes, sell to the masses.”  Every Ikea design begins with one thought in mind: How to make common household items less expensive.

Their single-minded focus on cost-conscious consumers is their “Blue Ocean” strategy and the cornerstone of their success. They design products and a retail shopping experience to fit that core brand concept.

Uner Armour marketing on the brand insight blogSo the next time you walk into one of those giant, blue stores for some Swedish meatballs and bed linens, think about that…  Are you trying to slug it out with bigger competitors in the bloody waters of a red sea, or are you charting your own blue ocean strategy?

Take a page from the Under Armour marketing handbook and zig when everyone else zags. Go where the enemy isn’t. That’s how you’ll create a brand, and a business, that sticks. 

For more on effective marketing strategy, Try This Post.

 To put this idea to work for your company, give us a call. Our branding process starts with a simple, affordable brand assessment test drive.  541-815-0075

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Wait, what??? The 5 worst words in marketing

BNBranding logoI am not stupid. I can connect the dots pretty well when it comes to concepts, jokes, images and nuances of commercials, print ads or social media posts. And yet, I often find myself scratching my head saying “HUH?”  Which is, unfortunately, one of the worst words in marketing.

Here are a few others that I’ve heard uttered:

“What the hell was that?”

“What were they really trying to say?”

“What were they thinking?”

“Why should I care?”

Or worst of all, “Wait, what? That doesn’t make sense.”

 

 

 

 

Job #1 of any marketing person, business owner or copywriter is to eliminate confusion.  When people react with words like “huh?” you’ve failed miserably.

 

the worst words in marketing BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

The new version of the Audi R8. Plenty of good words come to mind. “Huh” is not one of them.

Here’s a good example from an old superbowl telecast… The Godfather spot for the original Audi R8.

Normally I wouldn’t waste my breath critiquing the commercials that debut during the game, but this one really got me because it’s a brand I love.

But we’re talking about advertising that makes you go “huh” not sports cars that make you go “wow.”

Give credit to Audi for breaking away from the usual automotive cliches. The spot in question is a take-off on the most famous scene from The Godfather, circa 1975… the horse head in bed scene.

Godfather fans recognize it immediately… slow-paced, dramatic music with an exterior shot of a gigantic Italian mansion.

Cut to a creepy old guy asleep in bed. He wakes up, pulls the sheets back and reveals, horror of all horrors, the disembodied front end of an old Bentley. His screaming is really quite disturbing.

Cut to a product shot of the R8 zooming out of the driveway. The tag says, “old luxury just got put on notice.”

HUH????? What does the R8 have to do with old luxury?

I had to watch this spot three more times before I could identify the front end of the car as a Bentley. Or is it Rolls? And the old man is covered in oil instead of blood.

I get it. Talk about over the top! It’s a great piece of cinematic advertising, but it’s not good brand management. Even though it left most people scratching their heads, it’s ranked as one of the top 50 car commercials of all time.

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your adsIn the advertising business the technique is called “borrowed interest.” Usually it’s reserved for me-too products in categories with low involvement and little inherent interest. Like non-aspirin pain relievers or feminine hygiene products.

You have “borrow” interest from something that people are actually interested in.

But that’s definitely not the case here. The Audi R8 is one of the coolest, meanest looking new cars in years. Who needs to borrow an old movie scene to advertise such a great product? Couldn’t the creative team find any inspiration in the R8 itself?

And why, may I ask, is Audi positioning the R8 against an old Rolls Royce? Not exactly on brand for that particular model.

The R8’s a super car — more comparable to a Lamborgini than a Rolls. Not exactly apples-to-apples.

I doubt I’m the only person who’s confused by Audi’s approach. I bet the worst words in marketing come up all the time in context with that ad…

“What?”

“Huh?”

Why sacrifice clarity for an elaborate spin-off that leaves many people feeling completely clueless? Nobody’s going to spend time figuring out the message like I did.

Besides, if I worked for Audi I’d want people talking about the car, not the commercial.

It seems like the R8 spot was conceived with no clearly defined message in mind. As if the brand manager said, “hey, let’s spend four million dollars and introduce the R8 at the Superbowl this year. Wouldn’t that be cool.”

Nobody took the time to figure out the strategic intent of the spot before the creative team sat down. In other words, Audi didn’t know what they wanted to say besides “introducing the new R8.”

Was it really their intent to scare Rolls Royce and Bentley? I can’t imagine. Maybe someone thought the car was a little over the top, so they did a commercial to match. Who knows?

Chances are, you don’t have 5 million dollars earmarked for one, single commercial. But if you did, wouldn’t you want to avoid confusing people?

Wouldn’t you want the best ROI you could possibly get?  If so, then make sure your marketing messages have these three things covered: Relevance. Credibility. Differentiation. These are the three best words in marketing.

Branding firm BNBrandingThere are thousands of ways you could tell your brand’s story, but the trick is to make your message relevant to the specific group of people you’re targeting at that particular time and place.

Is the Godfather really relevant to football fans who’d seriously consider an Audi R8? Will that movie reference resonate more than the car itself? I doubt it.

That’s the trouble with borrowed interest. It’s usually low relevance.

The second thing is credibility. Consumers these days are highly skeptical of any commercial pitch, and a claim that leaves them scratching their head will never pass the credibility test.

Confusion’s not credible. It’s never a good idea to make your target audience feel like idiots.

Finally, good old-fashioned differentiation.

I have to admit, the four-second shot of the R8 at the end of the Godfather spot is enough to differentiate it from any other car on the road. All the rest of it’s just Superbowl ego-marketing nonsense.

Before you place your next ad, be sure to do the “Huh” test. Listen carefully to the feedback and if a lot of people come away saying “Huh, I didn’t get it,” then you need to rethink the ad. There are plenty of great, creative ideas that won’t leave people utterly confused.

But do your ad agency a favor and get that feedback early in the process. Before you film anything and blow the production budget. And trust your instincts… if it feels confusing to you, it’s almost guaranteed to be confusing to people who aren’t as familiar with your product or service.

And while you’re at it, also do the “Duh” test.

Is the spot so obvious and banal, the reaction is, “Duh!” You don’t want that  either. That’s also one of the worst words in marketing.

For more on clarity in advertising, try this post. 

 

2 BNBranding how to choose the right message for your ads

Website Design & Development – How to make websites work on many levels.

BNBranding logoIt’s been very interesting to witness the progression of website design and development over the last 25 years. A lot of trends come and go, technology improves, entirely new platforms have been developed and the graphic style continues to evolve.

These days it’s much easier to do it yourself, and that DIY trend seems to be producing a lot of cookie-cutter, template-driven websites that are wearily one dimensional.

The fact is, your site needs to be multi-dimensional and continually evolving. Websites should never really be “done.”  In this age of mobile computing it needs to function as an on-line calling card, a customer service tool, a lead generation tool, an educational tool and, for many companies, a storefront.

So let’s look at a few of the most critical levels of website performance…

The good, old-fashioned, phonebook level.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the phone book has faded faster than you can say “Blackberry.” Now that we all have a computer in our hands at all times, Google IS the phonebook.

So on the most basic level, your website design needs to function as a phonebook listing. There’s nothing fancy about that. Phonebooks provided only the basics; who you are, what you do, when you’re open, where you’re located, and of course, the phone number.

The same can be said for your local, “Google My Business”  listing. It’s very important to cover the basics on there, in addition to your website. I can’t stress that enough for those of you who run retail businesses… More and more, people just do a quick, local Google search and skip the click-through altogether.

But that’s just the first 5 seconds of engagement. Your website design has to work much harder than that, for 50 seconds, or even five minutes.

Here’s an example:  Say you’re locked out of your car on a cold night and you’re searching for a locksmith. You’ll probably call the first company that pops up on Google that offers emergency service.

Comparison shopping doesn’t come into play.

website design on the brand insight blog

 

But here’s a completely different buying scenario:  Six months later you need new locks on the doors of your office. There’s valuable stuff in there,  so you find yourself searching, once again, for a locksmith. But this time you have a dramatically different set of needs and expectations.

Same search terms. Same exact unique visitor. Different context. Different search criteria. Different emotion. Different behavior.

So in that case, the locksmith’s website needs to work on another level. What served the purpose in an emergency doesn’t work for a more thoughtful purchase. It requires a little different website design.

 

Website design for the first impression level.

The most basic rule of marketing is to make a good impression. Quickly! If you don’t, your prospects will never make it to conversion. Doesn’t matter if it’s a business card, a Powerpoint presentation, any other tactical marketing tool… the first step to success is making a good impression.

So how do you do that on a website?

Famous Chicago MadMan, Leo Burnett, once said, “Make is simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” There you go. That old-school thinking still applies.

Unfortunately, that’s a tall order for web developers who are accustomed to writing code, not copy. And it’s impossible for business owners who are muddling through a do-it-yourself website… “Choose a color. Insert logo here. Put content there. Proceed to check out!”

The fact is, most small-business websites fail miserably on this basic, 30-second marketing level… They’re not memorable. They’re not fun to read. And there’s no differentiating features… they look just like a million other websites built on the exact same design template.

That’s why the bounce rate from home pages is so ridiculously high.  They don’t make a good first impression. In fact, most make no impression at all.

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your ads

Website design for the conceptual, branding level.

Pliny The Elder once said, “Human nature craves novelty.”

More recently, marketing guru Seth Godin said, “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. Not standing out is the same as being invisible.” The whole premise of his book, Purple Cow, is “if you’re not Distinct, you’ll be Extinct.”

Being distinct is what branding is all about.

Unfortunately, most business owners have no idea what “distinctive” looks like in a website. And web programmers have a hard time disrupting the conventions of their tech-driven business, so you can’t rely on them for design innovation.

The conceptual level of your website revolves around your core brand concept — that one, engaging idea that goes beyond your product and price, and touches on a deeper meaning for your business.

bmw_uou

Brilliant, one-word ad that says it all for BMW.

For example, BMW’s core brand concept is stated very clearly: “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” It’s about engineering, handling and speed. It’s not a brand for soccer moms. The first glance at their website makes that clear.

When communicated consistently, a core brand concept will provide three things: Differentiation. Relevance. And credibility. Every great brand maintains those three things over time.

Often it’s not an overt statement, it’s a collection of symbolic cues and signals that come together to provide the ultimate take-away for the web user.

It’s the use of iconic, eye-catching images rather than stock photography.  It’s a headline that stops people in their tracks and questions your competitors. It’s navigation design that’s both intuitive to use, AND distinctly different. It’s clear, compelling messages each step of the way. And most importantly, it’s craftsmanship!

When your site is well crafted your conversion rates will dramatically increase. Guaranteed. So rather than just jumping into a quick, do-it-yourself site, stop and think about your brand. Do you even know what your brand stands for?  What your promise is? Can you communicate your idea in one sentence? Do you really know your market, your customers, your value proposition?

Those are the fundamentals. That’s the homework you need to do before you even start thinking about HTML programming. Because no amount of technological wizardry can compensate for the lack of a clear, single-minded brand idea.

The research or “how-to” level.

BNBranding - too many marketing opportunitiesThe deepest level of engagement in website design is content that educates. People are hungry for information and quick to examine the details of even the smallest purchases, so give them the meat they need to make an informed decision. Don’t make them go to your competitor’s website for honest insight on the purchase decision they face.

On business-to-business websites this often takes the form of webinars, videos, white papers, videos, articles, blogs and tutorials. On retail sites it’s third party reviews, product comparisons, user-generated content and the story behind the story of your products or organization.  This is where you site can get very deep and very relevant for serious prospects.

Don’t overlook this deeper level of informative web design. Don’t assume that everyone’s just going to buy right from the product page that they first land on. Many will snoop around and learn more before they click on the “buy” button.

The conversion level.

Of course, the ultimate goal of most websites sites these days is to sell stuff. Which means the definition of a “conversion” isn’t just gathering an email address, it’s sidestepping the middleman and moving product.

So the site isn’t just a marketing tool, it’s an integral part of your entire operation. Therefore, it needs to be integrated with your inventory management system, your POS system and your accounting software. It needs to be a living, breathing operational feature of your selling strategy.

Not only do you have to persuade, motivate and move people to action, you also have to provide a user-friendly shopping experience so people don’t jump over to Amazon and buy your product from some crummy, third-party reseller. So you need website design that’s both “On Brand” and easy to use.

If you want to improve the performance of your website, and transform your ordinary business into a powerful brand, give me a call. 541-815-0075.

More on the importance of branding or on Website design and development

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1 BNBranding how to choose the right message for your ads

Writing better web copy — How long should that copy be? Really.

BNBranding Bend, Oregon advertising agencyThis is a common refrain these days…  Doesn’t matter if the client is selling complex, business-to-business services or a simple impulse item, they often have the same idea when it comes to writing better web copy…

“This copy’s just too long. No one’s going to read that.” 

“You can’t put that much copy on a website.” 

“It’s just too many words.”

Brand Insight Blog by BNBrandingThey probably just took some online advice a little too far….

“Less is more.”

“Keep it short.”

“Don’t bore ’em with the details.”

“Use just the facts, and do it in 140 characters.”

Call it the Twitter effect. Or maybe the Trumpification of corporate communications. Persuasion, emotional story-telling and word-smithing is being beaten down, tweet by tweet, and reduced to banal snippets designed to get clicks and “improve engagement.”

Writing better web copy isn’t just about shortening up the word count. There are many problems with that approach, but I’ll cover just a few:

If you’re going to limit your web copy to just a few words, they better be damn good words.

This, I’ve found, seldom rings true. A lot of web copy is short, but most of it’s just corporate cliches and a bunch of blah blah blah. I rarely find headlines, home page copy or even blog posts that are well-written. In fact, most web copy is more likely to be riddled with typos than ripe with juicy metaphors and well-crafted copy.

That’s probably because most web development firms rely completely on the client for “content.” They don’t help the client fine-tune his message and write emotionally-rich copy, they just regurgitate whatever they’re given.

Garbage in, garbage out.

 

I recently encountered a web development firm’s process that included a 91-page survey for their clients. 91 pages of questions designed to gather content, streamline the development process, and basically make the client do all the creative work for them. They literally took the responses from the survey and inserted those as website copy. Verbatim.

They went out of business.

When it comes to writing better web copy sometimes you absolutely, positively need more than just a factual headline and a quick blurb.

Federal Express became a household name when they launched a humorous ad campaign featuring a fast talking boss running a fast-paced business. They could have said, “when you need it overnight,” but the addition of those two adjectives absolutely, positively made it a better campaign. Shorter was not better.

Business stories need time to develop. They need dialog and characters and problem/solution scenarios that strike a chord with prospects, like the Fed Ex campaign did. It was a business-to-business pitch that humanized the package delivery business and became massive, mainstream success.

Prospects need to know more than just who, what, when and where. But also, why. As Simon Simek says, “always start with why.”

Website visitors need to see, hear and FEEL the “what’s in it for me” content that is amazingly absent these days.

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your adsI see it frequently in the natural foods industry… a company will have a delicious new product for sale on Thrive Market, Amazon and various other ecommerce outlets, but they use the same, truncated, incomplete product descriptions on every website.

Not a single one gives an adequate explanation of “why buy.” It’s an obvious, unfortunate, cut and paste job.

There are hundreds of delicious, healthy products languishing on those eCommerce shelves because companies simply don’t articulate the deeply rooted product benefits in an interesting manner. As they say in the venture capital world, “they just don’t have their pitch dialed.”

Heck, they often can’t even convey how tasty their stuff really is.

Writing better web copy is a matter of digging up those pertinent story lines and delivering the message to a variety of diverse target audiences in a consistent, cohesive manner. The story needs to hit ’em in the gut, resonate in their hearts, and make sense in their heads.

Over and over and over again.

Sometimes it can be done in a few words, but often you have to go deep… You have to find the real story buried and elaborate on it.  Sometimes the meat of the message isn’t even on the company’s site, it’s on some food blogger’s site, buried in a review.

How could that be?

tips for new logo design by BNBranding

To be fair, those business owners are up to their ears in production challenges, ingredient procurement issues and sales channel headaches. Most don’t have time to write web copy because they’re busy solving problems that are more urgent and more understandable to a CEO mentality.

It’s  human nature… dive into the tasks we’re good at, and procrastinate on the other stuff.

So here’s some advice for all you business owners out there: Don’t put off your messaging. It’s more important than you think. Don’t let your web developers write it from survey results, and don’t “outsource it” to someone who doesn’t understand your target audience or the language of your business.

Get some professional help from a well qualified copywriter, and when you do, don’t pester him about using too many words.

The fact is, engagement is guaranteed if you’re telling a good story in a creative way. (And believe me, no one buys without first being engaged with your brand.)

So let me answer the original question… “How long should that web copy be?”

That depends on the context. You need to carefully consider the medium, the audience, the subject matter and the objective of the communication.

So the first step in writing better web copy — or better presentations — is knowing when to go long, when go short, and when to shut up.

I know a company that had 700 words on the homepage of their website. It was a huge mistake… way too long for that particular location. That particular company.

But there are far more companies that have the opposite problem: graphically-driven websites that don’t present a clear case for the product or service at hand.

Website homepages have evolved into online billboards. You only have a few seconds to catch their attention, so every sentence needs to be creative and well crafted. Every word counts. No one’s going to flock to your landing page if you just slap up a product shot with a factual headline. In that case, a photo alone does not speak a thousand words.

billboards like this one from bnbranding need short copy. brand insight blog

Billboards like this one from BNBranding require very short copy.

 

Thankfully, websites also accommodate the long, explanatory copywriting that’s essential to making the sale and building your brand. Facts, data and product photos alone do not tell a compelling story, but they are a required element. People need to justify the decisions they make, so you need both compelling, emotional copy and factual reasoning.

So, if you’re trying to write more effective web copy, first consider the medium. Then the audience. Then the objective of the communication. And of course, the subject matter. Only then can you decide if less really is more.

I could go on and on, but for this particular post, this is the perfect length.

For more on writing better web copy, try this post.