Friday, July 31, 2009

Making a case for standards

In a recent article in MediaPost News, Larry Oakner offers some simple but powerful tips on making your brand work:

See branding as an investment and marketing as an expense.
Every dollar that's ever been spent on the brand adds leverageble equity to help launch new products, or associate brands with the parent company.

Follow brand standards to speed up success.
Guidelines help keep the creative process on track, which eliminates wasted time pursuing ideas that aren't "on brand."

Build the brand, don't erode it.
Launching a new brand without following corporate branding may solve immediate issues, but over time -even a short time- it can erode positive associations or create negative ones. Get the job done AND build the brand.

Celebrate the organization, not the individual.
Like the bricklayer who can point to a completed skyscraper and tell his child he built the building, you are contributing to the overall success of the company when you stay on brand.

This is one of the best arguments I've read for using guidelines to stay "on brand." We've all worked in organizations where domineering people use subjective (me, myself, and I) reasoning to justify their decisions rather than thinking in terms of leveraging the whole. Guidelines -- or better, policy -- can build brand equity faster and stronger.

I'm reminded of an axiom I heard in a financial marketing conference about 15 years ago: There are two kinds of activities in any organization: those that build the brand and those that destroy it. Use guidelines to help you avoid brand-destroying activities.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One-to-one redux

Comment from Barth: Don Peppers and Martha Rogers introduced the concept of "one-to-one marketing" decades ago. The Web and its related technologies now offer marketers ways of accomplishing one-to-one relationships that heretofore were complex and imprecise. The following article is a great update on where we're progressing, based on "one-to-one" methodology.

Excerpted from MediaPost's Marketing Daily, July 28, 2009,
"Put Out The Welcome Mat" by Mark Wilmot

Through an anthropological approach to consumer market research, creativity, insight and cutting-edge analytical tools, thought-leading companies in our industry are able to uncover clues in customer behavior that translate to customer-centric marketing for shoppers and increased market share for clients.

Being invited into homes across the country rather than invading them is becoming the standard norm. Something amazing happens when marketing efforts are actually relevant to people. We see this step as initiating that crucial dialogue. And shoppers, for their part, are replying; essentially giving permission to marketers to learn their habits and respond accordingly.

When a message is perceived as useful, it is not advertising. When the right content is delivered at the appropriate time, people are motivated to put out the welcome mat for marketers and brands. Offers that reflect consumers' specific shopping habits will be more successful than an annoying flood of mail-in surveys, trial offers and other coupons that inevitably find their way in the garbage.

Companies can initiate ongoing conversations with people by closely tracking and analyzing the shopping habits of loyalty card shoppers, which enables marketers to reach the customers they already have and reward them. One leading grocers invested in the skills, processes and technologies necessary to boost loyalty and was inspired to develop a loyal customer mailer (LCM) unlike any other.

Once a quarter, millions of LCMs are mailed out to households containing customized messages specifically for them, a thank-you for their business and offers reflecting a specific household's previous shopping experiences, thus recognizing and rewarding their loyalty. That weakness for double fudge ice cream amid a cart full of low calorie, low-fat choices? Just another idiosyncrasy that can easily be tracked and targeted, resulting in offers that make each shopping experience unique.

An envelope filled with relevant content and the right offers that reflect a shopper's actual shopping list isn't considered junk mail when it's the result of a dialogue between consumer and marketer. Again and again, people say they feel like their LCM was designed or customized just for them, and they look forward to the correspondence, whether it is in their mailbox or in their inbox. This dramatic shift in perception translates directly to motivating consumers to act. Over 30% of households redeem an average of five offers.

As the consumer-marketer relationship continues to evolve, customization will be critical not only in message, but in delivery. Without dialogue initiated by the marketer but controlled by the customer, the connection will be lost. In fact, the industry talks about that futuristic day when consumers decide what advertising they want to see, when they want it, and in what medium. Technology and honed strategies are already allowing us to develop the future as we uniquely get to that level and move with the consumer on this extraordinary journey.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The fine art of buy-in

We're getting ready to roll out a new visual identity system in my organization, including a new logo. This is typically a contentious event in an organization where people often feel left out and, as a result, unhappy with the outcome.

I can't help but reflect on my experiences with logo changes over the years in other organizations. I learned from my own mistakes -- you've got to bring people on board early. By making them a part of the process, you allow them to form a relationship with the outcome, even if it's an outcome they're not entirely satisfied with. This is especially true when you're working with an outside design firm. In such a case, it's easy to force change on people. It's harder to give everyone a chance to be a part of the process. But doing so spells the difference between success and failure.

In my present organization, there's history around this issue. A number of years ago, our athletic department attempted to change a logo with virtually no consultation with people within the organization. The negative reaction was palpable and this fiasco still resonates in people's memories.

Today, I trust it will be different. We'll roll this out after having met with many stakeholders, involved our design and Web teams, and conducting listening sessions with students, faculty, and staff. Not everyone will like the final result. I'm certain of that. But most everyone has been carefully heard and can claim involvement in the process.

This reminds me of a little axiom cited by Keith Reinhard, former chairman of DDB Needham Worldwide. He quoted the Daughters of St. Paul who had developed a list of the most important words in the English language. The most important word, they contended, is "We."

Allowing people to buy-in on a project, especially one that brings tremendous change, moves them from a "You" to a "We" orientation. "We" = success.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Remembering Cronkite

I try to focus exclusively on marketing issues and musings here, yet I can't help but add a few lines upon the passing of Walter Cronkite. My early career included a stint as a broadcast journalist, and like any journalist 40 and older, Cronkite represented both the craft's standard and its pinnacle of achievement.

One of my few brushes with greatness included an exchange of "hellos" with Cronkite. It was 1986. I was a graduate student in the College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin. I had known that Cronkite was on campus for a series of meetings and lectures, but it hadn't registered much because the school frequently had celebrity communicators on campus.

I had left a class and was heading down the hall to a meeting with a professor. The hallway was empty, but an older gentleman was coming in the opposite direction. "Hi," I said as we passed. "Hello," he responded in a profoundly familiar voice.

About five more steps, maybe ten, and the light bulb finally went on. I turned back, and he was gone.

I've often reflected on that little encounter, wondering what might have happened if I'd recognized Cronkite right from the start. A brief conversation? Something more substantial than "hello"? Nevertheless, I always felt a kind of personal connection to the guy after that.

I won't eulogize Cronkite or broadcast journalism here -- plenty of others have done that. Plus, I said goodbye to top-notch broadcast journalism years ago, long before Fox showed up on the scene to clinch the end of professionalism in broadcast news as we had known it.

And that's the way it is.

P.S. Cronkite was a student at UT Austin in the 1930s. Here are some links referencing his UT Austin connections:
Artifacts to be displayed at UT
Cronkite's UT connections

Friday, July 17, 2009

What are social media, really?

A recent article by Educational Marketing Group experts is extremely helpful in clarifying the role of social media in the marketing mix: "The social network should be thought of as an extension of the brand experience, not strictly as another publication or advertising."

This underscores a previous argument I've made that social media can't simply replace traditional advertising in setting a comprehensive marketing strategy. Think "both/and," not "either/or."

People use social media quite differently than they do traditional media. Social media are used primarily as a means of connection with other people, not simply as sources of news, information, or entertainment. It's like the difference between television and gossiping at the back fence.

Research bears this out, and now the experts are starting to clarify how to most effectively use these tools. It's about time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Let's talk "marketing principles" for a minute

From time to time I encounter marketers who overreact to clients. A client will try to express a particular perspective on a marketing problem and behind the scenes the marketing folks will cringe, arguing that the client just isn't following sound marketing principles.

What ARE marketing principles, anyway?

Marketers should be, first and foremost, problem-solvers. In the words of a respected marketing practitioner, Patty Crane of Crane MetaMarketing Ltd, (I'm paraphrasing here) every marketing problem comes embedded with its own solution. If we understand the problem well enough, we find the solution buried within it.

I submit that the FIRST marketing principle we should care about is listening. If we don't listen first, there's no way we can help anyone solve a problem, and we'll never find the solution.

Let's be careful about turning "marketing principles" into a form of our own bravado.