Be Succint

In a society where more and more information is thrown at you everyday, the importance of keeping your brand’s message succinct cannot be overstated.

That is the topic of my latest post for the Canadian Marketing Association blog.

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Emotional or Rational? Both!

Too often brand strategists view brand benefits as a choice between emotional or rational. You need to focus on one, often to the detriment of the other.

In fact, the combination of the two must work in concert with each other, reinforcing one another.

This is the subject of my latest post on the Canadian Marketing Association blog.

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A Challenge for 2012

This is the season when many bloggers like to offer up their predictions for the coming year. As tempting as that may be, I will leave that to others. Instead, I would like to put forth a challenge for 2012.

Take Risks. Innovate. Move Faster.

Why a challenge?

Brand strategy and marketing is getting harder. The industry is moving faster than ever before and is still unable to keep up with the pace of change among consumers. Technology is changing and creating new channels and mediums to connect with consumers on an increasingly emotional level. Yet it is harder than ever to capitalize on the opportunities that these changes are creating.

And it is no wonder that marketers are having trouble adapting. Marketing channels didn’t change much for decades, allowing plenty of time to create the exact optimization and measurement processes that so many have come to rely on.

We got comfortable.

And now we are paying for it. The same methods aren’t going to cut it. Don’t trust me? Ask your customers as they head out your door.

But if you take risks, innovate and move faster then you’ll stand a chance at staying relevant and meaningful in your market. It may not be easy, but it is necessary.

With that, I would like to say happy holidays to all of my readers and I wish you all the best for 2012.

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Companies have feelings too

I always try to emphasize the importance of emotional benefits that brands can provide and their distinction from rational benefits.

Almost everyone agrees with this basic premise for brands that market directly to consumers, but many remain skeptical about touting emotional benefits for a B2B brand.

We sell to an organization and organizations don’t have feelings, the thinking goes.

But don’t ignore the fact that organizations are made up of individual people, each with their own unique situation and motivations. B2B marketers need to take this into account, because even if they are making a decision on behalf of their organization, it is impossible to completely separate the decision from their personal emotions.

Think of the IT manager who is tired of saying saying ‘No’ all the time to the requests he gets for new corporate gadgets. Or the finance department that is full of mostly risk averse people. How can you tap into these emotional drivers to build your brand?

Be sure that you have figured out the emotional drivers of corporate decision makers and influencers and build your marketing plan around it.

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The End of the Campaign

Technology is making it possible for marketers to target and customize advertising messages in new and exciting ways.

In my latest post on the Canadian Marketing Association blog, I discuss how this is leading to the end of the traditional marketing campaign.

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The Real Trouble with Groupon

Groupon has been the subject of a lot of negative press over the past few months. Despite enjoying a successful IPO, critics deride the validity of their business model and their long-term prospects.

While I agree with many that Groupon is overvalued, I have no doubt that the daily-deals concept can be a profitable business. Groupon is losing money today, but this is largely due to heavy spending to maintain their rapid growth in subscribers. Short-term losses don’t scare me. It took time for Amazon to turn their first profit and they are now one of the most successful companies in the world.

However, a recent study on the perception of Groupon does give cause for concern. The study from Amplicate, a social media analytics shop, found a precipitous drop in the public opinion toward the daily deals giant.

In October 2010, 95% of respondents had a positive opinion of Groupon. A little over half a year later, in June of this year, that figure has plummeted to 62%.

This is the closest data that I have seen that can approximate the value of the Groupon brand. In a market with low-barriers to entry and basically no switching costs at all, the strength of the brand is arguably the most  important asset the company has.

Analysts can debate the significance of changes to their cash flow all they want, but at the end of the day, if the Groupon brand deteriorates then the company is doomed.

That is why I would be worried about Groupon.

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Marketers – Open Your Eyes

A new study came out from eMarketer this week with some fascinating data. It showed that marketers view the impact of new trends on the industry differently from how they view those trends impacting their own brands. Some of the results are truly shocking.

While most marketers see the impact that big trends are having on the industry at large, they fail to see it changing anything at their own brand.

The scariest statistic: “70% agreed that the rise of social media mattered for the industry, but just 49% said it had influenced their own companies.”

That gap scares me. Do marketers truly not see the potential of new tools like social media? Do they simply not embrace change within their own organization as a way to drive brand value?

I believe that marketers must embrace new technologies and the new capabilities they offer to brands. Although the measurement might not have caught up yet, that is hardly a justification to avoid new trends altogether. Even in traditional channels measurement remains far from perfect.

New trends like social media are changing the marketing landscape. Embrace this change. Find innovative uses of the new tools that are aligned to your brand strategy. And please don’t assume that these opportunities don’t apply to you, because odds are that they do.

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Finding Success Beyond Discounts

All too often, when marketers get their hands on a new tool they resort to using discounts as a way of providing value to customers. This may generate a short term spike in sales, but can erode the brand over time as customers are trained not to pay full price. This is especially true of premium brands who don’t often use discounting in their marketing.

Examples of this instinct can be seen in the early days of most new marketing channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and QR codes.

This is why I find it refreshing to see what Starbucks is doing with QR codes. Instead of pushing product discounts, Starbucks is using QR codes to direct customers to information about their premium coffee blends, their menu or the ability to check the balance on their Starbucks card.

This creates value because it is relevant and timely, and it enhances the in-store shopping experience.

Starbucks is able to create a stronger connection with customers, ultimately leading to greater loyalty. And they didn’t even try to sell anything.

Think twice before offering discounts. There are other ways to provide value.

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Brands Don’t Follow Logic

Marketers and strategists love to review the brilliant logic of their latest brand strategy. The rationale for a campaign, promotion, or product launch is regularly analyzed to death to ensure that it is flawless.

But too often this doesn’t matter.

People (read: your customers) often don’t follow the logic that you carefully lay out for them. Instead, they follow their gut, they decide on impulse. Customers often act in ways that seem as far from logic as possible.

Your job is not always to map out the perfect logic, but to understand what your customers do, whether it seems logical or not.

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What need do you fulfill?

What need does your product or service fulfill for your customers? This may sound simple, but if you take a bit of time to think about it, the answer may surprise you.

A quick example.

A few weeks ago I was walking past a McDonald’s near my home. A mother was walking by with her child, who looked only 3 or 4 years old. The kid was screaming his head off, shouting “I want McDonald’s”. (This could lead to a separate post about small children recognizing brands…for another time)

About a week later I noticed a joint McDonald’s-Visa ad at a bus stop. The ad had a picture of McDonald’s french fries with the caption ‘Get smiles faster…with Visa pay pass’. For parents, Mcdonald’s doesn’t just sell food, they sell a big smile on your child’s face. Visa’s ad clearly understood this. I’d bet that the mother with the screaming kid was pretty aware of it too.

I encourage you to take some time to really think about what need you are fulfilling for your customers. Once you figure this out, you’ll be able to develop marketing that is much more compelling to your customers.

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