It’s no secret that brands are constantly in search of ways to build connections and loyalty with their customers. However many brands are tackling this challenge by blasting meaningless messages into the ether, hoping to gain a committed following. It’s a sure-fire way to turn people off and eventually leave your messages falling on deaf ears. Strong brands engage consumers with authentic and consistent material that reflects an understanding of their interests and gets the dialogue going. These days, great content makes for great brands.
The word “content” is the catchall term for brand communication, and companies around the world are hopping on “content creation” as the way to capture the hearts and minds of customers. Every day, consumers are inundated with brand generated advertising – around 5000 advertising messages compared to a mere 500 messages forty years ago. Yet, this statistic doesn’t capture the various Tweets, Instagrams and other messages companies push out every day. Content is everywhere, and the impact is real – consumers are conditioned to filter and sort through the junk more quickly and easily than ever. …Continue reading
The last time I visited San Francisco, I was looking for a place to eat and came across a neighborhood with a remarkably high concentration of restaurants. I had plenty of choices, but with so much clutter, nothing really stood out. Some places tried to differentiate with an approach I’d never seen before: They paid people to stand on the sidewalk and stop pedestrians to tell them about a “favorite dish” or something they “had to try.” The strategy didn’t seem to work. It was clear these “advocates” were paid, and as a result everyone tuned them out like verbal spam.
Many attempts to build brand advocacy don’t look much different. Whether it’s an offer of 20% off your next purchase in exchange for a Facebook “like,” or a $50 store credit for referring five friends, many brands try to build advocates through incentives. In the short term this may be effective, but for many potential customers, encounters with this type of advocacy can feel inauthentic and transparent. We move it directly to our mental spam folder, and sometimes create negative associations with the brand as a result. Brands interested in creating lasting, long-term relationships with customers should avoid the temptation to incentivize and focus on building advocates that are authentic and genuine in their recommendations…but how? …Continue reading
I wrote approximately 50 blog posts in 2012, but there are five that stand out in my mind as being especially provocative or informative. Herewith, my top picks from 2012, with a few runners-up thrown into the mix as well:
My post entitled “CEOs Are Born, Not Made” really hit a nerve. It was stimulated by Bob Lutz’s book that blamed GM’s problems on “bean counter” CEOs rather than “car guys.” I argued that unless you have inherent CEO talent, being a “car guy” will not help. You need to be born with CEO talent, and no amount of training or background experience will help. Many disagreed. Three other posts had CEO themes: one explained why Steve Jobs and Bobby Knight (the fabled basketball coach) were so successful despite being jerks, another told about Tom Aaker, who is a successful CEO with an anti-jerk style, and still another discussed how the talent of Muhtar Kent, the CEO at Coca-Cola, has made a difference. …Continue reading
When identifying the top print advertisements and best headlines in the last century of advertising, one written in 1926 by a young copywriter named John Caples, only one year on the job, is always part of the conversation. The ad is known by its headline, “They laughed when I sat down at the piano — but when I started to play!” His assignment was to entice people to buy piano lessons by correspondence from the U.S. School of Music. As inspiration he was given a pile of advertisements that worked, another pile that didn’t, and was left to attempt the task.
Under a picture of a young man at a party sitting down to play the piano, the headline set the stage and indeed summarized the story that was recounted in the body of the ad. The hero was ridiculed by the guests when he sat down, but the ridicule turned to accolades and applause when he begins to play, only a few months after starting the correspondence course. The ad was not only critically acclaimed but, more to the point, brought a lot of customers. …Continue reading
How Altering an Ad Policy Alters a Brand Positioning
There’s a lot to admire about Change.org.
Since its 2007 launch it has served as a “social action” platform to empower and enable everyday people (over 20 million members in 196 countries) to bring attention to and rally support for their causes. TIME magazine named its founder and CEO Ben Rattray as one of this year’s 100 most influential people. And it actually does well with its do-good mission: This year’s revenues reportedly are running at the $16 million mark.
The Change.org brand has become tightly linked – synonymous even – with progressive causes and social activism. Its success stories reinforce its positioning: The woman who gathered 307,000 petition signatures, causing Bank of America to back down from its proposed $5 debit card fee. The 2.2 million signatures resulting in George Zimmerman’s prosecution for the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. A South African victim’s petition against that country’s “corrective rape” practices intended to “cure” lesbianism, leading to a government task force to stop the practice.
That positioning has also been reinforced in its business practices: Its advertising policy has been values-based, and Change.org only accepted advertising from progressive organizations that shared its values. …Continue reading
The CEO of Chick-fil-A reportedly said on a syndicated radio show, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’” The quote and other statements about gay marriage resulted in a firestorm of criticism including statements from several major city mayors saying that his firm and its opinions were not welcome. However, the belief that this controversy will hurt the company and its brand is, in my view, misguided.
The generally accepted hypothesis is that a brand should avoid controversy, because it will alienate a portion of its customer base. So the best course is to remain agnostic with respect to any controversial issues, at least visibly. Following this logic, the Chick-fil-A position was therefore at the intersection of a smaller brand mistake and a larger brand blunder with lasting implications.
This hypothesis is probably true for brands such as Coca-Cola or Walmart that have a broader base. But in my view it is not true for a charismatic brand that has a deep connection with a segment that is the core of its market, especially when the controversy alienates other segments and reinforces the connection to the core.
Chick-fil-A is such a brand. …Continue reading
I don’t follow sports. The first baseball game I ever went to was last Friday (Giants v. Reds), and I don’t know the rules of American football, despite spending four years on my high school’s cheerleading squad. I never quite understood the devotion that some people have to certain teams, sports and athletes, and why people from New York and people from Boston can’t stand to be around each other for six months out of the year. And yet, despite my absolute indifference to any and all athletics, I find myself following the Olympic Games every fourth summer. Do I care about men’s diving or women’s gymnastics? Not at all – but I watch nonetheless.
Therein lays the beauty of the Olympics and the simple reason these games are so valuable to marketers: People watch them. And by people, I mean two-thirds of the world’s population. According to a report by Nielsen, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games were watched by over 4.4 billion people, and it’s expected that this year’s games will draw an audience of similar size.
And aside from the sheer number of viewers, it seems that Olympic ads work. …Continue reading
I was recently shopping on the Lands’ End website for a new tote bag to lug all our kids swim gear in. The next day, while checking the news I got a large, somewhat obtrusive pop-up advertisement reminding/encouraging me to buy this tote.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and in fact it’s happening with increasing frequency – I shop for shoes on Zappos and then see “recommendations” and pop-up ads for similar shoes on other different websites. I know that marketers love the power of digital because it allows them to be even more targeted. However, this ad was a great reminder of how lots of different entities are tracking every move you make.
To me, it feels a bit creepy to have advertisements follow you from a targeted shopping experience on Amazon to, say, the experience reading an article on the Huffington Post.
Furthermore, Microsoft Kinect recently applied for a patent to serve up ads based on your emotions, using the Kinect sensors to analyze your facial expressions and body language while playing. I don’t know about you, but my friend always looks grumpy and angry when he is playing video games – I wonder what kind of ads he will get?
Where is the line between creepy and convenient? For more on how your digital shadow is helping companies track you online, click here. For more on Microsoft’s plans for sensory advertisements, click here.
image via TechCrunch
Microblogging platform Tumblr has a unique spin on advertising that may incentivize brand participation without disrupting existing user experiences. Founder David Karp envisions Tumblr as a place for brands to “tell stories that create intent on the part of consumers” – rather than placing a branded advertisement within the user’s content, companies have the opportunity to differentiate their brand through telling more meaningful, relevant stories in the blog space and engaging with consumers in a less distracting way.
Taking this idea of consumer empowerment to the next level, there is even room for brand advocates to relay these stories and help others learn more about the company, its products and services, and its brand ideals. This idea is definitely the opposite approach of AmEx’s successful Twitter Sync campaign, but an interesting exploration of another facet of digital user behavior and engagement in a content-creation platform.
For more on Karp’s vision for Tumblr, click here.