The Importance of Storytelling in the Startup World
In the bustling Silicon Valley, startups are starting to consistently roll out disruptive innovations, making industry giants become simultaneously nervous and impressed. When it comes to creating their own brands, startups have the flexibility and the risk-taking mentality to push new frontiers that redefine category expectations. Yet, with limited resources and constant uncertainty, startups also turn to basic storytelling to create relevant, differentiated and enduring perception in the hearts and minds of their customers.
Within small companies, each decision maker wears multiple hats – it isn’t surprising that at startups such as Uber and Square, the marketing functions also incorporate PR and communications. A centralized, lean machine often ensures that a consistent brand story is being told. “We always want to communicate to our customers that we are a local advertising technology solution provider, and we’re fast, efficient and cheap,” says Asees Singh, the Director of PR for Paper G. “Telling a great story is central to our brand – if we’re singing a song, our brand would be the chorus that everyone remembers, and the individual executions are the rest of the song.” …Continue reading
It’s been a long journey back for The Gap, but there’s a light showing that signifies it is finding its way back from both a leadership and relevancy perspective.
Recent headlines speak to this. Financial performance has been trending up. It’s been getting kudos for creative marketing and merchandising – from the bricks and mortar launch of its hugely popular Piperlime online clothier to Banana Republic’s very successful tie-in with AMC’s Mad Men. Then there’s the inspired move to bring on Michael Francis (former Target CMO and JC Penney president) as its first marketing creative advisor.
Seth Farbman, brought onboard 18 months ago as the Gap’s first Global CMO, has been steering the Gap’s transformation. During a recent presentation as part of Prophet’s Change Agent Webinar Series, Seth discussed the journey. Portions of his commentary follow: …Continue reading
I was recently reminded of a powerful tool for positioning: the “unlike” statement. A TV spot for Pradaxa, an anticoagulant drug, deliberately highlights that it reduces stroke risk and unlike Warfarin, “there’s no need for those regular blood tests.” This a niche example of direct competitive differentiation but others, like Southwest Airlines’ crusade against bag fees, have been much more visible example of the unlike positioning.
As marketers we are the beneficiaries of the fundamental tools of marketing pioneered years ago by the titans of modern marketing from professors like Kotler to organizations such as P&G and The Coca-Cola Company. The classic positioning statement handed to us from these pioneers includes very specific identification of the target, competitive frame, benefits and evidence. It is this deliberately concise yet deliberate statement that guides and coordinates internal decisions and external execution from brand strategy to pricing to advertising, packaging and service delivery. The gold standard of positioning is to articulate the value of the brand or offering in a way that is feasible for the business to deliver, valuable for the target and, at the same time, clearly differentiated in the market. It is on this last point that our classic statement sometimes fails. …Continue reading
Marketers have long championed the cause of branding, especially in the B2C space, citing such benefits as product memorability, familiarity, brand loyalty, and lower product marketing costs. But beyond these quantifiable costs, brands are also a reflection of the company’s spirit, goals, and position in the marketplace. One useful tool in understanding a brand is to think of it in the context of a superhero.
The Importance of Origin
Origin stories explain three important elements of a superhero: mission, identity and powers. Consider the origin story of Batman. Eight-year-old Bruce Wayne, walking with his parents in an alley, runs away as muggers approach and subsequently witnesses the murder of his parents. His traumatic story serves as the backdrop for the creation of Batman. Bruce’s mission quickly becomes clear: to avenge his parents’ death. His identity—millionaire and owner of Wayne Enterprises—explains his ability keep his Batman alter-ego secret. And while Batman has no supernatural power, his Batsuit, Batmobile, and Batcave enable his fight against Gotham’s most evil villains. …Continue reading
For over a decade, Burger King has experienced mismanagement of relevance challenge by a series of “new” owners. Menus were not suitable for large, important segments such as women, families and the health conscious. At one point it was all about the young male and their burgers, but even this group was attracted to new fries/burgers/shakes concepts with attractive personalities and/or local connections. The experience was inconsistent and at times disappointing. The advertising and the “King” symbol was ineffective and even strange even to the young male. For many in the broad market that needed to be served, Burger King was simply irrelevant.
As recounted by Jordan Melnick in QSR CEO Steve Wilborg, who was hired in 2010, may have finally gotten it right. In April of 2012 Burger King announced a four-prong initiative to make the brand relevant to more than the young male burger crowd. In particular, they… …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.
We are excited to announce that Prophet has joined forces with (r)evolution, an Atlanta-based branding, marketing and innovation consultancy. This acquisition will strengthen Prophet’s innovation offering and add to our current marketing and branding offerings, and we’re thrilled to add an Atlanta office to the list of offices around the globe. For more information on (r)evolution and this joining of forces, please visit our website here.
The landscape is changing rapidly, and marketers need to change along with it. We are committed to transforming the work of marketing: ensuring marketing is no longer just about ads and spreadsheets, rather is about creating bigger ideas, relevant offerings, engaging experiences, and new opportunities. And as part of our mission to transform the work of marketing, we’re hosting a series of Change Agent webinars where leading marketers share their transformative stories with Scott Davis, our Chief Growth Officer.
In the above feature, our speakers are:
- Seth Farbman, Chief Marketing Officer, The Gap - MaryKay Kopf, Chief Marketing Officer, Electrolux
Seth and MaryKay discuss how they are addressing the challenges they are facing, developing marketing strategies and organizations that work, sharing best practices and more.
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
When I am asked for guidance on a brand or marketing problem, I usually respond that I know a method that is “guaranteed” to work: Find an organization that has successfully addressed a similar problem, and adapt what they did. Don’t limit the search to those organizations that look like your own, but be willing to look more broadly.
The NFL has a serious attendance problem due to the incredible experience provided by home television coverage, the high cost of tickets, the hassle of going to the event and the event experience. There is not only a risk to an important income source, but also to the experience. Playing to half-empty stadiums with passive crowds would affect the on-site and the viewing experience. …Continue reading