Here are all of the posts tagged ‘strategy’.

The Value of Brand Values

by Simon Kemp in News

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As part of our work on #ProjectReconnect with the WFA, we’ve heard many of the world’s top marketers extol the importance of building brands with clear, compelling values.

Our joint research suggests that such ‘brand principles’ are a core tenet of enduring brand success, so we decided to explore this topic in more detail; the WFA have been kind enough to let us share our findings here.

Why it pays to have a compelling brand personality

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There’s been plenty of chatter in recent months about the importance of ‘humanising’ brands.

The buzzword may make you cringe, but the potential rewards of building a more personable and engaging brand merit serious investigation.

So, what defines a compelling, ‘human’ brand?

We asked some of the world’s leading marketers the same question, and their answers consistently focused on the same traits that define popular, sociable people.

Authenticity and Sincerity
Brands that try to trick people won’t succeed in the long term; they may generate a few quick sales, but very few (if any) consumers would re-purchase a product that failed to meet their expectations the first time around.

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Moreover, people typically form a more favourable impression of brands that are open about who they are and what they do; that treat their employees, partners, and suppliers with respect; and that stay true to the things they believe in over time.

That favourable impression fosters trust, and predisposes us to listen to what the brand has to say. As a result, we’re more likely to try the brand’s products and services, so playing a crucial role in getting people over the first marketing hurdle.

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Authenticity is also critical in times of crisis. A number of the marketers we spoke to referenced the transparency and sincerity of Johnson & Johnson’s 1982 Tylenol recall, which – although costly to the brand at the time – ensured that people didn’t lose faith in the brand.

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Tip: the truth has more value than deception; if your brand truths aren’t compelling, change the product rather than spending more money on advertising.

Generosity
We’re universally drawn to people – and brands – who give before they ask for anything in return.

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This shouldn’t be news to marketers; we’ve known the power of the free sample for decades. However, this approach has even more potential in today’s connected world.

Brands now have many more opportunities to deliver ‘proactive value’ to their audiences, whether that’s through entertainment (think GoPro and Red Bull’s YouTube content), education (think American Express’s OPEN Forum), or social connectivity (think Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke with…’ and IBM’s Smarter Cities forums).

Brands also stand to benefit if they can help their audiences to be more generous; much of TOMS’s success has been built on making it easy for people to give back to others.

Tip: build marketing activities around what your audiences care about, not just around what your brand cares about.

Humour
Humour is central to many of the world’s best-loved commercials, but its potential stretches well beyond adverts.

It’s worth caveating that humour can be a tricky one to get right – especially across different cultures – but when done well, it helps build a highly engaging and sharable brand.

As we saw in our recent post outlining why Social is About More Than MediaInnocent Drinks came up a number of times in our conversations with marketers, especially in reference to the brand’s use of humour on its packaging:

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Humour can also turn a mundane customer service episode into a story that gets shared by hundreds of people around the world, transforming a problem into a valuable brand-building episode – as this recent example from Amazon demonstrated:

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Tip: judicious use of humour can establish a differentiated personality that draws people into your brand narrative, keeping them coming back for more.

Empathy
In a social context, we’re drawn to people that are similar to us, or who demonstrate an understanding of the things we care about.

While brands may never convincingly demonstrate an understanding of our inner feelings, they can build greater affinity by demonstrating a firm belief in, or commitment to the things that matter to the people they hope to engage.

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As with humour, though, this can be a tricky one to get right; brands need to demonstrate a genuine interest and belief in the things that matter to their audiences, and not merely reflect people’s behaviour in their marketing.

Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ and P&G’s ‘Thank You Mom’ are two common examples that came up in our conversations, but it’s worth noting that empathy works in B2B contexts too; a number of marketers pointed out that American Express’s Small Business Saturday initiative has built considerable brand equity amongst the small retailer community, as well as with society at large.

Tip: actively champion the causes that matter to your audiences, instead of just reflecting them in your advertising.

Inspiration
People who inspire us gain our respect and admiration, and we actively seek out their thoughts and opinions.

This ‘magnetism’ has clear potential value in marketing too, and those brands that inspire us the most are invariably those that can also command the most robust price premiums.

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Inspiration can come in many forms, though:

  • Nike’s mission to make everybody on the planet more active;
  • Lifebuoy’s mission to save lives in the developing world by spending their marketing dollars on large-scale health education campaigns;
  • Red Bull’s consistent ability to challenge our perceptions of what’s humanly possible;
  • The passion, innovation and visionary leadership of Sony’s Akio Morita and Apple’s Steve Jobs that have made portable technology an inescapable part of our everyday lives;
  • Dove’s on-going commitment to help women everywhere reclaim their own definition of ‘beauty’;

Looking at the list above, it’s easy to see a link between brand inspiration and brand ‘purpose’, which we covered in a recent post in this series.

Without this engrained purpose, brands will find it difficult to deliver sustainable inspiration, so the two need to work hand-in-hand for marketers to achieve the best results.

Tip: don’t just aim to engage people – aim to inspire them too.

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Building A Purposeful Brand

by Simon Kemp in News

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As part of our ongoing work on #ProjectReconnect with the WFA, we recently explored the premise that all brands today must be ‘purposeful’. They’ve been kind enough to let us share our findings here too.

Purposeful Brands
In today’s competitive world, a great product is no longer enough for a brand to succeed.

A great product is still critical of course; no-one would willingly buy a bad product twice.

But as functional performance differences between companies’ offerings become ever more marginal, people increasingly rely on more intangible, emotional factors to inform and guide their choices.

As a result, the rules of the marketing ‘beauty pageant’ have changed. Today, brands can no longer rely on good looks alone; they need depth and soul too.

Above all, they need a higher-order ‘purpose’.

But what does a ‘brand purpose’ look like?

A Purpose Inspires Hearts and Heads

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Given the choice between similar (and similarly priced) alternatives, people usually go for the option that makes them feel good.

Making people feel good isn’t just about hedonism though; brands that make a meaningful contribution to society, or brands that help people to reduce their impact on the environment, are also highly compelling.

A brand’s purpose doesn’t need to be about saving the world though; brands that offer people hope, or inspire them to improve themselves, are also well placed to earn a place in people’s hearts.

Tip #1: A great purpose engages people’s hearts, not just their heads.

A Purpose Goes Beyond Money

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Ask businesspeople why their organisation exists, and most will offer a reply along the lines of “to make a profit.”

But if all businesses exist solely to make a profit, there’s very little differentiation between them.

Meanwhile, unless they happen to be company shareholders, none of your audience cares whether your organisation makes a profit. Indeed, making too much profit can actively turn people against you (think Occupy Wall Street).

If you want to compel people to choose your brand, you need to stand for something more meaningful than simply ‘selling stuff to make money’.

As John Willshire puts it, we need to focus on making things people actually want, not simply trying to make people want  things we’ve already made.

Critically, you need to show people how you help them succeed, not just how you will succeed with their money.

Tip #2: Make sure your brand’s purpose articulates the value to your consumer, as well as to your organisation.

Define Your Promise Before You Define Your Product

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People don’t buy what brands make; they buy what brands make happen for them.

Think of it this way: people don’t pay for shampoo; they pay for clean, beautiful hair – and the psychological and emotional benefits that beautiful hair brings (e.g. self-confidence).

Moreover, for your customers, products and services are simply means to an end, and these products and services are increasingly at risk from leftfield alternatives that deliver those same ‘ends’ in new or different ways.

In the most extreme cases, these alternatives can destroy entire industries in a matter of months (think Kodak).

However, by building your brand around the benefits you promise rather than the products you make, you can elevate your brand beyond product-centric comparison

At the same time, you also make it easier to extend your brand beyond a specific product category (think TOMS, who have credibly expanded from shoes into eyewear and coffee).

Tip #3: A brand purpose articulates what people can buy into, not just what they can buy.

Making It Different vs. Making A Difference

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Too many brands mistake novelty and distraction for differentiation.

However, such an approach is very difficult to sustain. It may bring in the first sale, but novelty quickly wears off, and the brand must resort to increasingly impressive spectacle to keep people interested – which becomes increasingly expensive and difficult.

There’s an easy way round this though: by focusing on how your brand makes people’s lives better, or how it makes the world a better place, you stand a much greater chance of keeping people coming back for more.

The Essential Tip: Strive to make things better, not just to make better things.

This post first appeared on the #ProjectReconnect website.

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The 6Cs of Global Social Media

by Simon Kemp in News

More than 2 billion people around the world used social media in the past 30 days, and these numbers are still growing at an impressive rate:

We Are Social - Global Digital Stats 2014-08

This connected, vocal audience presents huge opportunities that marketers won’t want to miss, but social success requires a different approach in different countries and cultures around the world.

So how can marketers get global social ‘right’?

The answer lies in the 6Cs of Social.

1. Conversation
There are hundreds of different social networks around the world, all built around different needs, interests, and technological functions.

All these platforms have one thing in common, though: conversation.

Without conversation, social media aren’t social, and for brands in social, it’s the conversation that really matters.

Conversations enable brands to become more engaging, allowing them to evolve beyond a straightforward product or service.

But managing a ‘regional’ conversation in Asia poses a number of challenges.

In Asia-Pacific alone, people speak more than 2,000 languages.

Even if your audience understands English, they may not be comfortable – or happy – conversing in it.

When it comes to social conversations, people prefer to speak the language that best allows them to express themselves.

Even when they do speak the same language though, there are invariably many different ways of speaking it – from the nuances of everyday slang to our constantly evolving ‘social’ vocabularies (think ‘LOL’).

The key is to remember that successful communication isn’t determined by what you say; it’s determined by what other people understand.

Recommendation: spend some time listening to your audience’s conversations in social media, and adopt a style that makes it easy for them to converse with you.

2. Culture
Humans are a highly diverse bunch, and this diversity can add significant complexity to the process of developing a unified global approach.

Firstly, people follow a wide variety of religions, each of which may impact how a brand needs to behave in social media.

Marketers will need to keep track of myriad religious festivals and celebrations, while attitudes towards things such as alcohol, styles of dress, and even colours may vary dramatically from one culture to another.

Similarly, many Asian cultures are guided by the concept of 面子 – ‘face’ as it is commonly known in English – and as a result, they may exhibit less ‘social volume’ than their Western peers.

Consequently, it may be more difficult to achieve high levels of audience interaction, which can impact organic reach and engagement.

Recommendation: make sure that your content development teams and community managers truly understand the culture of the people you’re trying to engage.

3. Content Neutrality
Qzone and Facebook still command the greatest number of active social networking users in the world, but most social media users are active across multiple platforms:

We Are Social - Global Digital Stats 2014-08-27

China’s Tencent is responsible for 3 of the world’s top 5 most active social platforms – clear evidence that social media users adopt multiple channels at once.

Chat apps like WeChat (Weixin), Whatsapp, LINE and Kakaotalk have exploded in popularity in recent months, while platforms like Weibo, Twitter and Instagram continue to grow too:

We Are Social - Global Chat App Figures 2014-08-25

As a result, it’s important for brands to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket.

Marketers need to create content that audiences will be able to transfer from one platform to the other, allowing people to continue the conversation on their own terms with their different networks.

This approach will also help to avoid relying too heavily on platform-specific audiences.

Social media users are quick to adopt new platforms, and marketers may find that the ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ they build in one platform quickly become irrelevant as audiences move on to the newest network or app.

Recommendation: build communities around passions, not audience on platforms.

4. Country Needs
What does your brand need to do in order to succeed?

It’s unlikely that the answer to this question will involve the same set of challenges and opportunities in each market, so you’ll need to develop an approach that can adapt to your varying local needs.

Much of this relates to the audience context in each market – for example, how much they know about the brand, or the specific place it holds and role it plays in the local landscape.

Do you need to educate people, or just reinforce what they already know? Can you already harness ‘cultural equity’ like community in-jokes or evocative imagery?

You’ll also need to adapt your content and conversational approach to your brand’s specific needs for things like new launches or environmental factors (e.g. product shortages).

Don’t forget that local legislation may have a significant impact on your activities too. Many countries have strict laws governing aspects such as product claims, competitions, or even whether certain products (e.g. alcohol) can be overtly marketed.

Recommendation: even if you’re aiming for a global or regional approach, ensure that it’s flexible enough that it can adapt to a variety of local needs.

5. Cellphones
Social media is increasingly a mobile-first experience. Almost 80% of Facebook’s users access the service via mobile devices, whilst almost all 438 million users of WeChat – China’s hottest social platform – are mobile-only.

This mobility presents some great opportunities for marketers, whether it’s connecting with people when they’re actually using a brand, when they’re at the point of sale, or when they’re out socialising with friends.

However, the mobile context differs considerably from one country to the next, and mobile diversity isn’t without its challenges.

Firstly, data connections remain slow across much of the developing world, with barely one-quarter of Asia’s 1.8 billion mobile users able to access 3G networks.

Meanwhile, more than 80% of Asia’s 4 billion active mobile connections are pre-paid (versus 27% in the US and 42% in the UK), meaning that the cost of mobile data – and therefore of mobile internet access – is still an important challenge.

As a result, marketers need to build carefully balanced content plans. High-definition video may deliver the ‘optimum experience’, but video streams or downloads will be too slow and too expensive for the average mobile user in countries like India or the Philippines, so be sure to incorporate simpler, static content too.

Slow connection speeds mean brands need to deliver immediate value too; if the audience has any doubts about the relevance or utility of a brand’s post, they will scroll straight past it before the content even has a chance to load.

Recommendation: make sure all your content is tailored for a mobile-dominated consumption experience.

6. Communities
If you do need to take a global or regional approach to social media, avoid categorising your audience by country.

Instead, look for the interests, motivations and attitudes that the people you want to engage have in common, and use these commonalities to define your audience.

People are drawn to others whom they feel affinity for, and when it comes to the borderless internet, this affinity is far more dependent on passion than it is on place.

Recommendation: define your audience around their shared motivations, not their nationality.

A version of this post first appeared in my column on The Marketing Society’s blog.

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The 10 Commendments of Social Success

by Simon Kemp in News

For the 500,000 people who’ve been reading our recent reports on the state of Social, Digital & Mobile around the world, the next important question becomes:

“What should my brand do to take advantage of these amazing opportunities?”

To answer that question, and help marketers to translate interest and enthusiasm into action, we’re delighted to share a refreshed version of “Making Friends & Influencing People“, our popular guide to strategic social media marketing.

This guide is designed to help everyone across your organisation – from you, to your interns, to your CEO – to make the best possible use of social media.

We’ve split the guide into three parts:

  1. Some headline statistics to help you set the context when presenting the case for social media to non-marketers;
  2. The ‘10 Commendments‘ – the ‘mandatories’ for building strong brands in social media;
  3. Our robust 8-step framework for building a strategic social media plan

The stats section will be familiar to those who’ve already seen our reports on the world’s biggest economies, APAC, and Europe.

The ‘10 Commendments’ deserve a little more introduction though.

First up, the name – and no, it’s not a typo. Social media is a welcoming and inclusive place, and instructive commandments would seem out of place, so we prefer ‘commendments‘ – in other words, friendly recommendations and suggestions.

We explain each of these commendments in detail in the full report (read it here and download it here), but here are the headlines:

1. Focus On People, Not Technology
Social media is all about interacting with other people. Technologies and platforms are great, but ultimately they’re just means to an end, so focus on the human benefits rather than the technological possibilities. (More on this topic here)

2. Build Conversations, Not Campaigns
Many short-term marketing campaigns are like pick-up lines: they’re a great way to get the conversation going, but they’re hardly a sustainable basis for a long-term relationship. If it’s enduring value you’re after, think and plan for on-going conversation, not just a quickie. (More on this topic here).

3. Use Content As A Means, Not An End
Content is a fantastic way to start a conversation, but for most brands, it’s the conversation that drives the ultimate value. Whenever you’re planning or posting content of any kind – whether it’s a one-line status update or an hour-long video epic – ask yourself what happens next: “What do I want the audience to do with this content?

4. Add Value To The Audience’s Life
When it comes to social media, a brand isn’t just up against its competitors; it’s competing with everything in its audience’s life: Photos of kittens. Updates from last night’s party. Those scandalous celebrity pics. So, if you’re not adding distinct value, you’ll likely just disappear into the stream. As a result, you need to clearly articulate how you’re adding relevant value to the audience in the context of their whole life, not just how you’re different to the other brands in your category. (More on this topic here)

5. Listening Is The New Shouting
Understanding people’s wants, needs, and desires has always been the foundation of great marketing, but building that understanding at scale has traditionally been too expensive or too complex. That’s changed significantly with the advent of social media listening tools, which allow marketers everywhere to stay in touch with what their audiences are talking about, sharing, and in some cases, actually buying – for example, restaurant brands might track the #foodporn hashtag on Instagram to identify the most popular dishes of the moment around the world. However, remember that the tools don’t do much on their own – you’ll need to analyse and interpret the data before it can add value to your brand. (Find out more here)

6. Spread The Love
Occasionally, brands strike marketing gold, and their audiences share their updates like wildfire. This is the one-in-a-million shot though; if you’d prefer better odds, putting some ‘financial amplification’ behind your social activities is a more likely way to ensure your investments deliver satisfactory returns. That’s not just about ad dollars though – remember that better crafted content is more likely to drive organic sharing too.

7. Be Prepared
The best thing about social media is that everyone can get involved. However, the bigger the crowd, the more likely it is you’ll have to deal with different, and sometimes conflicting, views. As the old adage says, “you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” In reality, there’s a very high chance something, somewhere will go wrong someday, so it’s better to prepare for that day now than to wait until you’re in full-on panic mode. Fortunately, you can read about that in much more detail here.

8. Measure Your Progress
If you’re still of the opinion that half of your ad dollars are surely wasted, but you just don’t know which half, we’ve got good news for you: that should never be a problem you face in social media. Sure, you’re unlikely to ever reach 100% ad efficiency, but if you’re measuring your social media activities properly, you should always know which half of your dollars is working harder for you, so at least you know which dollars to reinvest elsewhere.

9. Optimise As You Go
Following on from the previous Commendment, we have more good news: once you’ve identified which elements of your social media activities need to be tweaked, it’s relatively easy to change them as you go. Even paid media elements can be changed and optimised in real-time.

10. Be In It For The Long Term
Social media success rarely comes overnight, and if it does, it rarely lasts. Social media really is all about relationships, and as with all relationships, you get out what you put in. Invest with a longer-term view, and expect to ‘give’ plenty before you ‘get’ something in return. However, by offering a clearly articulated value proposition to your social audiences over time, they’re more likely to stay with you over the longer term. If you’re wondering about the ROI of that longer-term approach, take a look here.

These may be things you’re already practising every day in your social media work, but ensuring the rest of your organisation is on board too will help you succeed.

So, if you’d like to share a copy of the complete Making Friends & Influencing People guide with them, why not download a copy now (simply click here) and send it over to them.

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Social Brands: Communities vs Platforms

by Simon Kemp in News

Social Brands Part 2
In last week’s first post in our series on Social Brands & The Future Of Marketing, we noted that, “the most successful brands don’t just predict the future; they define the future on their own terms.

We’re continuing that theme in today’s second post in the Social Brands series, exploring the importance of building social marketing activities around the people you care about, and not around specific technological features or platforms.

The Motivations Driving Social Networking
Most people visit social networking sites in order to connect with other people: to stay in touch with friends and family; to share things with colleagues and professional peers; and even to meet strangers with similar interests and needs.

Because of this, most people see social media as a means to an end, with that ‘end’ being social interaction.

Of course, there are many times when technology plays an important part in facilitating these connections; things like the filters on Instagram, or the sharing features common to most social networks, are all important aspects of our social networking experience.

However, people connect around the personal, social benefits these elements provide, and not around the functionality itself.

Critically, if those social benefits don’t exist – if the people we want to connect with are not present, or if our networks move on – then the platform quickly loses its value.

We’ve seen this happen many times before; the declines of Second Life, MySpace, and Friendster were all driven by the migration of their audiences, not by technical failures.

Single-Serve Audiences
Sadly, when audiences move on from an incumbent Big Platform – and they invariably do – marketers quickly lose out.

The investments they’ve made in building large audiences specific to that platform stop delivering meaningful returns, because those audiences are invariably ‘non-transferrable’ (how many brands succeeded in migrating their Second Life audiences wholesale into Facebook without paying for the privilege?).

As a result, marketers need to stop relying on buying attention within specific platforms, and find a more resilient way of managing their social media activities.

From Platforms To Communities
The trick is to stop seeing social media as media, and to focus on the motivations and behaviours that drive people’s social activities instead.

Instead of buying attention in the hottest platforms of the day, tomorrow’s top brands will spend time understanding how to deliver value to the same people across different settings and contexts.

They will focus on nurturing active communities that choose to engage with and around the brand and its activities wherever and whenever they can.

Critically, they will use new platforms to offer incremental value – not simply as another means to interrupt people.

From Eyeballs To Heartstrings
The secret to building these ‘migratory’ communities is to understand people’s wants, needs, and desires, and to build engaging connections around them at every opportunity.

We need to understand what brings communities together, and build our strategies around their shared interests and passions, and not around technical functionality or platforms.

Above all, we need to add value to their lives at every opportunity – a topic we’ll explore in more detail in the next post in this Social Brands series.

Want to join the conversation? We’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions, so why not share them in the comments.

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