In marketing, just like in the school yard, finding that sweet spot between getting someone’s attention and flailing your arms around screaming, “Pick me!” is key. But exactly how are companies expected to figure out where that spot is?
Sherry Orel, CEO of Brand Connections, an independent media and marketing agency that specializes in Making Marketing Easier for Marketers™, has some ideas about it.
She says the single must-have is authenticity. “If it looks like you’re trying too hard or your brand positioning is perceived as disingenuous, not only will a potential customer turn their nose up at your product, but they will digitally serve their negative opinion up to their friends to poke fun at your failure.”
What is the kiss of death of death for marketing campaigns? A world ruled by likes and shares and followers? According to Orel, a member of YPO since 2015, it is faking it.
“The average consumer personality, driven by the millennial mindset, is typically more aloof and laid-back than in previous generations,” says Orel. “They know what they want and they aren’t afraid to talk about it.”
1. Why is branding so important beyond 2016?
Branding goes beyond a recognizable name (Nike), an appealing logo (the swoosh) and a catchy tagline (Just Do It). Branding has evolved into the realization that the path to purchase involves multiple points of consideration for your customers along their decision journey and purchase is linked to emotional triggers. Branding in today’s environment is about connecting the relevancy of your product or service to the customers’ belief that their core values and your brand are aligned.
Here is an example: If I believe that I am a warrior who overcomes obstacles and is self-motivated to take my health and fitness into my own hands, I might gravitate toward the Nike brand. If I take a more relaxed approach to fitness and choose physical activities that incorporate more of a fun, upbeat or social element, I might choose Sketchers as my preferred brand of athletic footwear, as depicted by their websites.
2. How has the industry changed in the last five years and where should companies focus their energy in the five years to come?
Social and digital media has had the most profound impact on branding and marketing since the invention of the television. We’ve gone from a society that preferred privacy to one that demands that brands target them with the right marketing messages. The sophistication of “big data” in the digital world means that every dog food ad that appears on the screen of a pet-less consumer is not only a wasted media spend, but could even reflect negatively on the brand, as savvy consumers equate poor targeting as an indication of an unsophisticated brand.
Brands should be looking at their cost-per-customer acquisition and retention costs and be shifting to a quality-versus-quantity approach to marketing.
3. What are the top three problems you are asked to solve?
- How to link all of the elements of the marketing mix together to create an omnichannel voice for the brand
- How to leverage social media to build a loyal base of brand advocates that drive positive reviews and sentiment
- How to improve the in-store experience to compel consumers to shop at traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to compete with e-commerce
4. What is an example of a brilliant campaign?
One recent stroke of genius was the Oreo’s Dunk in the Dark campaign. When the lights went out at the Superdome during the 2013 Super Bowl, on the year’s most expensive night to advertise (a whopping USD4 million for a 30-second spot), Oreo stole the show with a free tweet that went viral.
It may have been a free tweet, but the only way something as brilliant as that happens is with a pre-planned strategy to capitalize on the very best, brand relevant, real-time marketing opportunity (as doing it too often would lose it’s cool-factor) and, more importantly, having a streamlined approval process to allow your marketing team to act quickly. Chances are the Oreo brand manager was well into his fourth beer and up to his elbows in bean dip that Sunday night, so going up a long chain of command for copy approval would have made that magic moment impossible. Having confidence in and empowering the right marketing team is the key to successful campaigns.
5. What advice do you have for leaders looking to make a marketing shift, either because they have an unsuccessful brand or no brand at all? Where should they focus their energy?
The first step is to make sure you have the right partner to help you get there. Hire an outside agency. Simply hiring a “marketing guy” doesn’t usually work. Few internal marketing guys will feel comfortable pushing senior leadership as hard as it usually takes to launch or reposition a brand effectively and efficiently.
Pick a team because you like them, not because of the “wow factor” of their pitch or a 10 percent price difference. If you start out liking them, you will take it better when they give you some advice that is tough to swallow. It’s an outside agency partner’s job to tell you what’s broken with your current approach. And they aren’t going to question how to improve your manufacturing process any more than you should be pushing back on their marketing recommendations.
As for pricing, people who are truly enthusiastic about your business will produce better work that will drive incremental sales to offset a minor price difference. If your preferred partner is significantly over-budget, negotiate! Agencies typically win a depressingly low 20 to 30 percent of their pitches, so if you’re willing to give them a longer commitment they might be willing to take a lower margin.
Last thing: Make sure that the pitch team is your actual account team. Many agencies will do a bait-and-switch after they’ve won your account by using cheaper, less experienced talent to improve their margin.