Shifting Consumer Demands

It’s always been said that necessity is the mother of invention. This is clearly seen in the last decade with apps and technology addressing the needs of consumers and businesses. Who knew there was an easier way to keep a shopping list that anyone can see from within the grocery store? Did we ever think we’d be able to ask a cylinder of plastic a question while sitting on our couch and get the answer instantly? Or, while sitting on that same couch, did we ever think we could change the room temperature?

Necessity, productivity, and perhaps a tad bit of laziness have contributed to being the moms of invention. Some legacy industries can learn a thing or two about being more innovative. The recent CES show was revealing some automaker technologies that will allow your car to understand you better. It’s 2017. This should not be a new invention, but rather an ongoing evolution. Unfortunately, for many automakers, this is a new offering.

Consumers have traditionally been drawn to cars for reasons such as safety, gas mileage, reliability, and even sex appeal. Consumers nowadays are demanding technology. Basic integrations with a phone’s Bluetooth are no longer cutting it. The irony, automakers are still slow to adopt. An investment in technology into a car that costs $30,000 or $50,0000 would not drive a significant increase in the sticker price. However, the lack of innovation of most automakers is astonishing.

Listen to the consumer. This is the primary drive of marketing efforts. The shifting consumer demands have been clear for years. This feedback must become part of the company’s consideration for future product development. However, this influences more than just the engineering and design of a car. The sales process must also change. It’s as much about sitting in the car and walking through the technology as it relates to the consumer’s preferred technology – i.e. Apple, Google, Samsung, as it is feeling the free open road.

Sales teams and customer service representatives at automobile dealers have to change their standard pitches and demonstrations. Automakers must realize this shift in the consumer demand is not going to change. Once consumers have an expectation, there may be a shift, but there is hardly ever a full abandonment of a demand they once had.

Client service at automobile dealers and offered from manufacturers will also have to shift. Have you upgraded your car recently? Why not? Don’t you need a faster processor to do everything you want to? Don’t you need a bigger screen? Don’t you need more storage for your music? If a phone that is barely the size of a donut needs updating, how is it that a complete automobile doesn’t? Automakers will realize this is an area for continual improvement.

Imagine parking your car in a garage for the evening. You music syncs with your house and phone systems, your phone directory is updated, and your calendar with driving directions updates. You get in the car the next morning and you know where to go to be the car-pool parent. Directions are displayed in the proper order to pick up the three friends of your son or daughter, and to the final destination of the ball field.

Thank you for making my life easy.

– Consumer

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Evolution of the Agency and the Brand

We’ve all seen Mad Men or can imagine a variation of the show. It depicts agencies, wining and dining their clients, having the three martini lunches, and eventually revealing sexy, controversial advertising campaign concepts. Is that reality? It somewhat was and somewhat still is. But there’s much more.

The 60s and 70s…

Looking at the decades we can see a simple recap in this light. The 60’s and 70’s were all about great concepts. Broadcast media was evolved and every tagline and concept was new. Things from I [heart] New York to “Think Small” for Volkswagen’s Bug were great concepts that worked. Car companies were huge to the agency world. No one was spending more on advertising and they were the crown jewel – growing fast, spending money. In these generations, brands typically had one agency – the Agency of Record (AOR) – a prestigious title for a prestigious position.

The 80s…

… came around and the AOR model continued, but it started to shift a bit. The creative and messaging was a bit less exciting of a territory for clients. The ‘new’ and growing methods of reaching consumers were exploding, and the affluence that followed a minor recession in the 70s was immense. Consumers were spending.

What changed significantly in the marketing world was more on the agency side than the consumer side. The agencies that were made big (huge) by the automotive, tobacco, financial and consumer goods industries, were now consolidating. Acquisition of small companies continued to happen, but even large agencies were getting swallowed-up by each other or new ownership. Banks were willing to finance these deals because of two decades of phenomenal growth.

This consolidation was also happening on the client side. There were amazing deals happening with Kraft, Nabisco, Philip Morris Cos., Kodak, Pillsbury… all the great names were buying or being bought. By the close of the 1980’s the top 100 advertising brands had consolidated to 1/3 the size.

This caused issues for agencies and brands. The consolidations created conflicts of interest, everywhere. Agencies were handling accounts for competing brands. That would never work. Thus, the 80’s started the shift of the AOR model. Brands started to split their advertising budgets among several agencies – a media buying agency, a creative agency, a strategic agency, and others. The game had changed for agencies. And, candidly, agencies were scared.

The 90s…

… changed everything, once again. Baby boomers were aging, consumer marketing was shifting to target segment groups. Agencies and brands could use data and smarter channels to segment their marketing efforts and this was a must. The cost of advertising was increasing rapidly. Segmenting and specialized marketing groups were necessary. Agencies were splitting into specialty areas to meet the new demands of clients. Each claiming their big agency could manage many single service lines or segments, each as a unique focus. Specialty marketing groups popped up to service immigrant, youth, senior, women and other target market groups. Everything was being broken into pieces. Not to mention, internet commerce was exploding, and creating, yet another, segment. Agencies were more important than ever to brands, but they weren’t able to meet the demands of brands because most were too big, too slow to shift, and too stuck in the past. They missed their make money on media world. Thus, a whole new world of agencies was created. Unfortunately, the creation was to meet the demand of brands, and it didn’t necessarily meet the goals of the brands at first. The model was simply too new and too immature to have great outcomes for brands. Brands lost faith in their agencies.

By the late 1990s, brands were using a plethora of agencies, testing all sorts of new marketing techniques, addressing multiple market segments, attempting to catch up to the amount of data being captured, and doing all this on shrinking budgets. It didn’t work.

The New Millennium, 2000s…

… saw brands start to consolidate their agency selections, once again. Agencies were maturing. They were deciding their area of specialty and committing to those areas. They were servicing brands better. However, there was still a need for multiple agencies. The brands still had not fully determined how to best use the data they had been collecting, standards in digital were far from being established, and there were still even more technologies on the rise to learn about. How could a brand keep up? And, how could agencies selecting a focus area also continue to explore new areas? The shift was incredibly challenging. Social media was exploding, mobile technology was massive, app development was winning amazing adoption rates, and even the business model delivery of brands was shifting.

How consumers were buying changed throughout the first 10 years of this new century. Loyalty programs were in full swing and working, subscription models gave new pricing approaches and access to new consumer markets, shipping systems were meeting the consumer demands and continuing the shift from brick and mortar, and the consumers were smarter, better equipped shoppers, and ready to challenge the brands.

Today…

Here we are just about to jump into 2017. We are in the last few years of the second decade of the new millennium, and we’ve already seen this decade’s major factors trending. We are in a period of social commerce. The value of a person’s relationship to a brand is more important than a single transaction. Brands have witnessed the power of a single blogger, a single incident that spreads across Twitter and Facebook, and the viral (yes, I used that word) video on Instagram. A share price is influenced by an illness outbreak at Chipotle or a green movement by Starbucks, all because of social media’s reach.

What do agencies and brands need to do in order to be successful? They must partner. If brands wish to create long-term relationships with their consumers, they can’t do this in single year contract relationships with agencies. They must be hyper-strategic over multiple years.

This is a shift. It’s a change from the annual ‘magic curtain’ to one of transparency, partnership, alignment, and collaboration. It’s not a minor change.

The “Magic Curtain”

The magic curtain is what agencies these days joke about. We didn’t realize it back then, but we were missing vital steps in a process. The magic curtain is probably the singular, consistent, poor methodology that agencies have followed for decades. Simply put, this is when select members of the agency, typically those who will not be directly doing the work, chat with the customer to “discover” what the customer needs. Then, they go back to their teams, disappearing behind the “magic curtain.” It is here the agency pulls in the do’ers, the thinkers, the creative, media guys and gals, and the techs. And, they create.

In a vacuum, armed with only the information clients gave to the few team members who performed ‘discovery’, the whole team now concepts and creates. The ‘client’ becomes the account service person who was the medium between the agency and the brand. This is not good. What happens is the ‘new client,’ the internal account service person, becomes an interpreter, predictor, and frankly guesser of what the real brand wants and needs.

After the magic is created behind the curtain, the agency brings a team back to the client to present their brilliance. Clients may get excited by pretty creative, cute taglines, and, perhaps, even good strategy. The agency may have done a decent job. In some cases, the agency nails exactly what the client does need, whether the agency or the client knows it or not.

Then comes the execution. It’s not just about a single blackboard with a cool hand-sketched ad concept with some mock type on the sheet. It’s not about all the ‘generalized’ conversations that have taken place. It’s about the execution in all its glorious details.

Marketing channels are so diverse and powerful today that there’s much more to any advertising campaign execution than the concept. Where are the media placements being made? How tight do we know our target audience and buying personas of those various, unique individuals? Does the digital technology team know how to build supporting web assets? What are the specific call-to-action pieces? Does the campaign drive traffic to a brick and mortar store or an online store?

All these details have been missing from this process. It started in a generalized fashion and ended with a “looks good, now let’s go” execution. Success is unlikely. This is causing brands and agencies to change their ways.

The dynamic duo of agency and brand has returned to a partnership relationship. There is nothing so powerful as working collaboratively across teams. Good agencies and smart brands have realized this. Sure, agencies still need great creative, writing, strategy, and definitely technology, but without a solid plan, an aligned effort and focus, and a team of talent, brands will never reach the success they seek.

Agencies who still go behind the magic curtain will not thrive. More important, brands that accept this behavior will struggle. When you rip down the magic curtain some pretty amazing things happen. And, they happen faster, smarter, and more thoroughly than ever before.

Brand-Agency Teaming

Here’s a brief insight into what happens when you pull down the magic curtain and engage the full agency team including members of creative, digital, strategy, media planning, social, etc. and full brand teams including executive level, marketing, customer service, sales, etc.

One Team – Imagine walking into a room where there’s one team working together, comprised of the smartest people on the company’s brands, products, markets, long range goals, and as part of that team, experts on how to get those products and services to market, increase sales, and drive long-term brand equity? 

Strategy – It’s probably not surprising that while many brands think they have a strategy, it is un-communicated, un-documented, and lacking details for short-term and long-term execution. A brand-agency team develops that strategy to be better, stronger and more impactful than ever before. These strategies have teams thinking about what has to happen immediately, and how to perform today with best positioning for tomorrow’s next step.

Faster Execution – With both teams fully on the same page, armed with the big picture and the details, execution happens quickly. There are fewer revisions to work, reduced missteps in direction, and better communication among all team members. Everyone hits the mark quicker and more on target.

Talent Excels – The ability for talent in all areas to shine is much greater on a highly functioning team. Team members constantly challenge each other to be better, think creatively, and to reach a higher level of achievement. All members become better. Creatives are more creative in the right direction. Strategists are more strategic across multiple channels. And so on. Exploring new technologies, new market approaches, new concepts are all able to happen with strong teams.

Leadership Alignment – Having the executive and leadership teams part of the process from the start means their core strategic objectives are known and understood. Thus, the marketing teams perform better for the executive group. Once again, this improves the rate of execution, hitting the target earlier, and with greater impact. Leadership is executing across many areas of the brand and corporate structure, and thus need to know alignment is saturated.

Maximized Budget – It’s only logical that with a stronger collaborative team, fewer project revisions, reduced misdirection, and deeper talent applied to all marketing efforts, the budget goes further and yields more. Dollars are spent more intelligently, in the right areas, and with greater certainty of outcomes.

Right Results – Finally, there are the results. These are much more widespread than numbers on a sheet. With absolute certainty, the results as marketers and sales teams know them are improved. The quantitative measurement of marketing and sales efforts show positive results – follows, Likes, conversions, purchases, loyalty measurement, client satisfaction referrals, all areas. Equally important are the subjective results. A happier team increases performance and improves retention of team members and institutional knowledge for an even greater tomorrow.

From an agency owner who loves to collaborate with brands, “go tear down that magic curtain and get together with your agency.”

 

Differentiators – Top 8 Ideas Clients Would Shoot Down

One differentiator, please. Something big, but not too big. Something bold, but not too bold. Something that makes our company standout. Nothing that’s too difficult or that requires whole-company buy-in. Differentiators are to be celebrated. Take a test of how much of a differentiator you are willing to be. How many CEOs and marketing professionals would approve these concepts? There would be no measurable clicks or coupons, and no prediction on success or return on investment.

Iconic Brand Activations

1. Anheuser Busch Clydesdales

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2. Goodyear – Create a blimp and let TV networks use it for free.

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3. Red Bull – Build a brand on extreme sports and a man jumping out of a spacecraft.

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Amazing Campaigns That May Never Have Been

4. Where’s the beef? – Wendy’s went risky with risqué.

5. Most interesting man in the world by Dos Equis – And how does this relate to beer and will people like him?

6. The eTrade baby – People aren’t going to want a baby telling them where to trade.

7. Our Blades Are F***ing Great – The DollarShaveClub.com – Nearly all marketers would say, we can’t say that.

8. 50 foot M&M Character dressed like the Statue of Liberty in NYC Hudson River – Imagine the potential pushback?

The reason it is called a differentiator is because it is not the same as every other brand campaign. If you want to stand out you better be willing to step outside your comfort zone. It is a risk reward decision.

Bet on Winners

I was having dinner last night with an old friend and he said, “you would never buy a race horse that was proven to come in 2nd or 3rd place and never first so why would you hire that employee?” Arguably you could say that out of 100 potential applicants you are doing pretty good with the persons sitting immediately behind the 1st place hire. But his observation did make me pause to think, “how often do we make a concession when hiring?”

Over my 25 years in business, I’ve read, talked, practically smoke signaled about the topic of hiring. I have definitely come to my own conclusions.

  • Hire slow, fire fast!
  • An employer with value will attract the best.
  • You share a future with your employees.
  • Fit matters.

The horse race analogy is a priceless piece of advice. All too often I hear a business owner or leader state, “we can’t afford the best talent.” Really? When you provide customer service, pursue new business development, enhance your products, or perform any other function within your company, you want to be second-rate at best?

Here’s the key. Not all blue ribbon winners are proven, yet. It is your job to identify who can be the first place winner with your help. There are certain qualifications a person needs to work for your company and to possibly be the unproven 1st placer.

  • Smarts – Obviously, they need to have the smarts to do the job. This should be the easiest area for you to evaluate.
  • Attitude – This isn’t just culture and fit. This extends beyond that. Someone could be a great personable fit in your office, but not share the same priorities of your core values.
  • Outlook – Where that new team member wants to go in their career, your company will follow. Longevity is a concern with outlook too. Will your company be able to provide a bright future with lots of opportunity?

There is a lot of discussion around fit, culture, style, and personality in business and especially in hiring. This is an area where I have continued to refine my opinions over time and through many experiences. I believe fit is absolutely essential to success. I used to say, “I don’t need to want to hang out with every employee. If this one person is a bit different then I may have other employees or clients who appreciate their style more than I.”

Well, hog posh. 

There’s a reason teams succeed and it is because of all these factors combined – fit, style, outlook, attitude, culture, personality. And, every one of these, each with their own nuances is essential to a successful hire. This may be a more difficult area to evaluate in an interview so don’t stop there.

You aren’t looking for drone clones to drive your company forward so be prepared for many personalities, but you do want to ensure the overall core values are shared among all your people. These core values are the bedrock of all the other items –

  • Personality – you can be funny, ha ha, or you can be funny by mocking and hurting others.
  • Drive – you can want to achieve more by backstabbing or by supporting others.
  • Collective Success – you can want to see a company grow and a team succeed or only care about yourself.
  • Smart – you can be smart and know it (too much) or you can share it.

To learn more about someone’s core values you need to get to know them. This isn’t a Q&A session in the interview. It is the discussion on family, background, schooling, and activities. It’s extracting their opinions on many matters. Determine what makes your company great, and what other companies have proven adds value to their team. Then seek out these core values.

Your culture isn’t whether all your employees are health conscious runners or green environment fanatics or volunteer driven community members. Sure, these are great indicators of someone’s core values, but activities are not culture. Your culture is how people treat each other. Is there mutual respect, support and care, nurturing and development, management with mutual goals, and leadership with mentorship?

The fit is mutual. The employee you are hiring needs to see the value with your team and your company. This is an area that I have taken much more seriously in just the last few years. We have a Vice President of Achievement, and their primary goal is to develop employees, help them learn to help others, and to ensure growth is singular and collective. It is amazing how your best employees will embrace this opportunity. You will also realize which employees view continued development as a chore.

It is your job to hire the best person for the company, for the team. It is also your job to bid farewell to those who are not the best. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, aimed to fire the bottom 10% of his company every year. That was quite a bold statement back in the day, and frankly it may not be the most politically correct even behind the boardroom doors. However, I have learned that an extremely important part of my job is to show my team that I support them by weeding out the non-performers with poor attitudes who don’t fit our culture. It is my job to fire people.

I believe in hiring slow, but firing fast. It is a hard commitment to make, but it is a necessary step for success and happiness.

Take your time to hire people. Conduct the interview, then meet them for coffee at another time. Introduce them to team members. Give them a test for job or culture fit. Give them a professional challenge your industry faces, and ask them how to solve the challenge, but in a written response. You will learn a lot through these interactions. In short, get to know them. I guarantee you will hire better.

When you make a mistake, fix it. You will know if you don’t hire the best. You have goals for your company. It’s not a large leap to understand you are hiring team members you believe will reach those goals. If you miss the mark with the hire, you will miss the goals. It happens. Just be sure to address it quickly. If possible, be nice about it. Help the employee transition into a new company and position where they will fit and flourish. This is part of your culture.

Obviously, you cannot do this with everyone. Despite all efforts you will occasionally hire someone who simply doesn’t share core values and is toxic to your company. In these situations, it is important to act fast. Remove the cancer from your team immediately.

Some leaders are afraid to make these changes. They feel it is not the nice thing to do or there will be added pressure on the rest of the team. At the end of the day, it takes more energy and effort to work with someone who doesn’t fit, doesn’t perform, and doesn’t have the same values. Trust that you are doing your employees a favor. I have been thanked numerous times for making these changes, and more often than not, it is accompanied with, “that couldn’t happen fast enough.”

The old saying, “Nice guys finish last,” needs to be modified. It is the “too nice of a guy, who finishes last.” If you are running a business, it is because you are driven to succeed. Nice guys are those men and women who care about leading a company, developing the people, and doing so with support, respect, and a positive outlook. Being too nice actually injures your team and hurts many people. You can be nice and successful.

I may not look forward to my work everyday. Let’s face it, sometimes work is work. But every single day I do look forward to working beside my team.

Age Dictates Mindset

augmented reality shopping online digital

All brands define their demographic by the basics – age, gender, geography, income, and many other clearly defined criteria. This is a basic marketing step. The digital world has been layering on many more detailed targeting opportunities such as alignment with other brands, interest areas, digital relationships, online actions, and a plethora of unique profile characteristics. As marketers continue to get educated in this space, it’s important to remind ourselves that time changes people. Our entire lives are spent being influenced and molded by events and environments. A 50 year old man today is much different than a 50 year old man was just five short years ago. The mindset of each individual is very unique.

Our formative years of early childhood to adolescence and even the years as young adults make us who we are today. Your product may be the same as it was five years ago and perhaps won’t change significantly in the next few. Even if your target audience will always be a 50 year old individual, your target is forever changing.

To grow up during a time of depression and to work as the “greatest generation” did or during the time of the dot com crash makes you a distinctly different individual at any specific age as compared to someone of the same age who grew up during the real estate boom in the 80’s.

One single year may change outlooks and therefore response to marketing messages. Marketers are accustomed to making changes in their campaigns as societal shifts happen. Education is an easy example. This industry has moved from quality of education to student services to safety and is currently embattled with value selling. This is all dictated by the mindset of the target which has been driven by changes in government funding to education, tragic shootings at campuses, and the proliferation of online courses.

We spent a lifetime formulating our perspectives just have each year change both our retrospect and our outlook on life. I recently saw a billboard from an investment company that stated, “The first person to live to 150 years is alive today.” Surely this person at age 45 will not have the same perspective on retirement that I have today at age 45.

Stop comparing an age to yourself. The sentence cannot be “When I was….” Let’s be candid. Your opinion doesn’t matter. It is what the target demographic thinks, feels and does today. Marketers must understand this target by speaking with them constantly.

Let’s do a simple exercise and define a few key characteristics of the popular target audience, the millennial generation.

  • They believing giving up information online if it will save them time in shopping, finding news or information, or any function.
  • They are okay delaying their careers to take greater risks for fame and fortune. They witnessed the beginning of the startup generation.
  • They will have a multitude of jobs in their entire career. They saw their parents lose jobs from major corporations after literally decades of dedicated service. They were impacted by the lack of corporate loyalty and pension cutting.
  • They’ll get married later, have children later, and live longer while possibly understanding that Social Security will not be there for them. Yet, there is a sense of everyone will take care of each other and everything will be all right. This originates from the parents who lost their jobs and while scared as hell, comforted their children.

These 30 years olds will be marketed to much differently than the 30 year olds being born today or those born 50 years ago. How are marketers shifting their brand presentation and product development to address the audience shift? How is mindset working into your marketing approach and messaging?

If we define the use of a product or service by the demographic of age or even gender every life experience would need to come into play when marketing my product. It is not a single message per a single demographic. Marketers must tailor messages, just as they must tailor services and products. This is easier if your product will appeal to a specific and narrow age group. The wider the age group, the more your marketing will require multiple campaigns executed with hyper targeting and tailored messaging.

We are no longer strictly marketing to demographics. We are marketing to life experiences of the past and lifestyles of today. We are marketing to mindsets.

Age dictates mindset – only to an extent. Be aware of the individual you are marketing to, not just the segment identified as a demographic.

Great Advertisements Pay Dividends

advertising marketing

Smart companies investment in the creation of ads which will have longevity. These ads pay dividends well into the future, and solidify brand personas. Too often, the digital realm is mistaken for a instantaneous platform. Click, consider, buy or leave. Just as broadcast was utilized to drive brand awareness and (hopefully) retail sales, digital can too.

Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Oh what a relief it is. These ads weren’t necessarily great, but they were memorable. Don’t mistake memorable for an ad that pays dividends. What we are talking about was not previously available in the broadcast world. A great television commercial was just that. Seen at the time the brand was willing to pay for a flight of commercials and gone after the campaign dollars ran out.

Today, consumers are seeing great ads over and over again with no paid flight from the brand. Many of these ads come from decades past. Sometimes those ads have been digitized by advertising enthusiasts. Other times, it’s because the brand has revived an oldie but goodie. However, they would not be shared and distributed widely if consumers didn’t find benefit in choosing to view these ads.

This is the simplest definition of advertising dividends any marketer can use. Remember the Mac or PC ads? What about McGruff the Crime Dog? Remember Mountain Dew on SNL? These commercials have gained a renewed life in the digital space. There’s more to these ads than the dividend of replay due to entertainment though.

Human emotion gives advertisements a life of their own. Let’s talk about the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales. This brand has created an icon. Horses are no longer used in the transportation of the product, and yet still represent the glorious brand. Families and children visit these brand beasts at factories and seek them out at town fairs and parades.

These horses have appeared in numerous television commercials from playing football in the snow to marching, as soldiers would in silence, down New York streets across a world-renowned bridge to genuflect to the memory of two buildings that were once landmarks of New York City and the tragic loss of many lives.

This video has been posted numerous times and has millions of views.

Advertising for dividends goes beyond the broadcast world finding new life in digital streams. It is about furthering the experiential world through the hearts of consumers.

Utter the brand name of TOMS shoes when speaking to anyone, and you would quickly envision images of desolate children smiling as a pair of new shoes are placed on their feet or they are given better eyesight. Go visit the brand online and this commitment is told over and over and over. But the storyteller is not the brand anymore. Yes the text in the book cover may be the brand, but the storyteller is now the person who shares the story from the heart rather than from the advertising agency.

A single video post by TOMS garners 4M views in just a few months. This brand, this advertising, this story, this loyalty pays dividends. This content isn’t just an advertisement. It isn’t just a public relations campaign. It is a story that people will tell and retell, share and explore. It’s a classic, sitting on the shelf, waiting for yet another avid reader.

One other brand that continues to impress me, and most likely all marketers, is LEGO. This amazing children’s toy has grown from simple snap blocks to presenting movie characters and fantasy locations, to being art work in cultural circles, and is thriving in a world of digital competition.

Lego has also learned the power of producing content through a vibrant brand belief. This content is more powerful than any single promotion will ever be. Lego has learned that creating value for everyone is much more powerful than simply pushing short-term, unmemorable promotions. The LEGO Blind Art Project is an amazing program. Helping blind children experience the world of fine art through LEGOs has led to amazing stories and content sharing. A brand “doing good” yields dividends, and those actions are paramount in the digital world.

Nearly everyone has been witness to an amazing Lego creation. Whether it was in the entire replica of a city at micro Lego size or massive life-size creations of our favorite movie characters, LEGO has instilled a culture obsessed with simple blocks by creating and using content to further their product as a media platform.

Advertising that last in perpetuity and creates this longevity and culture is also what skyrockets new products and services from specific brands to the top. Loved brands experience early and rapid adoption during new product launches. This is more powerful than any advertising campaign will ever be.

Evaluate your own brand’s marketing content. Are you building materials that will be valued in the future? Is your audience interested in seeing your content and sharing it with their inner circle? If you’re only focused on today’s click, your brand is nothing more than a promotion. Create for the dividends, and you will be experiencing success for decades.

Brand Equity in a Digital World

Starbucks Digital Brand

Companies focus on short-term returns. They must. They answer to shareholders on a daily basis. Investors are looking for returns to be instantaneous. But this may stop brands from investing and growing for maximum generational potential. In a quest for short-term gains, brands may even be encouraged to make decisions affecting long term brand equity.

We often talk about brand, and the most common measurement is brand equity. This is the overall value of the brand as perceived by consumers and investors. There is no single method of calculating brand equity. It is comprised of quantitative elements such as profit margin, market share, and so on. It is also derived from qualitative characteristics which are much more difficult to measure. These characteristics would include brand awareness and reputation.

Brand equity is the value of the brand in its entirety. Brand equity matters when you market. Placing a specific brand on a product clearly changes the performance of that product in a sales channels. This is the power of the brand.

Advertising like any other market or industry shifts. The direction of marketers to utilize particular channels continues to change as channels evolve. Mass media, such as broadcast TV and radio, was extremely popular in the 90s, and then of course the onset of digital in the new millennium shifted all eyes rapidly to online and eventually mobile devices. And even with Likes and Follows, brands were still struggling to create brand loyalty which is a great sign of Brand Equity.

The early 2000s also saw significant investments in experiential marketing, and the hype for this channel was all brand perception! Brands opted for live interactions to engage the public and prove their value to consumers. The brands watched this approach increase loyalty across product lines. Brands realized the now disparate consumer was no longer as engaged with or influenced by mass media. An even truer relationship was created through common causes, and thus this media channel quickly turned to a form of activism. To be friends with the consumer, brands aligned themselves with causes the consumer identified with. Brands were seeking to share values with the consumer. Have a connection beyond the product.

Experiential marketing was more expensive and required significant investments, and corporations could not sustain these investments with the downturn of the economy. Shareholders wanted less investment in marketing, but more return.

It was the rise of digital. The rapid deployment of new technologies continued to grow exponentially during the mid and late 2000, and into the second decade of the new century. This again caused a shift in advertising dollars. The marketers had found a great channel for driving quick, short lived, campaigns that yield instant results. However, this once again created a brand loyalty problem.

Digital activations were focused on the immediate results – impressions, clicks, conversions. There is an irony in the ability to measure results in digital spaces. Broadcast cannot typically be measured in a direct retail transaction, and while digital can be directly measured this may be a fatal flaw in how it’s implemented. This new medium would be seen as successful only if each and every campaign yielded direct results. This caused brands to enter and exit the digital marketing arena. Brands were in a quandary. They knew people were online and mobile, but the didn’t see direct results in the clicks. How could they justify continuing the investment?

This drove digital advertising to constantly employ incentives, promotions and discounts. These are all great options when choosing how to activate a market segment, but these are temporary relationships with a consumer. They fail to create street cred and are absent all brand loyalty for longevity.

Digital has only begun to be understood by serious marketers. There are vast opportunities in this one channel that splinters into hundreds. It is more complex and complicated than most area aware, yet offers many versatile tools. Digital marketing offers exceptional performance and outcomes, but also at great risk.

Digital is not about the next seven days. It is not just a game of clicks received during the time an ad is running. Campaigns and conversions can have a value in immediate return, but must also be recognized for longevity. It’s about creating campaigns digital relationships that go beyond a Like or Follow; relationships that consumers will enjoy and find rewarding long after the brand’s investment.

This creates a culture and a commitment between brand and consumer. These digital engagements pay dividends for just brand equity. Ultimately, they drive additional clicks and conversions when the consumer may otherwise debate a choice. They create loyalty with a brand. They increase brand equity.

When brands screw up, their equity matters. And, every brand will encounter a crisis at some point in their career. Whether it is Apple releasing a poorly tested map app or Target having breached data security or from years past with Tylenol falling victim to aspirin tampering, or Toyota’s car problems… every brand will have a crisis. Today, every brand will have mini-crisis created online and it doesn’t take much for one outspoken individual to become a group, and grow quickly.

Brand equity can be the healing agent. It will win a brand acceptance of a sincere apology and quickly the public will forget what could potentially be the ultimate downfall for the brand. The past decade has seen a rise in transparency and accountability. This was very much driven by the public and brands had to embrace the concept to protect their brand equity.

How do you move from click ands and conversion per $1 invested to a long term return? Invest in your relationship before you ask your customer to do so.

Starbucks creates avenues for new artists to be introduced to the world. They provide free wifi, a cultured connection to great products, even some free music streaming. There’s a perceived value in the comforts they create and provide. This is even in their messaging. A letter in 2013 from the CEO, Howard Schultz, stated, “From the beginning, our vision at Starbucks has been to create a “third place” between home and work where people can come together to enjoy the peace and pleasure of coffee and community.”

What could possibly be a better statement of brand position? They’ve stood up on issues from gay rights to gun control. Their leadership takes responsibility, embraces open and honest discussion. The brand equity is high.

There’s more to digital than free wifi and streaming music. Investing in digital may include easy-to-pay mobile platforms which include the free music of the week picks. Providing tools to consumers is a great digital extension. Here are some companies who have invested to maintain relationships:

Zillow – This real estate site provides apps to help with financing, mortgage calculation, etc.

Johnson & Johnson – This massive consumer products company invests significantly in apps for health, fitness, nutrition, etc.

Audi – The car company offers games for auto driving enthusiasts of all ages.

Ikea – The Swedish furniture maker famous for flat boxes offers many tools for room layout and design.

These companies are not profiting off the apps they develop – not directly for every click, at least. These are investments in relationships with consumers. If brands think short term, how will they ever choose to invest in long term relationships?

A proper digital strategy will leverage the short term clicks with building a long term relationship. Every single digital activation from PPC campaigns, e-commerce purchases to app downloads and email campaigns must have an audience nurturing component to build a relationship. Those relationships are your brand equity in the digital space.

Millions of Followers Desperate for a Leader

Ever wonder why some people have huge followings? Whether you’re talking about a person, brand, sports team, radio show host, or just an online personality on Twitter or Instagram or any of the many social channels, the reason is always the same. It’s not that there are thousands of followers. It is that there is an extreme lack of leaders. This is true in all realms.

Being a leader is risky, but risk pays. Yes, some people have to lead and may not have planned on it.  Business owners are perfect examples. Perhaps they started their business because of a passion and it grew to the point that it needed employees and thus leadership too. Others choose to be leaders. They want to be the outspoken resource for personal fitness, encouragement and strength, startups, venture capital; heck even coffee or toys or hosting service or cloud security. These people are taking risks, putting their opinions out, being outspoken on topics, and not always in agreement with the masses. Safe positions will not be exciting. Consider talk radio hosts for a moment. Have you noticed how many of the callers disagree with the host? Yet, they are listening and following? This represents precisely why people gain popularity. They start a conversation and put an opinion out there.

Following a leader feels good and creates opportunity. At heart, humans have a pack mentality. We like to be part of a pack and to follow a leader. It contributes to a feeling of commitment and belonging. However, we also like to know where we stand in the pack. Status and position are extremely important. One thing to note here is that there aren’t just two positions – the leader and follower. There are many in between. Wanting to be a specific leader can be part of the reason to follow that leader. Take personal fitness and the online personalities who have evolved as popular characters on their channel. Many people follow just to be in line with that leader. They like the forward momentum and the feeling. Do not mistake this for a casual desire to follow. Many of these individuals follow because they now have access to the whole pack. They can share their stories and pictures. They can win their own followers as a small subset of the full pack. They can possibly win recognition from the leader. These examples can be seen in politics with factions of a party or with boyscouts who want to have recognition with the most merit badges.

Being real and imperfect is leadership. The polish of yesterday is gone. Livestreams, instant recordings on YouTube, Vine or Instagram and the thousands of citizen reporters have exposed the raw truth about every leader. They are not perfect. They do not sit in ivory towers that are untouchable by chaos, scandal or mistakes. The veil of Oz has fallen. The element of being real and having failures actually propels leaders forward.

Think about Elon Musk and Tesla Motors. He tackles adversity in innovation and critiques in the media head-on. He doesn’t shy away. He doesn’t hide behind polished press releases. He is real. You only need to consider brands like Starbucks which are challenged with permitting guns to be carried into their establishments or promoting equality for the LGBT community. These brands are real and people follow that. They may not agree with the leader in all instances, but they follow because of what they represent at the core.

Leaders give followers what they want. This will vary by follower, but there are basic elements that drive all followers to engage.

Future – A leader provides the follower with a vision for the future. They paint the picture of tomorrow and the opportunities and glories that are to come. Leaders also don’t shy away from reality. They tell it like it is. If tomorrow will be tough, but the days after great – they don’t just say it. They proclaim it.

Access – A family of followers represents a network to be tapped by any follower. Connecting with people of the same mindset and similar goals can be a priceless opportunity. Building a network is not just for the followers. You will consistently see leaders reach out to tap a new audience, embrace another group, and grow the family.

Empowerment – People need motivation. They want motivation. Leaders provide this through encouragement and empowerment. It’s like the army’s “Be all you can be.” for everyone. Without empowering others, leaders will not succeed. Look at all the great leaders and you will see that they don’t cut down people to get ahead, they raise them up.

Competition – People generally want to succeed. This means they need a challenge. Leaders provide subtle and direct challenges. Oftentimes, the challenge may be expressed directly in a goal such as weight loss or it may be indirect but comparable to others such as how many miles did you run this week. As a pack member you get to decide what success is.

What can brands takeaway from this review of Leaders and Followers? Be different. Apple said Think Different and they were right. It’s not about blending into the crowd and making safe choices. Striving to avoid conflict with any one individual or group will simply make you boring and irrelevant.

Speak up. Stand out. Take the reins and lead. Leadership is there for the taking. Don’t be shy.

Beyond the 20% Smart Mark

It’s a common belief that most people using a particular application really only use 20% of the system’s capabilities. Glance around any application you use – Word, Evernote, Excel… can you really claim to know more than 20% of what the system has to offer? People who go beyond, well beyond, this mark are referred to as Power Users. I believe the 20% Mark is applicable to nearly everything we do.

Imagine if in our lives we were Power Living. At work we could be Power Performers. We would be Power Friends and Power Parents. Of course, we do not need to excel at everything we do, but in the areas that count, it is best to be the Power Person. This concept applies to marketing more than ever before. Being a ‘user’ of digital marketing tools does not define an expert.  Nor does the mere frequency of use. It’s going beyond the 20% that moves someone beyond a user with the can-do ability.

There are two ways that the 20% Mark applies to marketing – First, the ability of the person executing marketing; and second, the extent of efforts being undertaken when executing a marketing plan. These are very different scenarios, but each is extremely important.

We’ve all encountered the 20% in expertise. Whether it was a purchasing experience for our home or business, we have encountered absolute experts in their field, as well as the not-so-expert, but claim-to-be expert. I do believe that the digital space, just as many new industries, has created the perception of expertise. This is easily achieved through two methods – early adopters and frequent users. Digital advertising encompasses everything from Mobile to Social, Apps and Email. If someone was an early adopter of any of these technologies, and continues to have frequency in at least one – most commonly social because it is easy, then they will have the perception of expertise. Be sure to test their capabilities beyond he 20% Mark.

The second method mentioned is the extent of execution. Imagine a professional athlete. If they invested in only one part of their sport, such as fitness training, muscle building, nutrition, mental capacity, or even just practice. they would probably not be as successful as they could be. Think about only a single area that we just mentioned, building muscle for instance. If the athlete only invested 20% of what they could into their weight training routine, they would not be experts or top of their field.

It is the same thing with marketing. You must be sure to invest beyond the 20% Mark. This may mean identifying other channels to use, just as the professional athlete has many areas of concentration or it could be how hard we work within each area. It is all too often we pick up a client at wedu who tells us, “I tried Google pay-per-click advertising, but it didn’t work for us.” They proceed to list a litany of reasons (or shall we say excuses) as to why it didn’t. We then go on to run successful campaigns for that client. Why? Because we went beyond the 20% Mark. We dove deeper into research and testing. We pushed our analytics to the max.

There are “professionals” in social media who post pictures and cute sayings. Let’s just say they’ve achieved the 20% Mark. Unfortunately, they never make it beyond that. As a single example, Facebook let’s you create questions and polls, find other aligned partners to Like and share content, build apps for contests, education and entertainment, and you can even advertise. An expert doesn’t stop at 20%.

Next time you are embarking on an adventure in digital marketing make sure you recognize the 20% Mark and keep your eye on the 80% of Opportunities.

Can Digital Advertising Replace Traditional Advertising?

Digital Advertising

99% of the time. That’s my answer. Here’s why…

If we think about traditional advertising the channels include broadcast with television and radio, newsprint and magazines, billboards and out-of-home advertising, and finally direct mail. These are great mediums to reach a fairly large audience, albeit shrinking, which is extremely diverse in demographics, psychographics, and lifestyle. If we’re a major political campaign or major brand these channels are appropriate. All others – it is time to go digital.

Digital has received a bad reputation because of its infancy years. When digital advertising first started, it was in the form of banner ads. While these would be the equivalent of traditional advertising in reaching the masses, there simply weren’t masses in any one spot online to reach. The limited inventory of digital banner ads made them less effective than desired. Next, digital developed the ability to target. This is a great tool, but once again, it was not fully developed. The limits of early targeting did more to eliminate potential audience members than to include the largest qualified target audience. Again, it was too early.

Today’s digital allows marketers to perform the same tasks as traditional, and in a much more effective manner. The ability to create brand recognition by wide range exposure can be achieved through intelligent placement of online and mobile advertising within the most popular sites. Consider placement in these areas: online news media sites, weather, streaming video and audio sites including radio and tv sites, search engines, shopping & travel sites, oh and even dating sites. Throw the wide and varied social and network platforms in the mix and you’ve got nearly all of your target population. A broad enough online media plan will certainly create brand presence.

Advertising and marketing plans have been based on a few simple practices – multiple touch points, offers or enticement, and response mechanisms. No question, digital can win in this competition. The ability to have multiple touch points is certainly much more exceptional when we consider search, social and mobile advertising opportunities alone. The enticement or offers can be personalized in this space, thereby creating a much greater engagement rate, and of course the response mechanisms can be instantaneous.

Traditional advertising requires greater lead time to be able to place, realize and review responses. Your newspaper ad needs to be designed and submitted days before placement, television requires production and placement which is easily weeks ahead of placement. Again, while these channels certainly have a place, they have significant challenges.

Digital advertising can be created and launched in the same day, while more serious campaigns do require additional time of course. Campaign effectiveness can be monitored in a live environment, and of course changed at will.

Why is traditional so popular then? Easy – all clients understand it. How difficult is it to understand; you produce a tv commercial, pick the network and show lineup that you want to run in and presto, there’s an advertisement. You know the average viewership of that spot and the demographics. It’s not complicated.

Flip the channel to digital, and it gets a whole lot more complex. What type of digital ad are we placing? Will it be a banner ad, search, mobile? Will it interact with the user? Where will the ad take the user and what is the experience post-click? Is the placement based on demographics or lifestyle choices? Will we pay for the ad based on impressions (traditional media style) or engagements?

You be the judge. Here are two easy questions. You decide where to place your ads:

How many minutes a day does your target read a newspaper or listen to the radio?

How many minutes a day does your target spend online – desktop or mobile?

Digital has evolved, and it just keeps getting better.