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







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







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







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.


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.

Chasing Emotions for Commerce and Wealth

You can trace every single business transaction back to an emotion. If you’re in the non-profit world, but still responsible for fundraising, you especially know what this means. Whether you’re an entrepreneur searching for your next big idea, a business owner trying to grow or a marketer responsible for promoting a product or services – pay attention.

My office mates have coined some of the phrases they hear me say often in our strategy sessions. Every few months I introduce a new concept for them to think of as marketers. These apply to any and all media – tradition, digital, etc.

  • What’s in it for me?
  • Follow the money.
  • What can we leverage?

Each of these helps us test the effectiveness or increase the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Well, chasing emotions does the same thing. And my office better prepare to start hearing me say – Where’s the emotion?

Think about why people make purchases – the special egg yoke separator will save me time in the kitchen, this sports car goes fast, this printer/fax/scanner combo machine will take up less space, cool magazine cover, attractive label on the bottle of wine. Granted, these are mostly consumer purchases, but who makes the buying decisions for companies? People of course, so this is true in the B2B world, as well.

Go beyond the physical product world into professional services or intangible technology such as apps and you will still find emotions driving purchasing decisions. Whether it’s the in-person interview with an attorney or downloading a an app for reading news each and every interaction is based in an emotional response. Marketers must realize the vast array of personalities they are dealing with.

A conversation with a professional coach the other day raised a question regarding the sales process. As a business development person should you try and match the style of the person you are selling in order to win over their trust? Ironically, in my years of training, I quickly said yes. The coach differed. He said that today it’s about being aware of the mix of communication and how to best interact, but that it’s not always mimicking the style. I will agree with that more detailed answer, especially in an age of authenticity and transparency.

If that’s true, how does an online purchase or app download or product sitting on a retailer’s shelf interact with you to ‘mix’ with your style?

It’s important to first note that you will not satisfy or attract everyone so don’t try – otherwise the old adage of “You better stand for something, otherwise you’ll fall for anything,” comes true. If you look at the most successful companies you will find their toughest market adversary has a different personality. Think about what these companies represent and then how that compares to their competitors:

  • Apple vs. Dell (or Mac vs. PC – thanks to the TV commercials this is easy)
  • Axe Body Spray vs. Old Spice
  • McDonald’s vs. Wendy’s
  • TOMS Shoes vs. Cole Haan
  • Google vs. Yahoo
  • Facebook vs. MySpace

If you go to the heart of these products or services you will find there is an emotion that fits. MySpace was developed for musicians and music enthusiasts. Now, did Facebook steal the audience or provide a new home? MySpace is attempting a comeback and ironically, to many music enthusiasts it never failed. It was simply a different audience.  Axe Body Spray is most likely not purchased by the same gents purchasing Old Spice. Not that the latter is seeking a fox hunt in the English countryside, but they certainly aren’t believing a body spray will win them the attention of beautiful woman.

I felt it was important to put in Google and Yahoo and some of the others to show that the emotional charge doesn’t go away just because a product or service is free. If anything, it’s probably more predominant. Swipe the screen of you smartphone and think about all the app choices you have for each and every app you are using. There are a hundreds of apps for investing, expense management, news consumption, etc. Perhaps it’s features you liked better in one or another, but it could also be that emotionally, you preferred how one app interacted with you – simplicity, complexity, visual appeal, shared audience, whatever the case may be.

If you chase the emotion you will find the sale. Just don’t be a paranoid, bi-polar, schizophrenic because then no one wants to hang out with you.

Killing Time Creates Marketer Value

There was an article in the NY Times today. (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/banned-on-wall-street-facebook-twitter-and-gmail/?ref=technology) It covered the ban on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like from Wall Street’s corporate firewalls. The reasons are somewhat obvious – they want the employees 100% focused on the work at hand and are hyper sensitive to security. Let’s face it, information is equal to profits in this world.

The article got me thinking though. First, the old-school in me says, “I understand.” The new media age dude in me says, “Oh, Please. You can’t stop it so don’t fight it. Find a way to embrace it.” Regardless of whether you agree with these policies, there is a reality here that marketers have realized. A few minutes can be a successful engagement.

As one of the workers mentioned in the article, they oftentimes have to sit around and wait for a supervisor. This may be just minutes or longer. In the interim, most people – pop online. This is true for a lot of things – waiting in the doctor’s office, waiting for a subway, waiting for a boss, waiting for lunch, ….

Waiting equals an opportunity to have an engagement that yields a sale. The impulse buys of Giltman, Rue La La, and these daily special sites is not so much riven by the email at noon and great discounts. Oftentimes, the discounts aren’t discounts at all and these savvy shoppers know that. However, it’s an instant offering of an appropriate product for the audience, with an easy mechanism to purchase and ship. Click, click, click, done. Box arrives.

Mobile strategies must embrace this type of sale. Online strategies can help promote related products, entice you with further deals, and drive further filling of the cart. Mobile strategies can tackle this only so far, but the important step is to get that first sale. Win the client. Share a positive experience. Have the opportunity to engage yet again, another day.

For mobile – KISS is the best approach. (Keep it Simple Stupid) in case you didn’t know. Here’s the test… What can a person achieve in 3 minutes on your mobile app? If they can’t easily complete a sale – you lose.