Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Give it up...

It is said that the company doesn't own the brand, the consumer does.

So the question today is: why do so many corporations covet their brand equities like the holy grail and keystone holding the foundation of their company together when all consumers want is to feel the brand is part of them?

If a brand makes a concerted effort to release their equities for consumer play, then the consumer will play. Their creativity with the logos and taglines will spawn cult-like following without the heavy-handed corporate control which only translates as disingenuous.
Recently Coke decided to do just that, let the consumer keep the control over their brand. The second most trafficked page on Facebook (after Obama's) was a Coke devoted page created by two Coke fans (Dusty Sorg and Michael Jedrzejewski). (For data and Ad Age article click here)
Now, FB policy is a branded page must be "authorized by or associated with the brand." So FB decided that they would have to close the page or give it to Coke. Under traditional corporate policy, a cease and desist would be issued. But Coke did something different. They decided to work with Dusty and Michael. Coke suggested that Dusty and Michael share it with them. What a novel concept! Sharing a brand... Giving it up for all to play with...

The culting of a brand will never come from the corporation/manufacturer only from the consumers. But it can only happen if the corporation/manufacturer allows it - or one better, encourages it - to happen.

To put Digital Gen into perspective...

In support of my last post, I recently received this video that kinda brings it home.

So my question today is: is the Analogue Gen resisting the real and very relevant tools of today out of ignorance or are we still holding on to an old-fashioned, left-brain (read, linear) paradigm of education? Or, should we be adapting to the Digital Gen's creative, right-brain (read, organic) paradigm of empowered and empowering technology?

The implication is that we will probably have to hire younger and younger people to teach us how to best communicate with and market to them.
A generation used to be defined as every 20 years: the Silent Gen, the GI (Government Issued) Gen, the Boomer Gen, Gen X, Gen Y, Millenials. What is interesting is that the last three have contracted to 10 years.
Why? Because of technology.
Even Gen X has subsegments: the Atari Gen and the Nintendo Gen. Both technologically defined.
I realize it can be quite threatening to tread on technological waters that seem to change every day. But isn't this the future we looked forward to when we were younger and it's happening today? And now that it's here, do we resent it because it is not enough (read, predictable) like the past?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Communication breakdown...

Had to share this Facebook experience. I think it is quite relevant to us analogue-wired gang and our frustration with the digital-wired gen.
So my question today is: do you think that the digital age is creating a generation of absolutists where things are either right or wrong, 1's and 0's, right here/right now and we are in an inter-generational communication freefall because of our analogue 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0 shades of gray, patience is a virtue mindsets? As marketers, do we have it all wrong thinking we can begin to communicate with them or should we just hire them to market to them?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Is there a word...

Here is the quandary - we have consumers and we have shoppers. In marketing terms, the distance between the two is increasing everyday. Especially when we now make the marketing distinction between the person who consumes a product and a person who buys the product. For example, mom buys a 12 pack of carbonated soft drinks - she is the shopper - but her children are the the ones to drink it - they are the consumers.

Now that Shopper Marketing is the mot du jour and we are officially making the distinction between consumer marketing and shopper marketing when it is one and the same person, what do you call that person when they are both? I can't think of any other word than... person.

What I mean by this is - for the sake of simplicity* - when I am outside of the store I am a consumer, when I am inside the store, I am a shopper. So how do we qualify me when I am the target who does both. The easy answer is, by marketing definition, a consumer. So does consumer include shopper as part of its definition?

I think we are entering a new era where marketing has to create new terminology to allow both consumer and shopper to exist separately AND together.

So I throw out the challenge to all my marketing brothers and sisters to create that new Marketing 2.0 term that describes a target as BOTH consumer and shopper.

* To clarify, this is only to illustrate a point BUT my belief is that we become shoppers NOT when we pass the threshold of the sliding-glass doors, the shopper mindset begins when a need has been identified. For example, when we run out of Diet Coke, we go into shopper mode: where will I shop, when will I go there, how much will I get, do I need anything else, etc. The role of a shopper marketing strategist is to understand that path, the shopper journey, and begin to affect it, seducing and engaging the consumer/shopper with a relevant and compelling brand experience.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Is brand communication like human communication?

It is said that 80 percent of communication is non-verbal leaving the other 20 percent for what we actually say. Think about it: WHAT YOU SAY is only 20 percent of what your audience takes away from the dialogue and 80 percent is HOW YOU SAY IT.

On Wikipedia I found a more specific statistic but that is just as revealing about real communication:

"More reasonably it could be at around 50-65 percent. That’s exactly what Mehrabian discovered in his communication study. He found that only 7 percent of communication comes from spoken words, 38 percent is from the tone of the voice, and 55 percent comes from body language."

This lowers even more the culturally accepted left-brain dominant belief that words are communication. 7 percent! The adage that words are the barriers to communication becomes not so scientifically far-fetched.

This poses a real quandary for rationally-driven marketing. It is proven that quantitative claims are effective in driving purchase. But it is more about closing the deal. The last stage of the purchase process.

So here is my question: when consumers react to brands are they not reacting to what the brand is not saying versus the words the brand is using? Do consumers fall 80 percent in love with a brand for all its non-verbal cues rather than the 20 percent of its verbal cues?

In the shopping space we know that women shop (in this order):
1. By color
2. By shape
3. By brand

Nothing has changed, we are sensual beings - we shop with our senses. How we interpret the world is a right-brain process because it is the QUICKEST and MOST EFFICIENT way to interpret a HUGE AMOUNTS OF INFORMATION. Once we have deselected what is not attractive to us - read non-verbal cues - do we begin to interpret from a more rational, left-brain perspective (price, value, ease-of-use, need, etc.).

What appears to draw us into a brand are the design and aesthetic cues (color, shape, style, size, etc.), the non-verbal cues. Knowing that shoppers don't see 50 percent of what is on shelf, are we not underestimating the first stages of Shopper Marketing by not auditing the category in store? What is every other brand doing at shelf? Well then, let's do the opposite or do it better. It all starts with design. THEN close the deal with the words and the claims.

One of these days I will undertake a formal research study to prove that 80 percent of brand attraction (then leading to brand love) is non-verbal and only 20 percent is verbal. I hope to then convince my clients to spend more time and resources creating a great brand story rooted in design (of packaging, advertising, mnemonic cues, etc.) and only once this is established, talk about the words we will use. Not only will this help create a brand that truly stands out (in the landscape and at shelf) but will also solve the communication issues for a time-starved and information-overloaded consumer/shopper.

Context is everything

I have been mulling around this idea of Context Marketing. Of course, only to find out that there are people out there talking about it already. So much for an original idea... But what surprises me is that no one in the business world is talking about it on a daily basis.

Not having really delved into what the others are saying, I will just elaborate on how I see it and what it means to me. And of course, only then will I look at what the establishment means by it...
To me, the premise is simple -
the only way to be relevant to a consumer or shopper is to understand the complete and total context:
- who are we talking with (THE RIGHT TARGET)
- where are they (THE RIGHT PLACE)
- what time of the day/week is it (THE RIGHT TIME)
- what is the most relevant "event" to talk with them (THE RIGHT OCCASION)
- what are they thinking about in this "space" (THE RIGHT MINDSET)
- what is the best vehicle to deliver the information (THE RIGHT MEDIA)
- what would really get them to pay attention (THE RIGHT NEED STATE)
- what do they already know about you and your brand (THE RIGHT INSIGHTS)

It seems to me that the only way to properly conduct marketing - especially Shopper Marketing - is not only to understand all the variables but also to leverage them to the fullest, most granular level. Thus the one-size-fits-all model of marketing is dead - you are either building awareness OR you are triggering a sale. Why not AND? Each piece of communication plays a deliberate role. And that role exists at the intersection of all the questions above. Even different areas/zones of the store will have a different message, in a different delivery media, with a different objective. For example, awareness and description at entrance of where the new product is located in store; a co-marketing opportunity out of category, an on-the-go message in deli, etc. And the out-of-store TV perhaps creates a drive-to-web where you can pick up a coupon and at the same time offer up some data for 1:1 CRM follow-up. You get the idea...

I believe Marshall McLuhan had it right when he said "The medium is the message." He was establishing the building-blocks of contextual marketing. That where and how the message is delivered is on the same importance level to the consumer as what you are saying in it. So the goal for us marketing strategists is to identify the optimal "contexts" for consumer/shopper engagement. These will become, in my opinion, AS IMPORTANT as the content.

This brings me to my first reading on Context Marketing - the distinction between content and context marketing. See what Jim Holbrook had to say about it here.

The question is then: what business are Marketers in today, content or context? Or both?

It seems to me that we have to become increasingly deliberate in strategically making the distinction based on the various objectives and contexts BUT that we have to learn to blur the lines in the execution.

The big advantage I see, especially in a recessionary period where marketing has to do more with less, is that we will begin to thin-slice what we are doing, truly questioning both the purpose and cost to ROI value of each component of the campaign. It is no longer acceptable to be a sponsor of an event if there is no take-away to drive the participant to store for a purchase. The upside of the economic situation will be to open a more candid and refreshing dialogue between the client and the agency about the client's marketing choices - is this the most efficient and effective way to get the biggest bang returns for your marketing bucks? I predict that as agency folk, and "true partners" in our clients' business growth, we will have increased visibility and opportunities to impact the yearly marketing plan. This will only come if we pro-actively undertake some due diligence in proving what are the best contexts to reach the right people, at the right time, in the right place, with the right media, with the right message.

Here is also an interesting link to Context Marketing's "What, Why and How."