Thursday, April 23, 2009

I have seen the future of branding and it is... Nine Inch Nails!?...

Ok... Not a huge fan of NIN the music, but I am now a huge fan of NIN the marketing machine. I think Trent Reznor and Rob Sheridan are really on the cutting edge of Integrated Marketing. They may not call it that but the simplicity and elegance in their understanding consumers and human truths to turn them into great marketing strategies with relevant and powerful tactical executions is a work of art. Listen below (and read the article here)...

The brilliance of their marketing integration begins with Reznor asking himself:
'What would I want if I were a fan?"
Fan, consumer, shopper, whatever... this is the epicenter of all good marketing.

Not to be a genius of the obvious, Reznor continues:
"How would I want to be treated?' Now let's work back from that. Let's find a way for that to make sense and monetize it."

WOW! What the consumer wants...working back from there...
What novel concepts. Yet, it is so ironic that many people in so-called marketing expert positions never start their marketing campaign from the simply obvious. Instead they look at it from THEIR marketing objectives identifying ways to exploit consumers.

Lesson here: observe, listen, understand, get inspired by what consumers are doing and then see how your brand can fit into their lives - let consumers exploit the brand. Read, make it theirs.

As I see it, it's not a brand for me until it becomes MY brand.

It is also a path of least resistance:
To build it out, Reznor decided to use off-the-shelf resources — Blogger, Twitter, FeedBurner, Flickr, YouTube — rather than trying to duplicate what other people had already created. 'They're going to do a better job than we are," he explains, "and they're going to have a lot more resources to put into it.'"

And the coup de grace: "We're using what people are already using every day anyway... It's media on the fans' terms, how they want to use it."

Lesson here: consumers are so overwhelmed by life they don't have time to add a new way to do things. So, forgo the "wanting a proprietary process/technology/system to make it ownable by the brand/company/etc." and instead focus on what works. Ask yourself: what works best for consumers so we can achieve ______?

But the real holy grail of marketing:
"There’s an enormous value in having a relationship with your fans, more value even than in selling your records." says Peter Jenner an ex-manager for Pink Floyd and The Clash.

Manufacturers and managers need to wake up to this reality: there is more value in having a relationship with your brand's consumers/advocates/fans/evangelists than selling product. In the end, as Reznor believes, people want to feel included in your brand experience. Connect them to each other because they are already connecting with you. There is more power in numbers.
So do as NIN does, post pictures of the audience they take from stage: "It was great," Reznor says: "People felt included. People kind of felt like they were getting postcards from us."

So my question is: are we creating our own marketing monster by trying to be too clever? Shouldn't it always be about understanding consumer/shopper behavior AND THEN seeing where the brand can fit in rather than the brand trying to make executions fit our needs?

I once read that the University of California system had built some new buildings. They then waited a year before landscaping and putting cemented paths from one to the other; they were looking to see what paths the students naturally took. The moral of the story is that they observed actual behavior and leveraged it for efficiency and effectiveness. They didn't base their decisions on a plan that looked good on a drawing in a boardroom - because it was convenient for the architect - they did it because it made sense from the "what would I want if I were walking across a campus" perspective.
This reduced immediate and long term costs,
was more intuitive and relevant, and people actually used it.

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