Category Archives: branding

How You Handle Social Media With Your Staff Will Become Key To Success With Your Customers

Marketing 101.

Please bear with me. I need to remind you of some of the accepted basics before I try to make my point.

In Marketing 101 we learn that the key to successful marketing is for a Brand to have a clear, quite distinct Positioning which expresses its Benefit, along with a unique Identity which distinguishes it from its competitors.

The Positioning must be relevant to how targets view  the category. The Benefit must be based on insights into what the targets need or want. The Identity and how it, the Benefit and the Positioning are expressed in Marketing Communications all need to work in harmony, informed by insights into how the targets consume Media.

The result is that targets should recognize how our Brand is different from competitors in our category, will see clearly how using our Brand will Benefit them and that they will remember what our Brand looks like and stands for when next they are in the market for the good or service we sell. All this is revealed to them through wisely crafted Marketing Communications efficiently transmitted to them through a cost efficient selection of Media.

Wake Up!

Some time in the near future this is going to sound delightfully quaint when a museum docent is lecturing on marketing history. Why?

We’ve Started Finding & Switching Brands Through Our Social Graph.

The most powerful marketing medium has always been Word Of Mouth (WOM). We generally distrust commissioned salesmen, in person or in the media, but we trust our friends with whom we share a vested interest in mutual safety and happiness.

Nielsen Company April 2009

(Apologies. This is blurry on the WordPress page. Click the image for a crisp view in your browser.)

Now with the social media at our disposal we can very quickly tell our friends, who tell their other friends while people we don’t know at all find our comments through a hashtag and so on and so on… Good news, or bad, it gets out there quickly and with no brakes, parachutes or warnings.

Your Customers As First Line Brand Advocates.

Your brands have always been represented by the very people you are marketing to, whether they speak well, or ill, of your brands. The difference is that now they can tell the world in 5 minutes with a couple of clicks. iWOM.

What they say gets reposted or re-tweeted and soon you have more reach and frequency than you ever imagined. All un-paid for. Earned media. You have no control over the content of those messages once they are out there, but you can build a good foundation to limit the amount of problems you could end up with.

Your Staff, Colleagues & The ‘Net Promoter Score’.

How you recruit and treat your staff and how you engage them with your brands through Internal Marketing needs to become a key part of your earned media marketing strategy. So is loosening up your company’s rules about using social media at work.

Several companies including very large and famous ones have started to use the Net Promoter Score as a measure of how the company is doing. It works like this.

A survey is done throughout the company, anonymously, and it asks only one simple question: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?” The answer is a rating on a scale from 0 to 10. There is a strong positive correlation between high NPS scores and strong company financial performance.

Giving Everyone The Means To Market Your Brands

Your own staff and colleagues can be upgraded from responding to an internal NPS questionnaire to being part of your sales and marketing team because they are people first, before they are employees and they increasingly socialise and comment online.

Treat them well, educate them honestly and transparently about your brands, give them guidance on the verbal branding  – the way your Brand speaks – and they will be able to contribute to, engage with and when necessary rebut anything they find online about your Brand. You won’t have to hire a “social media manager”, dump it on the intern or beg the CEO’s executive assistant.

The reality is, your staff and colleagues are going to do some of this anyway. Wouldn’t you be wiser to equip them properly?

There is one fundamental to all this and it comes down to your organization’s leadership and culture. Hire good people, treat them well, empower them to be Brand Advocates no matter what their job in the company, and you are off to a great start.

Treat them badly, lie to them about your brand, ignore the opportunity to make them online advocates and you deserve to suffer the consequences.

Remember, 5 minutes and couple of clicks is all it takes.

How Service Quality Can Make Or Break Your Brand With A Little Help From Social Media.

One of the last remaining weapons a brand has left to fight competitors with, is service. When there’s no real difference but the logo and the company behind it, it all comes down to how you reward or punish people for choosing you. See, I said people. Not customers, or consumers, or users, or clients. People.

People are real. They have feelings. They work hard for their money and they decide carefully how to spend it on most things. When something goes wrong with the service they paid for or the product they bought, they need help. You owe it to them.

Help does not mean waiting for half an hour in an automated call queue listening to canned muzak and being told every 30 seconds that the next available person will attend to one. Help does not mean getting through to someone in Bangalore reading from a script with no experience of the product or service and no way to solve one’s problem beyond grinding through a script. That is not Help. That is not service. That is torture.

Help is someone coming to one’s assistance who knows what one needs and can deliver on it immediately, or pretty soon thereafter. And get this, Help is part of your Brand.

If you choose the alternate path,  Torture becomes part of your brand.

The reality of managing a brand in the Social Media era is that your efforts to Help or Torture will not go unremarked upon and it is becoming easier to spread those remarks all the time.

They will appear across the Twitterverse, on YouTube, in Facebook, as Foursquare comments and in blogs and forums available everywhere. And there is nothing you can do to stop it.

So be nice. Or Fail.

If you don’t believe me, watch this:

And in case WordPress didn’t serve that to you well, search United Breaks Guitars on YouTube and follow the series.

Ad Industry Leaders Storm the Exits and Start Innovative Marketing Communications Companies.

Thermal Image LED lamp. ©NatGeo/Tyrone Taylor/WWF

Escape To Entrepreneurship

Increasing numbers of senior people are quitting their ad industry jobs. Some out of sheer frustration or exhaustion, but others are starting innovative new marketing communications firms. This is a critical time for an industry in desperate need of reinvention. By joining & supporting these start-ups we can help build a better industry of Marketing Communications Professional Services.

Nine months ago in “Leadership, Management & The Rising Tide”  I wrote of the 150% jump in already employed people looking for jobs. There were 3 main reasons for the surge:

1. my company is going nowhere and our management is clueless at the helm;

2. our bosses keep beating us up because their bosses keep beating them up;

3. my company retrenched so many colleagues I can’t stand working here.

Most wanted a new job because their managers were too useless, too awful, or had damaged companies too badly for quality people to want to work near them any longer. What had been a growing problem before was magnified by the pressures of the Great Recession. Poor managers had been shown up and quality people wanted out!

Now that the economies of many countries are improving and marketers are increasing their communications budgets, people are on the move as predicted. However, there is now a further and more vital driver of their movement – the Escape To Entrepreneurship.

Talented Leaders Are Quitting, but not Leaving.

In June 2009, Omnicom announced Michael Birkin’s resignation as Vice-Chairman of Omnicom Group Inc and CEO of Omnicom Asia-Pacific. Birkin is no holding company leech. He was global CEO of Interbrand for 8 years, during which he invented their Brand Valuation model. He sold Interbrand to Omnicom, who were so impressed they made him head of Omnicom’s Diversified Agency Services division – half the revenues of the entire holding company, then later, CEO of Omnicom Asia-Pacific.

Last month Birkin launched The Red Peak Group. Brand Strategy & Design, Experiential, CRM, Sponsorship… Their clients? Anheuser-Busch, Intel, McDonald’s, Sony Ericsson… Birkin isn’t just the CEO. He’s hands-on as their Chief Strategist and leader of the Intel relationship. How many other CEOs, Presidents and similarly rewarded heavies can you say that about? Most clock few if any billable hours against paying clients. Ask any agency group CFO.

Last week the two top leaders of JWT North America quit to start their own company. Colleagues in JWT and seniors in WPP expressed surprise; even shock. There was probably envy and shame too.

Recently, self-styled “working class heroes” Iris Nation relocated their founder CEO and several top leaders to Asia. They have made it clear they’re not your average UK- or US-centric network. They know where their future revenues, and retirement funds, will come from and have the independence and wisdom to act on it.

Ad agency leaders feel like they’ve been tossed in a river with their arms and legs bound. They get no respite from holding company strictures, so the best they can hope to achieve is to keep their heads above water and be carried down-stream. It’s soul-destroying and prevents them delivering the service improvements marketers need. Rumours are now circulating of breakaway talks among top mar-comms industry leaders, and those talks are including marketers who are equally frustrated with the situation.

Entrepreneurship To The Rescue

There has always been a healthy trend of entrepreneurship in the marketing communications industry. A steady flow of visionaries, and of the frustrated, leaving to do their own thing. It used to keep the industry fresh, creative and adapted to the changing world, but in recent years too much of that innovative energy has been siphoned off into holding company acquisitions and management service fees.

Many of the best brains in the business work in the holding companies which acquired their businesses. From there they can do little, despite all their talent and skill, to reinvent the industry that made them rich and famous. These are the people who have done it before, know how to succeed, have the money to break away again and are a powerful force for good in starting or helping new ventures in marketing communications.

Rumours are that more of these, like Birkin, are starting to move en masse. If so, that’s great news. It couldn’t come at a better time to save the marketing communications industry.

Critically, marketing communications entrepreneurs must address the 7 pressing issues of:

1. Delivering consulting grade recommendations with fully integrated planning, technology, content management and business building ideas;

2. Getting paid fairly for all that despite the rise of qualitatively illiterate Procurement departments;

3. Tracking and proving the value they add, instead of just winging it old-school style, which will help keep Procurement at bay;

4. Recruiting, training and retaining top quality people including industry outsiders with the new skills needed – content strategy, mobile technology, data analytics and visualization & neuroscientific research included;

5. Rewarding all their people honestly and properly for their efforts;

6. Staffing to the right levels instead of driving their people to exhaustion, stress, despair and depression, none of which produces great thinking, unique ideas or added value and;

7. Resisting the temptation to sell to one of the holding companies as the exit strategy. A good-sized block of stock in a thriving independent will make a much better retirement annuity.

It takes the right people in the right environment with time to think and work things through to deliver a professional service. Pressure, fear and panic give bad advice.

Treat them any other way and quality, professional people simply storm the exits.

How Punk Capitalism and the Brand Experience Mashup will Change the Ad Industry Forever.

Ads & Mashups.

©Yahoo 2006

Researching my previous post a word from the 4As Transformations 2010 website blurb stood out.

“Mash-up” (sic).

For many in the ad field, “mashup” probably brings to mind dance mixes of vocals, instrumentals and samples from different styles and cultures. Or maybe Google Earth.

Here’s the current entry in Wikipedia: “The term mashup originated in web development. It is a web page or application that uses or combines data or functionality from two or many more external sources to create a new service.”

Please study that and remember it.

Marketers & Ad Agencies Stimied by Silos.

Territorial silos, top management ignorance and a lack of leadership pulling it together made the ad agency business fall apart. Here’s a recent comment from Bob Jeffrey, Chairman and Worldwide CEO of JWT, first having a “go” at marketers for their silos:

“My hope is that the recession will have been a huge wake-up call to clients with regard to that siloed mentality. It’s not only inefficient from a cost-savings perspective, but the more you collapse the silos, the more integration you drive, ultimately leading to a more effective environment in which to deliver better ideas and stronger creative output.”

Then Jeffrey hammered ad agencies too:

“[Agencies] need to know when to compete and when to collaborate. Agencies are inherently territorial, tribal and competitive, but it’s critical to take an agnostic, less ego-centric approach to collaboration, and to have a bigger view of the world and the direction in which the world is heading if agencies are to achieve the ultimate goal of making their clients successful.” (Campaign, #worldview blog).

Punk Capitalism & Breaking Down The Barriers.

In his brilliant “The Pirate’s Dilemma – how youth culture is invigorating capitalism” Matt Mason wrote “Our world today is starting to look a lot more like a punk gig (okay, maybe with slightly less spitting). The barriers to entry are being kicked down, and this new breed of fans-turned-performers, including you, is rushing the world stage. Technology is cheap; information is everywhere; the roadies are gone (who takes advice from roadies anyway?). The only thing left to do is to stop defining ourselves by the old hierarchy and run up onstage.” This is the world of search, social media and street art; of YouTube , Twitter and Mark Ecko “tagging Airforce One“.

Frans Johansson, innovation author of The Medici Effect saw how the Medicis catalyzed the Renaissance by breaking down barriers between different fields and cultures, allowing art, architecture and humanism to thrive. Think Michaelangelo and Da Vinci.

Johansson’s thesis is that knowledge about a specific field leads us to put up “associative barriers” around that knowledge. “They inhibit our ability to think broadly. We do not question assumptions as readily, we jump to conclusions faster and create barriers to alternate ways of thinking about a particular situation.” The silos develop and we lose our way.

Professor Andy Miah, editor of “Human Futures: Art In An Age Of Uncertainty” puts it like this: “We no longer need [just] specialist knowledge but trans-disciplinary creative solutions”.

The Brand Experience Mashup.

So, how does the Brand Experience Mashup become the future of the ad business? That a mashup “combines data or functionality from two or many more external sources to create a new service” is the key.

The brand communications industry isn’t working well for marketers or its own staff and shareholders. Partly because the bits don’t like working together and largely because the old-school mentality can’t unleash and re-combine the power of their disciplines, in the holding companies that control them, to change that.

Each holding company has the parts needed. They remain siloed in agency brands, with their own P&Ls and little vision beyond their omphalos. WPP tried to combine those bits and produced the ill-fated Enfatico of 2009 and the earlier Team Samsung of 2004 – an unwieldy 6 company clash of egos and territoriality which lost Samsung in under a year to Leo Burnett. A single agency.

Credit to WPP that they keep trying. The lesson is it’ll take radical restructuring, not just a Newco and corporate duct-tape, to create what’s needed.

Remixing the past won’t deliver the changes needed for brands and their communications to create real value. What is needed is a sustainable, continuous cycle of creating, hearing and responding to feedback about, and creating further brand experiences. That means, as Sean Boyle said in the video I linked to last week, “Instead of taking 8 months to do one thing, we need to do 8 things in one month!”

Full Service Agency Redux Is Not The Answer.

The Brand Experience Mashup is a new kind of service through a different organization probably bearing little resemblance to an ad agency and perhaps looking more like a professional services firm with long tails of content creators.

Corporate Mashups & Why Holding Companies Can’t.

Real progress in building value through communications for any brand will require those organizations to be corporate mashups; designed to bring all the fields together on one client-centered P&L for brand centered results. Design, media, retail, PR, digital, data analytics, promotions, sponsorship, WOM… the lot!

The focus to make this work is simply The Brand User.

Everything about brand experience must be built around real insights and true understanding from deep knowledge and ongoing interaction with brand users.

We are starting to see suggestions of how to build brand experience businesses this way. With crowdsourcing and expertsourcing, innovation and leadership and learning from  professional services firms, from hackers, hip-hop and pirates.

A superior brand support industry will develop because brands need it and because free-thinking innovators, driven to find new and better ways unconstrained by current structures, will create it.

The holding companies may seem to have all the pieces but they also seem to be stuck in all the wrong configurations. It will be interesting to see if those legacy investments can be pulled apart and recombined to survive and continue to serve their shareholders.

Creative Services & The Vicious Cycle of Procurement

ouroboros_by_Saki_BlackWing

ouroboros by Saki BlackWing

Creative services aren’t generic.

They are unique. They have to be. Without uniqueness they can’t add value. That goes for content like advertising, design, games, on-line worlds and music. It goes for idea based consulting like branding, communications and media strategy and the plans to implement them.

Their uniqueness depends on the backgrounds, experience, inspiration and leadership of the people creating them. They are creations of unique individuals for unique circumstances.

Experience and the ability to produce high quality, unique creative ideas set salaries for those who create them. The less one is prepared to pay, the lower the quality one should expect.

The increasing role of procurement in buying creative and strategy services from advertising, media planning and branding industries may indeed save marketers some money, but can have undesirable consequences.

Not least the loss of the very thing that makes creative services valuable – their unique ability to add value to the procurer’s business.

The result? As procurement drives down the cost of buying those services it will drive down their value. With that will come dissatisfaction with those services, canceling of contracts and the appointment of the next low cost bidder. The vicious cycle will continue and the problem will worsen.

The solution? Innovations in procurement to correctly value creative services. This is easier in the on-line space where accountability is high. Off-line it may take longer.

At the same time the providers of creative services must improve leadership, innovation and accountability to improve their ability to deliver and value what they do.

Finally, both sides must realize they share  the common goal of adding higher value to brands and their owners through superior creative ideas and innovation.