Posts Tagged 'planning for the future'

Social Brands – The eBook

I’ve written a variety of blog posts and presentations about Social Brands over the past few months, so I thought it would be sensible to bring all that content together in a single eBook.

So here it is: Social Brands: The Future Of Marketing.

The SlideShare deck above offers a handy preview, but you can download the complete eBook here.

Please do let me know what you think once you’ve had a read, and feel free to share the PDF with everyone you think might find it useful.

one night brand

Too much marketing takes a ‘one-night stand’ approach to building relationships.

The brand does all it can to get people’s attention – to seduce and woo them – only to ignore them the morning after.

But most of us already know that such an approach rarely establishes meaningful, long-term relationships.

Sooner or later, no matter how clever the tagline, or how single-minded the big idea, successful brands need to progress from courtship to a relationship.

And that requires a different approach.

It needs regular, two-way communication.

It needs compromise and understanding.

It needs trust.

And all of those require something more than a flashy new campaign every few months.

Sure, they’re a big part of courtship, but courtship is just the beginning.

Moving from lust to love requires us to show our audiences attention; not just for them to give it to us.

Let’s get serious.

the marketing blend

A few years ago, I went to hear Sasha play at Fabric in London.

It was awe-inspiring.

I’d always admired his DJ sets – the way he managed to move so seamlessly from one track to the next.

But this performance was different.

Until that night, I’d been used to hearing him select a series of great tunes and play them one after the other, with no obvious disharmony or rhythmic mismatch.

But from the very start of that set, it was clear something was different.

I couldn’t tell where one tune began and where it ended.

The mood and power of the set still built and progressed, but the music all blurred together into a dreamy sequence of beats and melodies.

He was playing small bits of different tracks wherever and whenever he chose.

He looped small sections of a record – sometimes just single bars – for minutes at a time, tweaking effects and EQ to build the emotion until the crowd were in a trance.

He was chopping up tunes to create new versions and even new music, right there in the DJ booth.

And suddenly, in one night, my view of DJing changed.

Progressive obsessive

It was like Sasha had put his tunes into a blender, rather than merely putting slices of them next to each other on a plate.

I subsequently discovered that he’d achieved this in large part thanks to new technology – namely Ableton Live and a bespoke Maven controller – but that didn’t change the impact of that set (indeed, I became an instant convert to Ableton, and use it to create my own studio sets)

Sasha had totally changed the game.

DJing was no longer just about beatmatching, or harmonic mixing, or even playing tunes no-one else had.

It was about using everything at the DJ’s disposal to create the perfect musical journey for that club and that crowd.

The records, the turntables, the mixer, the effects… they all became mere means to the single, coherent end of delivering the ultimate club experience.

I think we’re about to witness the same kind of shift in marketing.

Marketers as DJs

Until recently, marketers have been been perfecting the existing paradigm.

We’ve incrementally improved our approach to the 4Ps.

And we’re pretty good at it now: our beatmatching is pretty tight, we know which melodic keys work with which others, and we can navigate the mixer with our eyes closed.

We’ve pretty much mastered the marketing mix, and differentiation now comes down to who has access to the latest or rarest tunes.

But what if we took Sasha’s approach and applied it to marketing?

What if we saw all those marketing Ps as fluid ingredients that we can blend together to create a truly seamless journey?

The Marketing Blend

We’ve recognised the potential of integrated communications for some years now, but few (big) brands succeed in integrating the full spectrum of their marketing activities.

Most still approach each element of the mix separately; aspects such as distribution, pricing, R&D, PR, and sales are often handled by different teams with different agendas, egos, and KPIs.

But maybe that’s missing the magic.

Rather than merely integrating communications across channels, brands could integrate everything they do – the full marketing mix – into a single, holistic approach.

Examples

We’ve seen a few examples of this already.

The Domino’s example from last year was an interesting communication and distribution.

Similarly, this initiative from Gap uses a sales channel to communicate a clearly defined message and inspire immediate action at the same time.

Brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Innocent Smoothies and Nike all seem like they’re blending multiple elements of the mix too.

However, I’m not sure any of them has achieved that totally seamless mix.

Yet.

But it’s only a matter of time…

good vs evil

Most people believe that good will triumph over evil.

This optimism is a core tenet of humanity.

Indeed, it’s so ingrained that we often assume that ‘good’ and ‘evil’ will be easy to tell apart – like night and day.

Sometimes this is the case; some crimes can never be justified, while some acts are universally welcomed.

However, much of our world view dictates ‘good’ from ‘evil’ on a purely subjective basis.

For example, religion will likely always remain a matter of individual opinion.

The same is true of culture.

There’s little doubt that globalisation has led to a degree of homogenisation of attitudes and behaviour, and we’ve lost much cultural variety along the way.

But this is nothing new; the Greeks and the Romans are perfect evidence that even the strongest and most influential ‘civilisations’ rise and fall.

This is because culture and ideas are subject to the same principles of evolution as biological species: only the fittest survive.

And as with biology, the key to continued survival is genetic diversity.

This means we must draw from as many influences as possible, but at the same time, ensure that we do not distill everything into a single, homogeneous result.

I was reminded of this while watching a fantastic TED talk from Dan Dennett (below).

He approaches the topic of cultural propagation from a philosophical angle, but there’s a clear relevance to advertising and planning in there too.

For me, the abiding lesson is that our individual cutural and moral perspectives are never ‘good’ or ‘evil’.

They’re simply subjective perspectives.

planning for the future (5): less talk, more action

less talk more action

We all know that actions speak louder than words.

But many brands still focus the majority of their marketing spend on talking.

It’s time to redress the balance.

Rationale

Advertising does a good job of telling people things.

That’s fine if we want to raise a bit of awareness.

However, advertising frequently behaves like the pseudo-tailors in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes‘.

This clip sums up the reality of far too much marketing:

But in today’s hyperconnected communities, this ‘massive hyperbole’ approach no longer works.

No amount of advertising will make a bad product good.

It’s just too easy for people to spot a ‘naked’ brand, and to tell everyone else about it too.

More often than not, advertising isn’t the answer.

People want proof; not just claims.

So how can planning help?

We need to broaden our perspective.

We need to help brands understand what people really want, and then to identify the most profitable ways of delivering it to them.

We need to add value, from end to end: from informing R&D to inspiring customer service.

Key Benefit

If we give people what they really want, we won’t need to persuade them of anything; they’ll experience it for themselves.

Key Action

Allocate a minimum of 90% of your brand’s resource to identifying what people really want, and creating a solution that delivers it.

Use the remainder to demonstrate your brand experience to the people who are most passionate about its benefit.

If you’ve done the first bit right, they’ll do the rest for you.

Shaping the Future

Throughout this series on planning for the future, there’s been a recurring theme: how we can add real value.

If planning is to remain relevant, its role must evolve from promoting brands to actually delivering their benefits.

The new planning manifesto is simple:

less talk more action 2

The Rest of the ‘Planning for the Future’ Series

Introduction: a new planning manifesto

Use communications to deliver value: moving from advertising to adding value

It’s all about the benefits: a simple example of how to deliver a brand’s core benefit with a TV ad

Add CSR to everything you do: how contributing to the greater good can help your brand too

Blend the mix: towards more strategic distribution

Want to know more about planning for the future? Get in touch here.

planning for the future (4): blend the mix

blending the Ps

As we saw earlier this week, brand communications have the opportunity to evolve from a promotional tool, into a new avenue to deliver brand benefits.

However, this opportunity isn’t limited to communications; it can easily extend to the rest of the marketing mix too.

Rationale

When it comes to branding, everything communicates: packaging, purchase experience, and after-sales support all play critical roles in shaping people’s perceptions of our brand.

However, brands often approach these elements as distinct activities, and deliver a range of different experiences as a result.

To address this issue, brands need to adopt a more holistic perspective, aligning everything they do to a common objective.

This isn’t about image consistency; it’s about maximising the opportunities to actually deliver what people really want and need (another case of starting from your audience, not the brand)

As we move towards a more holistic approach to marketing, planners need to think beyond ‘advertising’ to identify the ways we can help marketers to blend the various ‘Ps‘ into a truly seamless mix.

Let’s start by looking at distribution.

Take it to them

One way planners can help is to fundamentally re-think the role brands play in people’s lives.

A big part of this is helping to shift the marketing mindset from selling products to selling benefits.

Let’s take FMCG brands as an example.

The vast majority of these are sold through conventional retail channels – supermarkets, drugstores, etc.

Withing these channels, many even have their own dedicated category ‘aisles’.

Until recently, our concept of ‘innovation’ in distribution has been to locate brands in different parts of the store, like putting men’s toiletries next to the beer.

This is a good start, because it starts to think about people as they think about their needs.

But brands don’t belong to just one distribution environment.

Indeed, many FMCG brands have evolved beyond their core product offerings to become ‘lifestyle’ choices, and consequently, their relevance extends far beyond the supermarket shelf.

For this reason, I’d argue that a brand like Axe would be much more at home in a Diesel store than it is in the aisles of Walmart.

Furthermore, it could really come to life in nightclub bathrooms and gym locker rooms.

So what does this have to do with planners?

The answer lies in value delivery.

Getting involved in distribution strategy doesn’t fall into the traditional planner’s realm of influence, but demonstrating and delivering the brand’s benefits at the times of greatest relevance lies at the core of a new planning manifesto:

Identifying the most relevant and engaging times and places to deliver specific brand benefits, and the most efficient and effective ways to deliver those benefits in that context.

If planners are to help brands create real value, they need to get involved with all aspects of the marketing mix.

Key Benefit

Developing a distribution strategy around delivery of brand benefits helps build brand equity at the same time as expanding sales and revenue opportunities.

It also enables brands to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with other like-minded brands.

Alongside these growth opportunities, a unified ‘one brand‘ approach allows brands to reduce costs by harnessing operational synergies.

Key Action

Rather than limiting our thinking to conventional retail norms, we should re-examine the times and places where our brands’ benefits have the greatest relevance, and use this as the basis for developing distribution strategies instead.

Previous posts in the ‘planning for the future’ series

Introduction: a new planning manifesto

Use communications to deliver value: moving from advertising to adding value

It’s all about the benefits: a simple example of how to deliver a brand’s core benefit with a TV ad

Add CSR to everything you do: how contributing to the greater good can help your brand too.

planning for the future (3): add CSR to everything you do

add csr to everything

Monday’s introduction to planning for the future highlighted an exciting shift in advertising’s role:

“Rather than simply interrupting [people's] escapism, we now have greater scope to make [their] lives better.”

Today’s suggestion – to incorporate an element of CSR into everything you do – continues this logic:

If brands are to become a meaningful part of people’s lives, they need to enrich those people’s lives too.

Rationale

Give, and you shall receive

This applies equally well to brands as it does to people; indeed, many of the world’s great brands were born on the principle of cooperation.

Lever Brothers built the foundations of today’s Unilever on the principle of ‘doing well by doing good’.

Similarly, Cadbury created an entire social eco-system for its workforce around the company’s factory in Bournville – an approach rooted in the Quaker ideal of mutual benefit.

For some reason, this ‘considerate’ approach to business went out of fashion for many years, reaching a low point in the corporate greed of the 1980s.

However, a renewed focus on ‘Corporate Social Responsibility‘ (CSR) became popular in the 90s, and brands today cannot justify a lack of broader conscientiousness.

But CSR isn’t just a ploy to enrich the company’s annual report.

Indeed, simply throwing money at a charity can often seem more like an acknowledgment of guilt than genuine concern.

For CSR to be effective, brands must demonstrate a real commitment to driving change and helping people.

This is most effective when the area of CSR focus relates to the brand’s core purpose and expertise, and integrates with the brand’s overall marketing.

For example, while I’d applaud a petroleum brand that donated 10% of its profits to feeding the poor, I’d admire and celebrate that brand much more if they invested the same amount of money in developing ecologically balanced sources of energy that ensured a brighter future for everyone, not just their shareholders.

However, it’s often difficult to justify that kind of longer-term CSR to shareholders, who invariably demand results today (and not 30 years down the line).

The good news is that CSR is a powerful and effective way to build a successful brand – a financial benefit that even myopic shareholders can relate to.

This is because CSR has the ability to create much deeper connection and engagement than broadcast advertising ever could; by helping communities and society at large, brands can demonstrate that they’re on the side of the people, and that helps to establish a more powerful bond.

So how can brands make best use of CSR opportunities?

Let’s return to the Run London example from yesterday’s post.

Nike incorporates a significant ‘community’ element in each iteration of this event (and indeed in much of its broader marketing).

For starters, all participants are encouraged to raise money for charity through sponsorship.

Other initiatives, such as Nike’s ReUse-A-Shoe Program, take the concept of CSR even further:

Benefit

Feeling good about a brand makes it much easier for people to justify choosing it over alternatives.

Furthermore, genuine CSR inspires people to talk about the brand, driving word of mouth and amplifying ROI.

Action

Identify as many relevant opportunities as you can for your brand to give something back to its communities, and assign a meaningful portion of your brand’s resource – money and effort – to delivering these contributions.

Previous posts in the ‘planning for the futureseries

Introduction: a new planning manifesto

Use communications to deliver value: moving from advertising to adding value

It’s all about the benefits: a simple example of how to deliver a brand’s core benefit with a TV ad

it’s all about the benefits

I couldn’t resist sharing this great example of how to bring a brand’s core benefit to life.

As we’ve seen before, Cadbury Dairy Milk is all about little moments of everyday happiness.

This short film brings the simple beauty of that benefit to life, with every single frame delivering ‘a glass and a half full of joy’:

Thanks to Simon for sharing the video.

planning for the future (2): use communications to deliver value

add value to everything

In yesterday’s introduction to planning for the future, we saw that planning is evolving into:

The process of identifying the most relevant and engaging times and places to deliver specific brand benefits, and the most efficient and effective ways to deliver those benefits in that context.

The first step in this evolution involves a fundamental shift in how we view brand communications.

Rather than merely promoting other forms of value delivery like products, brand communications can become a viable means to deliver benefits of their own.

Rationale

People don’t actually buy products or brands; they buy things that enable them to achieve specific aims.

As a consequence, brands that help people to achieve their aims more comprehensively are more attractive, and therefore more valuable.

Planning can help add to this value by enabling brands to create more opportunities to satisfy.

Our challenge is to turn every single interaction – including communications – into an opportunity to help people achieve their aims.

Nike already champions this approach.

It understands that people don’t buy ‘sportswear’; they buy things that enable them to participate in sporting activities.

So the brand focuses on creating more opportunities for people to enjoy those activities.

Run London is a great example, creating deeper engagement not just with the brand, but also with running:

Run London doesn’t just build engagement either: over 30,000 participants pay to take part, and the event generates more than £1million in revenue.

Given this, it’s easy to understand why Nike employs the same approach in football with Joga3, and in fitness with the Rockstar Workout.

Benefit

When everything a brand does helps people to satisfy their wants, needs, and desires, it becomes a much more valuable part of their lives.

Action

Identify the core benefit that your brand offers, and then identify ways to deliver it through every interaction – including communications.

planning for the future

hearts and minds

Planning is the process of identifying the most efficient and effective ways for brands to share the things they want with the people that matter to them most.

Until recently, that has translated into identifying the most compelling ‘big brand ideas’, and then broadcasting them to apparently homogeneous audiences through conventional mass-media.

However, this approach no longer delivers the results we need.

Contrary to the laments of the media industry, this is not because attention has become more scarce; indeed, people actually have more free time now than they used to.

The real issue is that people have more opportunities to participate in a wider variety of activities, and unsurprisingly, they are choosing to focus their attention on those activities which offer them the greatest rewards.

In place of some of the time they used to spend ‘fire gazing’ – escaping the boredom and drudgery of everyday life – people are increasingly harnessing their cognitive surplus to learn and grow.

This more varied behaviour means that ‘audiences’ are increasingly dispersed: fewer people are doing the same thing at the same time, and mass-media are increasingly less ‘mass’ as a result.

However, this actually presents more opportunities than it does problems.

Rather than simply interrupting people’s escapism, we now have greater scope to get involved and make their lives better.

But, in order to achieve this, we need to rethink our approach to brand communications.

We need to move away from planning that centres on people’s ‘media habits’, and focus instead on the things that people are trying to achieve through those habits.

In other words, we need to ask why people do what they do, not just what they do.

Once we understand people’s motivations, we’ll find it much easier to find more relevant roles for our brands:

If people want passive entertainment, how can we help with that?

If they want to learn something new, what role can we play?

If they have a challenge, how can we help them solve it?

Brand communications can evolve into a means to deliver actual value, rather than simply a means to promote other forms of value delivery.

The benefit offered can be as simple as passive entertainment, but interactive experiences, education, and even corporate social responsibility (CSR) hold even greater potential.

In line with this evolving quest for people’s hearts and minds, planning’s role needs to evolve too, becoming

The process of identifying the most relevant and engaging times and places to deliver specific brand benefits, and the most efficient and effective ways to deliver those benefits in that context.

Over the next few days, I’ll share some ideas that can help make that future a reality.



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