Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Big Data and Customer Targeting

Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media and networking websites coupled with smartphone GPS, AI and big data analytics allows the marketer to target customers in a way that was never possible before. 

Not only can the marketer target based on demographics, psychographics and physical location but also on intangibles such as highly correlated behaviors, purchases, web searches, affiliations, etc. 

So first, through factor analysis, cluster analysis and other big data analytics, you need to discover what correlates most closely with the purchase of your brand. Once you have discovered this, then you need to find ways to target people with those attributes. This allows for hyper-efficient targeting that makes old fashioned media planning seem quaint. 

Sometimes it is as easy as using the Facebook platform to run a highly targeted ad. At other times, you have to be creative about how to reach people with certain attributes.  

The beauty of this approach is that you can send very specific messages to each target group or segment. Each message will focus on the angle that will most appeal to people in that group or segment. 

Microtargeting is a related concept. it is the use by political parties and election campaigns of direct marketing datamining techniques that involve predictive market segmentation (aka cluster analysis). It is used by United States Republican and Democratic political parties and candidates to track individual voters and identify potential supporters. The term "microtargeting" was coined in 2002 by political consultant Alexander P. Gage.

When you combine prospect location with targeted messages on mobile phones you are entering the realm of geo-fencing and geo-targeting. Because I know A and B about you and because I know that correlates with an interest in my product and brand and because I know you are in a physical location proximate to where my brand is available for purchase, I will send you a highly personalized alert using the most compelling message for you indicating that I will give you an incentive to purchase my brand now. For an example of this, click here.

While brands need to be managed at a global level, increasingly they need to be marketed at an individual level. With today's tools, that is becoming more and more possible. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Give the Gift of Brand Aid!

'I am a huge fan of Brand Aid #2 and have been using it in my keystone graduate class called IMC 463 Brand Communications Decisions. I feel your book is one of the most practical and valuable books ever written about brands. I love the checklists and remind the students that your book is my graduation gift to them because it is a resource they will find useful every day they are developing, managing or increasing the value of brands.'

John Greening, Associate Professor at Northwestern University in Evanston IL heading up the Brand Management specialization in the Graduate Medill Integrated Marketing Communications Program

‘VanAuken has distilled his enormous practical knowledge about the theory and practice of brand management into this smart…volume. The book is packed with information and good ideas – so many, in fact, that it is virtually an encyclopedia of brand management does and don’ts’

Publishers Weekly

‘Of all the books I’ve read on marketing and branding, this one is the shining star! I’ll also go out on a limb and assert that it’s one of the best books I’ve seen published by AMACOM.’

Roger E. Herman, Midwest Book Review

'Powerful yet intangible, a brand is the personification of your organization. Learn to build, nurture, and grow a strong brand that inspires people, forges emotional bonds, and moves customers to insist on buying your brand.

This book guides you through the entire branding process, from using social media effectively to linking your brand to human needs.'

Advertising Educational Foundation

Purchase Brand Aid at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Industry Game Changers

Over time, there have been a large number of industry game changers. They completely disrupt an industry and often put even dominant share leaders out of business. As examples:

  • The Ford Model T largely put horse and buggies out of business
  • Computers replaced typewriters
  • Vacation timeshares created a whole new industry, as did timeshares of private jets
  • The Internet made the world a whole lot smaller
  • Digital photography replaced film-based photography
  • Smart phones have far surpassed any functionality Star Trek imagined for its communicator device and have largely replaced land lines
  • Robots are replacing more and more manufacturing jobs
  • Airbnb is disrupting the hotel industry
  • Uber and Lyft are giving taxicab companies a run for their money
  • Zipcar car sharing has changed things as has Zagster bike sharing
  • Amazon.com and other online retailers are making shopping malls obsolete
  • Self-driving cars will play havoc with a number of industries
  • AI and medical diagnostic learning systems are already replacing Internists in remote areas
  • Eventually, people's vitals will be routinely measured and fed back to health care monitoring systems
  • Stem cell research is leading to organ regeneration techniques
  • Photonics may one day replace silicon chips
  • E-learning may one day replace the way colleges and universities deliver their services
  • With energy storage improvements, it may become routine for individual residences to be self-contained regarding their energy usage
  • With energy storage improvements, electric vehicles may just upend gasoline powered vehicles
  • A break-through in hydrogen fuel cells will have a similar impact on the petroleum industry

So, what are some of the disruptors one should consider?
  • Any Internet-enabled business
  • Any business that benefits from network effects
  • Any business that is scalable
  • Anything that can create disintermediation
  • Any business model that allows for the sharing of specific resources
  • Any new source of energy
  • Any receptor that can detect a new bandwidth of energy along the electromagnetic spectrum
  • Any technology that allows for increased storage of energy
  • Any human activity that can be replaced by robots
  • Any expertise that can be replicated by AI and learning systems
  • Any new mobile phone application that can replace something else

And what are some of the critical skills required to create marketplace disruptions?
  • An entrepreneurial mindset
  • Out-of-the-box thinking
  • Risk-taking
  • Software expertise
  • Internet proficiency
  • Systems thinking
  • Design thinking
  • Some minimum proficiency in science and technology
  • Broad exposure to a wide variety of disciplines

Brand Manager's Span of Influence

A brand is experienced at each customer touch point. So, the brand's perceptions are created, reinforced or diminished at each customer touch point. And given that a brand must consistently deliver on its promise wherever it is encountered, this argues for an extremely large span of influence for the brand manager. 

As an example, consider banking. The brand touch points include, but are not limited to, ATMs, the branch locations including drive-through banking, online banking, online customer support and telephone customer support. But it also extends to interactions with loan officers, wealth managers and other specialists. And, of course, there are the typical marketing communication touch points, which may be executed differently for each product and service. 

How then does the brand manager make sure the loan officer or wealth manager is operating "on brand"? What if a particular branch location is performing its own outreach to its customers? Is that outreach "on brand"? Is the design of the ATM experience "on brand"? What if different types of ATM machines are used at different locations? Does this lack of consistency hurt the brand?

While brand managers can influence brand identity accuracy and consistency through brand identity guidelines, digital asset management systems and cross-functional brand identity management councils, it is less easy to influence all customer-facing or customer-impacting processes or systems. Some are impacted by IT professionals and purchasing agents, both of whom are typically far removed from the end consumer. 

This is where influence on organization culture and employee training can help. If brand positioning and strategies are communicated to all employees through new employee and new manager training, it helps. It also helps to establish ongoing employee updates about the brand. And it also helps to build brand metrics into common measures and balanced scorecards. Alignment of personal objectives to brand objectives may be necessary for certain key employees. Organization-wide recognition and reward systems for brand reinforcing behaviors can also help. 

This wide span of influence implies that a brand manager should possess the following qualities to be highly successful:
  • High emotional intelligence
  • Good listening skills
  • Strong verbal and written communication and persuasion skills
  • The ability to subtly influence others
  • Friendly assertiveness
  • A good understanding of other business functions including organization design, finance and general management
  • Systems design thinking

Remember, as a brand manager, you are more than a brand identity expert or a marketing communications specialist. You are the general manager of a brand, requiring you to think and act very broadly - like a general manager.  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tapping Into Self-Esteem Affirming Symbols

Winning a cheerleading contest. Spending time with a cousin on a sailboat. Attending a prestigious university. Winning a fiction writing contest. Traveling across the ocean on an ocean liner. Performing as a soloist in the church choir. Spending Christmas Eve with your family. Scoring the winning goal in a hockey game. Riding with a neighbor in his sports car. Hanging out with your cousins at your uncle's country club's pool. Spending time with your family pet. Being attended to by a compassionate nurse while in the hospital. All of these can create fond memories, memories that are linked to a particular vocation, avocation, activity, organization or group of people. Then, in your adult life you gravitate toward these again as they make you feel good. They tap into those previous fond memories. Or, perhaps they were your one touch-point with happiness or prestige. Maybe they are associated with the one time that you felt best about yourself. 

So, a church, a sport, a breed of dog, a hobby, a club membership, a profession, a place or even a specific color can evoke fond memories. Or, perhaps more than that, they can evoke a sense of belonging, safety, self worth, status or prestige.

A marketer's role is to discover and tap into these affirming symbols of personal well-being. Is the symbol a beach, a pet, a family dinner, a season, a certain type of architecture, an automobile brand or something else?

People pursue hobbies (genealogy, sailing, dressage, baseball card collecting, comedy improv, etc.) and careers (an engineer, a nurse, a doctor, an architect, an artist, a professional musician, a marine biologist, etc.) based on these early life experiences. 

Do you know which symbols make people feel each of the following:

  • Safe
  • Happy
  • Contented
  • Important
  • Purposeful
  • Respected
  • Successful
  • Smart
  • Powerful
  • Free and unencombered
  • On top of the world

Consider how early life experiences factor into creation of the "ideal self" as one matures. This will help you tap into something very deep and emotionally compelling. The symbols and elements can be integrated to the brand's advertising and perhaps the brand experience itself. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Brands & Tribalism

As in the television program, Cheers, everyone wants to belong somewhere.  Everyone wants to call some place home. Nuclear and extended families have always been tribes. Often, churches are tribes. Some times, towns are tribes. Schools can be tribes. Increasingly, political parties are tribes. Is your state a blue state or red state? You may be part of the NRA tribe or perhaps you are a part of the Tesla tribe. Maybe you are a part of the Wall Street tribe. Or maybe you are a part of the super yacht tribe. You could be proud to be called a tree hugger. Or maybe you feel completely comfortable with the redneck label. 

Recently, a growing number nation states are shying away from regional and global alliances to retreat to their nation-state tribes. And sometimes people feel more comfortable in their state or local tribe. Witness Texas or Vermont or Quebec. Or how about Portlandia or "The City" (New York) or the "Hub" (Boston)? Everyone knows Austin is intent on keeping itself weird. And everyone knows what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. And, as the recent emergence of hate groups have brought to light, some people only feel comfortable with people of their own race and are intent on dehumanizing people of other races. 

This all get down to personal identity, comfort and feeling safe. Often, we fear what we don't know. At a minimum, many of us feel uncomfortable in places that seem alien to us. For instance, some people may not feel comfortable in an upscale specialty store that requires one to be buzzed in. While others may not feel comfortable at a hockey game or in a trailer park. Many people may not feel comfortable where confederate flags are flying, while others may not feel comfortable at a black tie gala. City folks may feel scared in the country while country folks may feel scared in a big city. And, if you are in a tribe, it is easier to place blame on the other tribe rather than take personal responsibility for an outcome. And most of us enjoy having an enemy or two. I remember wearing at hat that was given me at "The Game" (Harvard vs. Yale football). It said "Go Harvard Yale Sucks." At the same game, they were also passing out a variation of that hat: "Go Yale Harvard Sucks."

Brands can play off of tribalism in a variety of ways. They can appeal to a specific tribe such as Tesla, FOX News, MSNBC, The Peninsula Hotels, Duck Dynasty, Orvis or Carhart. Or increasingly, they can appeal to a much broader view of the world in which one reaches out across tribes. Witness these recent ads: 

A spiritual counselor once told me that to reach a deeply awakened state your embrace needs to be unbounded. That is, your loving kindness and compassion needs to be unconditional and unbounded. Rather than a response of judgment and condemnation, the response should be one of empathy, understanding and caring. Put another way, you have only truly arrived home when your concept of tribe is as wide as the universe. 

So whether your brand aligns itself with a specific tribe or two or whether it is one of the more enlightened brands that encourages one to extend one's reach across tribes, the notion of tribalism is useful for brand managers to understand and use. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

What's Your Brand's Buzz?

A brand is owned in the minds of its customers. So, what is your brand in their minds? Do you know?  If not, do you know where to go to find out? You can always use marketing research, but today, the Internet provides an unfiltered ongoing look into your customer's minds. And it is as simple as monitoring what is said about your brand on several different websites. Some websites even let you respond to your customers comments and address their concerns. 

So, where should you look online? Start here:

  • Your brand's Facebook page
  • Twitter search
  • Amazon.com customer reviews
  • Yelp reviews
  • Yellow Pages reviews
  • BirdEye reviews
  • Citysearch reviews
  • Google Reviews (Google My Business)
  • Foursquare
  • HomeAdvisor reviews
  • Angie's list reviews
  • TripAdvisor reviews
  • Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline or Travelocity guest ratings
  • Zamato reviews
  • Open Table reviews
  • PlanetRate
  • Manta (small businesses)
  • G2Crowd (software/tech)
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Glassdoor (employee point of view)

You might want to set up a brand or company intelligence gathering function that regularly checks these sources for customer feedback and reports it to the brand's or company's managers.

Know though that only a small percentage of your customers will provide feedback, usually those who encountered a problem and those who just love your brand. But for everyone who provides a rating or review, there are perhaps dozens, hundreds or even thousands of others who feel the same way about the brand. So carefully listen to what they have to say.