Friday, July 19, 2019

Focusing on the Why


Another common error in marketing communication is focusing on the product or service description including its functions and features rather than focusing on the end customer benefit, the why. People will read further once you have gotten their attention. And you get their attention by speaking to one of their desires, fears or problems. Only after you have captured their attention in that way can you begin to talk about your solution to their problem.

Always begin by speaking to the customer's desires, fears or needs:

  • Saving you time
  • Saving you money
  • Making life easier
  • Simplifying your life
  • Reducing your stress
  • Keeping you safe
  • Increasing your comfort
  • Entertaining you
  • Strengthening your reputation
  • Getting you out of a bind
  • Solving a difficult problem

When writing marketing copy, always think from the customer's perspective, not your own. Further, organize the information from the customer's perspective, not your own. Often, internal departments, divisions, categories, programs or even product groupings do not make sense to the customer. Organize what you are saying into the categories that the customer understands. 

The bottom line is that you need to emphasize emotional, experiential and self-expressive customer benefits rather than product functions, features or attributes. Only address the latter (product attributes) when they can be used as proof points for how you will deliver the former (customer benefits). 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Less is More



A common mistake inexperienced marketers make is to cram too much information into marketing copy. I have seen this manifested in several ways:

  • Too much copy on PowerPoint slides - often full screen visuals with no copy are the most effective
  • Too much copy on product packaging, especially for products that are displayed at point of purchase
  • Too much copy in brochures and other collateral materials
  • Too much copy on outdoor advertising - consider how much a driver can read in one second or less
  • Websites cluttered with copy, visuals and click through buttons

Research has shown that the more information that is shared, the less people remember any of it. Always ask these two questions: (1) What are the one or two messages that we are trying to convey with this communication vehicle? (2) How can we communicate each of these in five words or less?

And if you are trying to make memorable points, think of doing it in lists of three things, each with its own bullet. It would be best if each thing was communicated with three words or less. And it is very powerful if each thing is communicated with one very simple and precise word.  It is an added bonus if all three words start with the same letter, creating an alliteration. But don't force the alliteration by choosing words that don't exactly convey each of the three concepts. 

Related to this, I find simple infographics are powerful communication sources. I like using triangles with three messages, five pointed stars with five messages or the intersection of three circles (a Venn diagram) symbolizing the combined power of three intersecting things. 

We are now living at a time in which people think in sound bites and communicate in Tweets. You may be offering a complex product or solution, but it is still up to you to break the message down into simple consumable parts. Think about what simple message needs to be conveyed at each step in the marketing process and then convey that and no more.

And remember, marketing copy is not about sounding smart. It is about communicating clearly. 

To paraphrase French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, "If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter." Take the time to write shorter marketing copy.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Brand Visual Style



Part of a brand's identity system is its visual style. So what are the components of its visual style? Here is my list:

  • Color palette
  • Typefaces and graphic styles
  • Types of images used (size, shape, subject matter, feeling, illustrations vs. photography, medium, special effects) 
  • Graphic symbols
  • Shapes
  • Texture
  • Distinctive patterns
  • Form
  • Layout and horizontal vs. vertical blocking 
  • Use of lines or borders
  • Sharp vs. soft edges
  • Value and contrast
  • Shading
  • Use of white space
  • Spacial relationship between elements

I recommend the following books for brand identity development: 

Brand Voice


Your brand's voice is comprised of its tone and its word choice among other components. Together with your brand's archetype, personality and visual style, your brand's voice helps you to personify your brand. 

Any or all of these might be components of your brand's voice:
  • Tone
  • Accent (socio-economic, regional or foreign)
  • Young or mature
  • Vocabulary (frequently used words and phrases and never used words and phrases, grade level of vocabulary)
  • Syntax - the structure of the words and other linguistic elements
  • Verbose versus concise (length of sentences, use of parenthetical phrases)
  • Use of slang, jargon or buzz phrases
  • Use of analogies, metaphors and other figures of speech
  • Coining a new phrase unique to the brand
  • Sense of humor
  • Sonic qualities (including volume, pitch, male versus female)
  • Tempo and cadence (lilting?)

When thinking about different brand voices, consider Faulkner versus Steinbeck. Or Alister Cooke (Masterpiece Theatre) versus Tom Bodett (Motel 6: "We'll leave the light on for you."). Consider GEICO's gecko or Ernie the pistachio-loving elephant. Or even consider Columbo the unassuming but shrewd homicide detective with seemingly incoherent circumstantial speech in the television series of the same name.

The following are different tones of voice that you might consider:
  • Friendly
  • Sincere
  • Accessible
  • Authoritative
  • Sophisticated
  • Professional
  • Erudite
  • Informative
  • Wise
  • Lively
  • Energetic
  • Laid back
  • Folksy or "down home"
  • "Every man" or "every woman"
  • Cute
  • Quirky
  • Soothing
  • Soft spoken
  • Nurturing
  • Aspirational
  • Upbeat or optimistic
  • Uplifting
  • Passionate
  • Self-depreciating
  • Terse
  • Poetic

And following are different tones of voice that you probably want to avoid:
  • Arrogant
  • Pompous
  • Sophomoric
  • Pedantic
  • Ignorant
  • Clueless
  • Distracted
  • Self-absorbed
  • Mean-spirited
  • Uncouth
  • Impatient
  • Ditzy

Sometimes, it is easiest to point to a well-known personality who embodies what you want your brand's voice to be. Perhaps you would use that person as a brand spokesperson or at least as a shorthand for what you want your brand's voice to be.

If you do not have one marketing agency presenting your brand across all media, you should consider  including a detailed description of brand voice as a part of your brand positioning statement. This may include a brand voice dictionary of frequently used words and phrases.

The more you are able to personify your brand in a unique and highly compelling way by defining its archetype, personality, voice and visual style, the more your brand will come to life as if it were a person. If you need more help in this endeavor, contact us about our brand voice (and visual style) worksheet(s). Good luck.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Brands and Habits



Habit:

  1. A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition
  2. An established disposition of the mind or character
  3. Customary manner or practice
  4. An addiction, especially to a narcotic drug
We all have habits. For instance, we order the same menu item every time we go to a specific restaurant. Or we purchase the same brand of soda pop. Or we start our day with a cup of coffee and the morning paper. Or we go to the gym and work out every morning. 

Some of our brands are habits for people. For instance, someone may smoke a pack of Marlboro Reds every day. Or maybe someone stops at Dunkin' Donuts every morning on the way to work. Or perhaps someone only goes to Hallmark stores to purchase her greeting cards. Someone may have a favorite peanut butter brand or a favorite brand of toilet paper, which she faithfully and habitually buys. Or maybe someone pours himself a shot glass of Tito's vodka after arriving home from work every evening.

Some brands have tried to increase sales by suggesting that their brands could be incorporated into daily rituals. A food brand might try to incorporate its use into the morning breakfast ritual. Other brands might try to incorporate their use into family picnics, happy hours, Thanksgiving celebrations or graduations. 

I recently interacted with an organization whose 9 month reconstruction project would create a brand interaction hiatus for that long. The organization is a cultural institution and the audience is composed of cinephiles. I suggested an ideation session to identify ways to engage the audience in similar brand-related habits until the theatre reopened with teasers to create anticipation of the reopening. 

For a while, Starbucks was encouraging its morning customers to purchase a second drink in the afternoon via a price discount offered on their register receipts.

If your brand interaction is habitual, congratulations. Focus on reinforcing that habit and be careful not to do anything that could break the habit. If your brand interaction is not habitual, consider how you can make it so. Habitual behaviors tied to brands create regular guaranteed frequent repurchases of the brands. 

As a side note, I would strongly encourage the establishment of healthy brand habits, such as working out at an LA Fitness club every morning, using a Waterpik water flosser every night or hiking with Merrell hiking boots every Saturday over more health damaging brand habits. 

To learn more about the ten habits of Starbucks drinkers featured in the image above, click here.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Most Important Qualities for Brands


I have posted one or two articles on the brand personality attributes that organizations most often choose for their brands. In this article, I will share the qualities that I believe are most important for brands to possess. I am basing this on the qualities that people seek most in others. I think this is highly relevant because brands are the personifications of organizations and their products and services. By definition, brands take on and express human qualities. So why shouldn't brands take on the qualities that people admire the most in themselves and other people? 

Let's get started. Here are the qualities people most often mention that they look for in friends:
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Dependable
  • Empathetic
  • Non-judgmental
  • Forgiving
  • A good listener
  • Generous
  • Sense of humor
  • Fun to be around
And here are the qualities that they seek out in life partners:
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Sense of humor
  • Reliable
  • Fun to be around
  • Shared values
  • Compatibility
  • Mutual respect
  • Forgiving
  • Intelligent
  • Hard working
Here are the qualities people seek out in leaders:
  • Honest
  • Possessing integrity
  • Confidence
  • Positive attitude
  • Inspirational
  • Accountable/takes responsibility
  • Creative/innovative
  • Empathetic
  • Sense of humor
  • A good listener
  • Decisive
Here are why people love dogs and sometimes prefer them to other people (ok, I know dogs are not people):
  • Affectionate
  • Loyal
  • Uncritical/don't judge
  • Unconditional love
  • Exercise partner
  • Reliable
  • No hidden motives
And here are the qualities that people seek for themselves:
  • Being a good person
  • Competent
  • Respected
  • Wise
  • Smart
  • Trustworthy
  • Kind
  • Loyal
  • Helpful
  • Compassionate
Do you notice similarities between these lists? Here are the qualities that they have in common:
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Dependable
  • Sense of humor
  • Fun to be around
  • A good listener
  • Empathetic
  • Kind/generous
  • Non-judgmental 
  • Forgiving
As you are thinking about a persona for your brand, consider these qualities. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Ten Ways to Successfully Position Your Brand in Overcrowded Markets



Today, brand managers are increasingly at a loss about how to differentiate their brands. In most product and service categories, every unique and purchase motivating position has been claimed by one or more brands. Product and service categories have matured, brand research has gotten sophisticated and competitors have successfully filled all of the brand positioning niches. So what is a brand manager to do to discover a new unique and compelling brand position?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Identify, create and own a new "category of one." The Strong National Museum of Play did this by repositioning its brand from a children's museum to the only museum of play. 
  2. Through qualitative research, discover one or more compromises all of the brands in the category are making with their consumers and then design a business model and brand to overcome these compromises. CarMax did this vis-a-vis traditional used car dealerships and Uber did this vis-a-vis traditional taxicab companies. 
  3. Choose a valued benefit that has never been a part of the category. Apple did this with the introduction of smartphone apps. Southwest Airlines did this by owning "fun."
  4. Add an element to the brand that no other competitor in the category has added. Opaque did this. It introduced the concept of dining in the dark. 
  5. Make an outrageous version of a traditional product. Check out Loudmouth Golf for wild clothes. 
  6. Combine two or more products into one or two or more functions into one product. Victorinox Swiss Army was one of the first to do this with its knives. 
  7. Focus on a niche market or on one market segment. Orvis and lululemon do this, as does Lane Bryant. 
  8. Create a character that gives the brand a distinctive personality. Kellogg's Tony the Tiger was one of the first, but GEICO's gecko,  Progressive Insurance's Flo and Jamie and Pistachio's elephant, Ernie are also examples of this. 
  9. Go left when everyone else is going right. Naomi Klein did this with her No Logo book when everyone else was writing about the power of brands.
  10. Use a new material or technology that no one else is using. SmartSolve has created environmentally friendly dissolving paper, pouches, labels, thread, tape and adhesive. 
What do all of these approaches have in common? Out-of-the-box thinking.  None of these brands would have become what they became if their managers had applied linear or incremental thinking. 

If you are interested in this topic, here are some other blog posts that might be of interest to you:

By the way, the Interceptor vehicle pictured above is a car, boat, plane and helicopter all in one, applying idea #6 above.