Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Societal, Technology and COVID-19 Trends



As marketers, we need to stay abreast of societal and technology trends. Here are some trends that will have large impacts on our lives:

Societal trends:

  • While globalization continues, nationalism and "buy local" trends increase
  • Rise of the global middle class while the US middle class stagnates
  • Increased tribalism in the US
  • Global climate change and its consequences - increased catastrophic weather events, pandemics, environmental hazards, damage to cities and infrastructure and creation of refugees leading to national security risks
  • Increasing anxiety throughout the world
  • Increased feelings of alienation among those who cannot keep up with societal and technology changes
  • People connecting through tech (social media, smart phones, online communication platforms)
  • Organized religion continues to decline while personal spirituality increases
  • The role of women becomes more dominant in society, including in leadership roles (causing a backlash from men who feel threatened)
  • Aging population, including increased aging at home
  • Fewer and fewer people are employed by large organizations, while the gig economy continues to grow (putting pressure on how health care is paid for)
  • There is a continued decline in materialism and consumerism. People have been moving from purchasing products to purchasing services and experiences for decades. A more recent trend is toward simplifying one's life, especially as the average age in the US increases. 
  • There is continued movement from capitalism to socialism
  • Cohabitation among unmarried partners continues to increase
  • Legalization of marijuana, popularity of CBD
  • Emergence of "fake news" - What is real? What is truth? The sophistication with which fake photographs and videos can be created is increasing. This will increase tribalism as different tribes will have completely different perceptions of the facts and reality itself. 
Technology trends:
  • AI in customer service, especially in telephone and online support
  • Digital assistents (e.g. Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Facebook M, Blackberry Assistant, Briana, Hound, Amazon Echo [Alexa])
  • Computer vision (including facial recognition)
  • Autonomous driving, ultimately leading to decreased job prospects for truckers, taxicab drivers and even Uber/Lyft drivers
  • Continued automation of an increasing number of jobs, including in the white collar sectors (e. g. medical internists and contract lawyers)
  • 3-D printing (this has applications across a wide variety of industries and even makes it easier to make things at home)
  • 5G data networks
  • Cloud computing
  • Blockchain technology (can aid in sharing money and other commodities with others, proving identity and ownership of assets, run a decentralized marketplace, vote, manage healthcare records, trade cryptocurrencies, etc.)
  • Business use of personal data including all of the marketing and ethical implications of this
  • Data analytics, leading to personalized and predictive products and services (including in the medical sector)
  • Data risk, leading to more jobs in this area
  • Extended reality (virtual environments, human-machine interactions)
  • Telemedicine, mobile medicine and self-diagnostics using wearable technology
  • Continued dominance of tech companies whose online platforms benefit from economies of scale and network effects (leading to more super rich entrepreneurs)
  • Decreased ability to remain private online and even off-line (due to security cameras, smart phone tracking, automobile tracking, facial recognition, etc.)
Trends emerging from COVID-19:
  • Increased use of online communications (e.g. Zoom, GoTo, Join.Me, ClickMeeting and Cisco WebEx)
  • Increased delivery of services and experiences online (e.g. online concerts, theater, fitness routines, etc.)
  • This will speed up the growth of home delivery services of everything
  • More people will work from home, leading to the downsizing of company offices
  • Increased need for a comprehensive national health care policy that works for everyone, including the reemergence of the "single payer" option
  • May lead to a desire for less consumerism and more balanced, simplified lives
  • Will push people toward online commerce, speeding up the death of struggling retail brands and shopping malls - shopping malls will need to reinvent themselves
  • Loss of jobs/income and decrease 401K and IRA asset values may either reduce household budgets and spending or delay retirements and extend working years
  • Urbanization has been a long term population trend. People have been moving out of smaller towns and rural areas where there are fewer jobs. They were moving into urban areas. New York City, Boston, Seattle and other major cities were the most popular destinations. Then those metropolitan areas became too expensive so people began moving to less expensive medium-sized cities. COVID-19 has created a mass exodus from major population centers back to suburbs, towns and rural areas. Will this trend continue or is it a temporary trend?
These are a couple of other blog posts I have written on trends:
Brad VanAuken's Brand Aid book has sold more than 25,000 copies, been translated into several languages and is used by business schools throughout the world to teach brand management and marketing. If you haven't read it yet, get your copy here.

And here is a great new book about retail trends by an expert on the subject, friend and former HBS classmate, Steve Dennis. Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Digital Disruption

Monday, May 11, 2020

Brands, Ethics and Authenticity



I have written a lot about how brands can tap into deep attitudes, values, hopes, fears and other emotions to sell their products and services. Compared to selling attributes, features or functional benefits, this works extraordinarily well. Having said that, far too many brands have as their foundations these deep emotional promises, promises that are hollow because the brands' products and services don't actually deliver what is promised except in the mind. I have come to realize how unethical this is. Yes, it is very powerful to sell dreams, but what if the dreams are false dreams?

I will use one example to drive this point home - Marlboro. Marlboro has a 40% share of the tobacco market, far more than twice the share of the next brand, Newport. It has been an extraordinarily successful brand. What does Marlboro sell? Rugged freedom. Independence. Self-sufficiency. Adventure. The Wild West. The simpler times of a black and white world where right is right and wrong is wrong. What does it deliver? Addiction to a substance that causes cancer and death. Does this aid in real freedom? Yes, one is free to be as self destructive as he or she wants to be in a free society, but is this the type of freedom the brand purchaser is really seeking?

As marketers, if we have consciences, we must check our urges to create "knock it out of the park" marketing campaigns if those campaigns deliver on powerful but hollow claims, especially if our brands' products are harmful to one's health or society as a whole. We must be better than that. It may be more difficult to develop equally compelling campaigns that are ethical and authentic, but ultimately, we will have not harmed anyone. That will help us sleep better at night. And it will help make the world a better, not worse, place.

Here are some related blog posts:




Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Discover Your Truth, Live Your Truth - Personal Branding


You are invited to a comprehensive series of workshops on personal assessment and life management including: 
* Discovering personal patterns of motivation and enervation
* Thinking deeply about what you believe
* Better understanding your personal style and your strengths and weaknesses
* Creating a personal credo
* Crafting a personal elevator speech
* Drafting a life plan
* Creating an authentic brand for yourself

The first introductory session was held on Thursday, May 14 from 12 noon until 1 PM Eastern Time.

Here is a link to that session on SlideShare: Discover Your Truth, Live Your Truth

Here is the registration link for the next six webinar sessions: Full Workshop Registration

Monday, April 13, 2020

Virtual Brand Positioning Workshop



You may know that BrandForward has conducted more than 150 successful brand positioning workshops for some of the top brands in the world. These workshops were designed to achieve leadership team consensus around emotionally compelling unique value propositions for those brands. Today, in the COVID-19 environment, it is more important than ever to craft a brand that is unique and that has strong emotional appeal. That is why we have modified our process to conduct virtual brand positioning workshops.

We can begin with the same brand audits, customer research and brand equity measurement. We will also inform the workshop by stakeholder input gathered by a simple pre-workshop survey. The only difference is that the workshop itself will be conducted virtually via online conferencing technology.

In the workshop, we will define the primary, secondary and tertiary target markets with great precision. After that, we will define the brand's essence and craft its promise. We will also identify the brand's archetype and its personality. This will lead to a brand positioning statement that includes the brand's unique value proposition. And the workshop participants will have a chance to review research findings, argue assumptions, debate approaches and tweak the exact wording.

All of this will lead to a brand position that is unique and highly compelling to its target customers.

The best part is that this can be accomplished not in months but in days or a few weeks at most.

For more information, contact Brad VanAuken at vanauken@brandforward.com.





Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Brand Building During COVID-19



What can brands do when people are stuck in their houses and not able to eat out, shop at local shopping centers, go to concerts or do anything else that is not connected to "sheltering in place" and home delivery? And what can brands do when people are laid off, have lost some or all of their income and are watching their retirement nest eggs diminish rapidly as the stock market crashes?

Some industries are more likely to thrive in this environment. Consider Zoom, Purell, Clorox and Amazon.com. But most will struggle, especially as people try to cut back on nonessential household expenses.

Here is what brands can do. Innovate. Restaurants are offering take-out services, sometimes with items that were never featured on their menus. Universities, of necessity, are delivering their courses online. Medical doctors are delivering some of their services via telemedicine. Orchestras are delivering online concerts. Public art galleries are posting virtual galleries online. A friend of mine who loves to cook has started a soup brand and delivery service.

Arts organizations and other not-for-profit organizations are doing what I would recommend that all brands do - offering free content, advice and interactive online experiences to maintain ongoing relationships and to create goodwill with their members and patrons. As a member of Writers & Books board, I have been asked to read and record some of my favorite poems and passages from literature to be delivered to our members for their edification and pleasure. Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has created ScoutShare.org, a website for sharing at-home family activities. The website is open to all families whether they are involved in BSA or not.

Some organizations' free YouTube videos have gone viral. Have you seen or listened to any of these in your Facebook feed? South African Roedean School's rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah?" Berklee College of Music Students' rendition of "Love Sweet Love?" Or virtual tours of these art galleries - National Gallery in London, Guggenheim Museum in New York, National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Musée d' Orsay in Paris or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam?

Now is the time to edify, entertain and engage your customers and potential customers online in the comfort of their homes. They are bored. They are anxious. They are scared. They are feeling claustrophobic. They have cabin fever. Help them out. Stay in frequent contact. Keep your brand top of mind.  Build a greater emotional connection with your customers. Show them what you can do. Show them the best that you offer. Be real. Be empathetic. Give them a reason to feel tremendous gratitude toward your brand.

Now is not the time to go dark. Now is the time to engage with social media, email, webinars, YouTube videos and the like.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Marketing's Revolving Door


You may have experienced marketing's revolving door as a marketer, as an HR professional or as a business manager. The median tenure of a chief marketing officer is 27.5 months but some organizations are replacing marketing people at all levels as frequently as annually. Obviously, this is not ideal.

One could surmise that one or more of the following might be the problem:

  • The quality of candidates in the marketing pool
  • Flawed candidate screening and selection, including hiring for the wrong skill sets
  • The increasing complexity of the marketing role, especially the CMO role
  • The rapidly changing nature of the marketing role, especially with the emergence of big data, marketing automation and digital marketing
  • The increasing dominance of small businesses in the job market. They are less able to pay top dollar for top marketing talent. They are also less able to pay for ongoing training. And some marketing departments are so lean that there is only one person in the department, leaving no room for on-the-job learning from more experienced marketers. 
  • The continued inability to measure the ROI of many marketing activities
  • Inadequate marketing budgets
  • The organization's culture is sales, operations or finance-driven and does not value marketing as a function
  • The wrong organization design or structure
There may be other problems too. If the company has inferior products, services, business model or value proposition, skilled marketing can only go so far in driving increased revenues. 

If you are a staffing professional, hiring manager or company executive and if you have been unhappy with your marketing hires, I would encourage you to assess and rectify root causes for this problem before you hire your next marketing professional. 

Revolving doors are costly to organizations and their employees. Please try to understand why your marketing personnel choices are not working out before you hire your next marketer.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Need-Based Marketing



When you stop to think about it, isn't all marketing need-based marketing, especially if you include desires under the umbrella of needs? After all, desires are psychological needs, whether what a person desires is ultimately good for him or her or not. So what do people need?

  • More time
  • More money
  • More respect
  • More self-respect
  • More attention
  • More social status
  • More intellectual stimulation
  • More laughs
  • More affection
  • More intimacy
  • More comfort
  • More passion
  • More pleasant surprises
  • More pampering
  • More sex
  • More beauty
  • More safety
  • Less anxiety
  • Less fear
  • Less chaos
  • Less uncertainty
  • Sometimes less drama
  • Sometimes more drama
  • Sometimes more excitement
  • Sometimes less excitement
  • More cravings
  • Fewer cravings
  • More peace of mind
  • Better health
  • Better fitness
  • Better body image
  • Richer sensory experience

And the list could go on and on. Here are some other blog posts that I have written regarding marketing and human needs:

When you are designing products and product features, when you are positioning a brand, when you are communicating a brand's unique value proposition and when you are crafting marketing messaging you must keep in mind what needs and desires your products and brands are primarily addressing. If you do not understand this and can not communicate this, you are less than a fully competent marketer. 

For further reading on this topic, purchase Brand Aid here.